I finally got a chance to get back to PAX Prime this year after a two-year hiatus from what may always be my favorite gaming expo. And, unsurprisingly, the first thing I got to play on the show floor at PAX Prime was the new Headhunters Pack for Borderlands 2, T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest. This new series of smaller DLCs are heavily focused on boss fights, and that was immediately clear in what we got to play. We also got to spend some time with Josh Jeffcoat, the Game Designer on the Headhunters Pack.
Platforms: PC (Version Played), PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Genre: First Person Loot Party
Release Date: October 2013
ESRB Rating: Mature
The first thing we did was choose a character, and then spend a nice little pool of skill points to customize them however we wanted. I went straight for Krieg, who I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with over the last few months, and fellow Warp Zoned staffer Anthony Amato went for Zero. Together, we headed towards the waypoint, smashing pumpkins and picking up ammo as we went. It became obvious quickly that the theme of this particular DLC is Halloween, as power-up containers were switched to smashable pumpkins, and we headed toward a pumpkin patch to fight the boss.
The boss – Jacques O’Lantern – was as tough as you’d imagine, especially if you’ve spent any time trying to take out any of the Borderlands 2 raid bosses. He’s a huge bag of hit points that deals a lot of damage, and, on top of that, he has tiny pumpkins that crawl up onto him and heal him – very, very quickly. These Pumplings can be killed, and are especially useful for when you go down – and you’ll be going down a lot in this fight. Oh, and if you do smash the Pumplings, they drop multi-colored candy, each of which gives you a special power – whether it’s ammo, health, or increased speed. There’s plenty that you’ll be familiar with, but it’s all got a nice sheen to it that makes it feel just different enough.
After we played, we got to talk to Jeffcoat, who gave us some great information about the expansion. First, we asked if the Headhunter Packs would be bundled together in a new Season Pass. Jeffcoat replied: “No no no, we’re not doing another Season Pass. So, right now, T.K. Baha is part one, and that’s going to be out in October. We have two and three kind of cooking in the oven, and we’re trying to get those out before the end of the year. Basically, we’re just going to see how people like it. If they like these new smaller-scale campaigns, then we might try and keep doing more of them, because they’re much, much faster for us to make than the full-scale Tiny Tina DLC was.” It will be impressive if they can get the next two out in the next three months. If the turnaround is that fast, hopefully that means even more DLC in 2014.
While he was unable to give us the price point on the Packs – other than that they would be cheaper than the previous DLCs – he did tell us how long players could expect them to be. “On these, for the whole thing, just the boss itself, for these big, four-player teams [on the show floor at PAX] that are doing it really good, they’re getting it down to like five minutes. But the whole thing is about an hour and a half to two hours for new players. We’re trying to keep all of them about that length so it’s not a big time commitment. You’re not going to have to sit here and grind through a whole bunch of stuff just to complete a mission. This is all story, it’s all cool characters and cool enemies, and it’s just this really condensed little Borderlands experience.”
We also asked him some questions about how the leveling worked within the DLCs, as well as the whole overleveling concept. Anthony asked him how it scaled to the level of the characters. “I don’t know if you’re familiar with how we do the game stages for how the game works,” Jeffcoat replied. “Every playthrough of the game – so there’s the normal playthrough, then there’s True Vault Hunter, then there’s Ultimate Vault Hunter mode. So, for playthrough one, which is just the normal mode, the world will be between level 15, and I believe level 35? And then in playthrough two, it will be anywhere from level 30 to level 50, and that’s – whatever your level is within that range, it will be that level whenever you go there.”
Anthony then asked, “So it will scale, but only within those ranges.” He and I had some issues when we hit the third DLC, Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, and we weren’t clear on how the level scaling system worked. “Right,” Jeffcoat replied, “only within those ranges. And then for Ultimate Vault Hunter mode, it will be whatever level you are, the Pumpkin Boss will be whatever level you are. If you have the O for powerlevels from Digistruct Peak, he’ll be overleveled and he’ll be dropping even higher level loot. So he could drop up to, I believe, 80-level loot, that you could use. But that fight’s going to be pretty brutal.”
While we didn’t get to talk as long as we would’ve liked to, Jeffcoat was excited to discuss his favorite part of the new DLCs: “The whole point of the series is that it’s the Headhunter Pack, so it’s all about creating a cool boss fight, like a big story that leads up to a big boss, and then keeping his head for a trophy. So yeah, you kill the pumpkin guy and you get his head, and then you get to wear that.” As you can imagine, killing Jacques O’Lantern gets you a Jack O’Lantern head, which Jeffcoat confirmed would be very similar across all characters.
T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest will be out this October, just in time for Halloween. In the meantime, hop in the game to take advantage of the new level cap of 72, which was upped to 72 last Tuesday.