What makes Borderlands’ poster madmen so mad? You’ve probably killed a bunch of psychos during your time with the series, never stopping to wonder why they’re so unhinged as you check their bodies for loot.
Developer Gearbox first visited the idea of doing something more with these otherwise nameless cannon fodder in Borderlands 2, when it introduced a playable DLC character called Krieg the Psycho. He shouts all the nonsense you’d expect from his NPC counterparts but has a calm, rational voice in his head that comments, with some resignation, on what the more impulsive side of his character can’t help but do. Krieg was introduced in a trailer in which he comes across Maya, one of Borderlands 2’s main characters. His internal voice tells him to confess his immediate adoration for her beauty, but, instead, he shouts “I’m the conductor of the poop train!”.
Borderlands 3‘s new DLC, Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck, is the developer’s latest attempt to give the psychos some kind of explanation. You’ll delve into Krieg’s mind to help him resolve issues with his past, though of course, you’re not doing this out of kindness, and are looking forward to a payday in return.
Events are set in motion when Patricia Tannis theorises that psychos are driven mad by their knowledge of a place called ‘Vaulthalla’. It’s a place of vast riches, which in game terms means – what else? – loot. To put that theory to the test, we journey into the mind of prolific madman Krieg.
You fight your way through three levels that manifest his past trauma, the first of which represents his fear of being outcast and rejected for being a ‘psycho’. It’s a castle warped with viscera – a twisted version of Krieg’s memory of a mission with Lilith, Mordecai, and Brick. Imposter syndrome takes over as Krieg convinces himself they hate him, but once all the looting and shooting is over, his self-doubt is resolved and it’s clear they accepted him as one of their own all along.
This DLC is packed with affectionate fan service
It’s surprisingly sensitive stuff from Borderlands, and a welcome attempt to at least add a little context and humanity to Krieg in particular and ‘psychos’ in general – a variety of enemies tactlessly named for a complicated mental health condition and generally presented as raging stereotypes. On that note, don’t expect much nuance from Krieg’s ‘psycho’ persona, which still shouts things like “I am a meat maestro!” and “open bestiality!” and so on. Still, it’s nice to see Gearbox acknowledge implicitly that their condition has roots. Following the Guns, Love, and Tentacles DLC, which puts a queer romance front and centre, and its rebadging of ‘midgets’ as ‘tinks’, this is Gearbox re-examining its past insensitivity, though whether it goes far enough in doing so is still an open question.
Once you complete a level, you gain an item of significance to Krieg’s past and place it on a statue. Once you get the other two, you can progress to find out what Krieg knows about Vaulthalla. The other locations explore Krieg’s relationship with Maya and, finally, the event that really made him the way he is. I’ll leave that for you to discover, but players who’ve been left wondering how the events of the base game affected Krieg will find this DLC packed with affectionate fan service.
Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck’s boss fights are both the best and the worst of the DLC. The battles typically involve whittling down a bullet sponge’s health until it’s nothing more than a pile of glistening guns, shields, and mods. There are weak spots to find and attack patterns to memorise, but it’s humdrum fare for the most part. I never fully clicked with it. It’s when the big bads shower the room with loot, though, that everything kicks back into gear.
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One particular boss fight has me taking on two foes at the same time. All it takes for me to win is some patience, but I’m rewarded with a hand cannon that fires explosive rounds from a shockingly capacious magazine, along with a sniper that can transform into a shotgun. What was good in the base game is still good in the DLC, and the sense of power is palpable as I return to a room I had to clear ten minutes ago and empty it in half the time.
There’s nothing truly revolutionary or different in the gameplay here, but nor was there in the base game, and most players were fairly satisfied at its minor refinements to a tried-and-true formula. Borderlands understands its strengths well at this point: the quirky gunplay still meshes perfectly with the kind of chaos you can orchestrate with a Borderlands 3 build, and I’ve been happy to spend more time with it.
If you’ve not bought the Borderlands 3 battle pass, you can pick this DLC up for around $14.99/£11.99. You’ll easily get over eight hours out of it, especially if you take the time to do all the side quests. The story is fine, and packs in the Krieg fan service that his many fans will enjoy, while also going some distance to depict at least one ‘psycho’ as a complex, fully rounded human being. But, ultimately, it serves as a reason to go and blow some baddies up. And while some boss fights feel bullet spongy and draining, this is still where Borderlands shines.