If you've finished Borderlands and have been waiting on a real challenge to put your shiny guns to good use, then Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot should have what you need in spades, says the DLC pack's lead designer.
One of the most common criticisms levied at DLC packs for games is that some gamers believe that they're content that should have been included on the original retail disc in the first place, since clearly it was developed and finished alongside the game and had just been held back for the sake of a few extra bucks. Though most people who know game development can look at that sentiment and go "Hey, that's not really how it works," it's certainly not the case with the two DLC packs for Borderlands, game designer Jonathan Hemingway told The Escapist.
"Our whole approach to DLC is trying to respond to what our community wanted. With Zombie Island, after the game came out, the big cry on forums was, 'It was a great game, but we want more narrative and more story - we want to know more!' I think we succeeded in that, and what our communtiy was asking for now was... well, they've hit level 50, they've got all these great guns, and they wanted to know, 'Now what do we do? I want something to push me, something to reach for - a real challenge.' So that's where Mad Moxxi came from: We will give you a challenge, a place to use all this gear and the skills you've learned." (And yes, this is why there's a bank now).
When he says challenge, he does mean challenge: Mad Moxxi comes in two flavors, a small tournament and a big tournament. While Hemingway thinks that most players will be able to beat the small tournament - and earn an extra skill point for their troubles - the big tournament will be the "crazy challenges" that players have been asking for, where they'll "get to show how off much of a badass [they] actually are."
With 20 rounds consisting of 5 waves of baddies per round, Hemingway compared Mad Moxxi's underground coliseum to a finite Horde Mode in Gears of War 2, only "Borderlands'ed up." This Borderlands flavor comes in the forum of Mad Moxxi herself, who will be dancing atop a big pole and occasionally throwing down rule changes that will affect how the players have to approach the fight.
"Some rules are desired to alter the gameplay, and alter the way that the players approach the game - you'll need to use different tactics, strategy, or just different guns," he explained. But then again, there's a sadistic side to Mad Moxxi, too. "Other rules are just because she thinks you're doing too well, and she'll throw it out to make it harder. With the Vampire Rule, you're slowly losing health every second, but every time you get a kill, you get a huge chunk of health back. So it puts you in this mindset of 'I've got to get a lot of kills, and be really aggressive, or I'm going to die.'
For snipers, there's a rule called Headshot: Body shots do reduced damage - so everything that isn't a crit is less damage - but critical hits do even more damage. So if you're playing as Mordecai, specced for sniping, you just go 'Yes, this is the best thing ever!'"
While the term "underground coliseum" is literal in the case of the very first Underdome arena, there are three other coliseums for players to try their hand: Hellburbia, an urban area (much like New or Old Haven) focused on close-quarter city fighting, the Gully, where the more open terrain and rolling hills encourage long-range combat, and the Angelic Ruins (similar to the alien ruins near the end of the game) striking a middle ground between the two. Hemingway was quick to point out that these wouldn't be small areas like the arenas that already exist in Borderlands, but rather larger zones that encouraged movement and exploration to find a good place to regroup.
Though some of the tilesets (Angelic Ruins and Hellburbia, to be precise) are from later in the game, players can Fast Travel to Mad Moxxi's Underdome as early as level 10, which was a choice made to ensure that a new player would at least have a passing familiarity with the game before taking on these challenges. The DLC will scale to one's level, which was something that the Borderlands team learned from some of the shortcomings of the first DLC, Zombie Island of Dr. Ned:
We picked levels for Zombie Island where we thought most players - if not all players - would be able to jump in and find it level appropriate. But some players were left out, and it was unfortunate because it was good content. We wanted to do something for DLC2 where you can enjoy it no matter where you are in the game, no matter how far you've been."
So, Mad Moxxi adds a real challenge to kick your ass, is available to anyone who's put two or so hours into the game to reach level 10, is sure to offer some brand new awesome loot - and gives you a bank to actually store said awesome loot for later. Sounds like it'll be a fine post-holiday present for many a gamer, hitting Xbox Live on December 29th and PSN on January 7th.
(For a full transcript of our interview with Jonathan Hemingway - including Kevin Costner, the evil Claptrap, and Hemingway's own troubles with the Crimson Lance, check out our sister site WarCry!)