- Game: Borderlands: Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot DLC
- Platform: Xbox 360; PS3; PC
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Developer: Gearbox
- ESRB: Mature
- Genre: Horde mode on steroids
- Players: 1-4
- What’s Hot: Superb voice acting for Moxxi, interesting level design, very challenging
- What’s Not: No wave variation from round to round, larger tournaments way too long, no significant rewards for completing tournaments
For Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, the folks at Gearbox gave the fans what they wanted, namely a more challenging game and some storage slots for stockpiling weapons. Unfortunately sometimes getting what you want has some unintended consequences and in this case, it’s all of the things that you probably didn’t want in your Borderlands experience that drags down the latest batch of DLC.
Call it survival mode, or horde mode of firefight or whatever you want, Mad Moxxi runs her Underdome like so many games these days throwing waves of enemies at you until either you or all your enemies lay dead. If you happen to be the one still alive you get to do it all over again for however many rounds it takes for you to be named the victor. It’s a simple concept and one that Gearbox clearly understands, however their particular implementation of it is what’s at fault.
The basic problem with the Underdome is how it gets away from everything that made Borderlands so good in the first place. You don’t get any experience while competing save for whatever you may get as a result of indirectly completing challenges as you kill and kill. Enemies don’t drop any loot and while Moxxi herself will throw out some token weapons at the end of a round, they’re usually nowhere near as good as what you’re already carrying and they disappear if you don’t get to them in time. Finally, once you complete the tournaments there’s no grand reward, nothing to show for your efforts except for one skill point, some achievement points and some Certificates of Badassery from Moxxi. Sure the skill point is nice, but one skill point is hardly an earth shattering reward for the hours and hours needed to best the Underdome.
The rewards in the Underdome are strictly the feeling of accomplishment you get after making it through 25 waves of enemies in the smaller tournaments and 100 waves of enemies in the larger tournaments. For some that may be reward enough, and they wouldn’t be too crazy to think that as this is, by far, the hardest thing you’ll come across in Borderlands. Enemies are the same level as the hosting player making it already quite a challenge for higher level characters and while enemies may start off the tournaments slightly underpowered they’ll have bonuses to health, shields and damage added as the rounds progress. Of course this is independent of the various modifiers added by Moxxi for each wave. One wave may bestow you extra SMG damage at the cost of your other weapons being rendered useless. One wave may make it easier for you to jump around. One wave may take your shields away and constantly drain your health as you fight enemies that are faster, stronger and only damaged by elemental weapons.
The modifiers on each wave help to make things interesting but at the end of the day, 100 waves of enemies is a grind no matter how high you can jump. It doesn’t help that the rounds follow the same pattern of waves every time. First wave is the starter wave, second is the gun wave, third is the horde wave, fourth is the badass wave and fifth is a boss, every time, every round. Thankfully Moxxi is expertly voiced making the tedious recycling of waves at least sound fresh and new.
Co-op is a must for the DLC as playing by yourself is just too danged difficult and if you die you’ll have to start at the beginning of the previous round making your journey even longer and more arduous. Add to that the shifting usefulness of the various weapon types based on wave modifiers and you either have to have packed the kitchen sink or be with a varied team. This brings us to the next problem with the Underdome, namely the considerable investment of time needed to get through it all.
Even with four players, especially if those players are high level, you’re looking at about an hour for a small tournament and over three hours for a larger one. Expert teams will certainly be able to bring that time down, but when you’re facing a dozen Crimson Lance soldiers all more powerful than you, that’s gonna take a couple minutes. Now multiply that by 100 and you get the idea. Adding to the time factor is the fact that once you’re in the Underdome, there’s no saving and no quitting lest you want to start all over again. Best hope your host playing on a rock solid connection as if the host leaves or is disconnected, the whole party leaves and your efforts are for nothing.
That’s not to say that it’s all bad in the Underdome. The three arenas are all well designed, providing a nice mix of open spaces, tight corridors, easily defendable positions and “oh crap” choke points. Being able to store weapons in the new Bank is also nice and with the ability to purchase extra storage slots you’ll run out of good weapons before you run out of places to stick them. Still though, the sheer time sink involved to best every bit of the Underdome isn’t balanced out by the rewards for doing so. Players looking for a challenge will certainly get one but a feeling of accomplishment is the only thing you’ll get for meeting that challenge.