Gearbox Dishes On ‘Borderlands’ DLC Length, New Enemies And Level Scaling

Although we’re in the midst of the busiest video game time of the year, it’s important not to forget the great games that were released, you know, earlier than last week. For example, “Borderlands,” which is adding new DLC content on November 24th. I spoke with Paul Helquist, the Design Director on “Borderlands” downloadable content, to get the scoop on what we can expect with the “The Zombie Island Of Doctor Ned.” For one thing, zombies. And islands. And a guy named Ned.

The DLC is set on Jakobs Island, home to the titular Doctor Ned. Ned worked for the Jakobs corporation (one of the gun manufacturers in the world of “Borderlands”) when he started experimenting with zombies. And, predictably, something went wrong, with Jakobs pulling out, leaving Ned to clean up his own mess. That’s where you come in, as you’ll arrive at the island and try to stop (or at least profit from) the zombie menace.

I asked Helquist about what sort of scale we can expect from the $9.99 pack:

“We think of it about the same size as one of the smaller zones in the main game. It’s probably four to six hours of new gameplay with a lot of new regions, new monsters, that kind of thing. It’s probably about the size of the Arid Badlands [the starting zone] and one or two of the doglegs.”

In terms of how you’ll access the content in game, it’s pretty painless. Once you purchase the DLC the game will allow you to fast-travel to Jakobs Cove using one of the teleporters. If you haven’t activated the teleporter in the main story yet you’ll still be able to travel, but you’ll be limited to traveling just to the Cove and back.

Perhaps more interesting is what level the content will be scaled for. Said Helquist:

“As soon as you enter the download content, it detects what level you are and sets the area to about the same level of what you’re at. So whenever you buy the DLC, wherever your character happens to be, you can go into Jakobs Cove and you should be good to go.”

“I should mention that [level 10] is the minimum level. So if you started a level 1 character and jumped in, the monsters would be level 10. That’s because we wanted to be sure that players played the beginning of ’Borderlands’ and really understood what ’Borderlands’ is about, ’cause there’s no training in the download content.”

Don’t worry about setting the content too low, though. Whenever you return to Jakobs Cove the game will re-scale the enemies and loot, allowing you to play through with a level 50 character and still have a challenge.

Although the draw of “Borderlands” has always been the loot, it didn’t sound like that was the main focus this time around, as the DLC won’t add any new weapon effects or anything like that. Said Helquist, “The main focus of this download pack is the new region and the new plotline and that sorta thing.”

And, thankfully, the enemies, which sound like they’re a pretty major departure from anything we’ve seen so far.

“There’s only one, maybe two monsters in the DLC that are basically the same [as the regular game]. We have an undead Rakk who looks sort of skeletal but acts the same. The zombies, some of them look similar to the main game but their behaviors are totally different. In the regular game, when you killed a guy you could blow off an arm or a leg. In this pack you can blow them off and they’ll just keep coming.

“We’ve also got this awesome monster called the Loot Goon who’s this giant Frankenstein-like creature, but he’s got a treasure chest on his back, so he fights you, and when you kill him he keels over and you can get in the treasure chest.”

Helquist went on to say that the number of enemies you’ll be facing at any given time is a lot higher than the original game, which should give that classic overwhelmed-by-zombies feel.

And, lastly, what of the hated/loved/possibly killer robot CL4P-TP (aka Clap Trap?). You needn’t worry. “We’ve got some fun surprises with Clap Trap, as well,” assured Helquist. Phew.