Borderlands 2’s Commander Lilith DLC Sets Up the Future of the Series and Is a Great Reminder of Its Past
The new Borderlands 2 DLC sets the stage for Borderlands well, and reminds me that it is still one of the best games of the generation.
Editor’s Note: This editorial contains spoilers for the Borderlands franchise, including Borderlands 2 and its recently-released Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary DLC.
It is hard to believe that we are less than two months away from Borderlands 3. As a big fan of the franchise, there was a point where I thought to myself that there was too much content from the series between Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!. That later was followed by Tales from the Borderlands from Telltale Games, as well as The Handsome Collection shortly after that, which combined both Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel! on consoles and PC.
It honestly feels similar to being a Kingdom Hearts fan, with the second entry being years and years ago, but then you get these nice side games and remasters to hold you off until you see the game with the number “3” at the end of the title. We will (hopefully) get a big juicy story with tons of incredible moments in Borderlands 3, but until then, I decided to jump back into Borderlands 2 to play the new Commander Lilith DLC, as well as experience Borderlands 2‘s phenomenal story for the umpteenth time.
2K and Gearbox announced Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary at E3 2019, which is a story DLC to help set up Borderlands 3. This expansion is shorter than most Borderlands DLC normally is, but it is straight and to the point while giving players the plot that is needed. Sanctuary has fallen at the hands of Hector, a Dahl soldier who was promised a planet for him and his crew after all their hard work. Once dropped off on Pandora, his group was betrayed by the company and forced to work in a mining cave. During their time in the cave, they were exposed to an unknown sickness that infected them and morphed parts of their bodies to plant-like form. He takes control of Sanctuary and steals the Vault Key, and the Vault Hunters are tasked to find a new base, find a cure, and take back Sanctuary.
There are a fair share of side quests included alongside the main plot, but what stands out the most without a doubt were the side quests featuring Scooter. In case you forgot, Scooter sacrificed himself in Tales from the Borderlands. You receive a quest from him posthumously, a final request if he were to ever die: giving his sister Ellie the Catch-A-Ride business. In response, Ellie wants to have a memorial for Scooter, in the only way it should be done: doing a sick-ass jump in one of his vehicles. I found this moment really special, especially coming after his eulogy where he thanks the Vault Hunters for treating him like family, and then asking them to “take care of his girls”: Ellie and Moxxi.
The most surprising thing about the DLC, however, was the incorporation of characters from Tales from the Borderlands. Both Vaughn and Cassius have roles in the expansion (if you killed Cassius in Tales from the Borderlands, sorry, but he is alive). The way Vaughn was used in the story was pretty disappointing, because it feels somewhat like the end of his story (as he comes a chief leader of the bandits on Pandora), and he deserved better. I was really hoping that he would still be with Rhys for Borderlands 3. That being said, with Tales from the Borderlands being a choice-based game with different outcomes, we really don’t know what the situation is with Rhys outside of being the new head of Atlas. Who knows; we’ll most likely see Vaughn have a role in Borderlands 3, but I don’t want this to be the last time I see him.
In Borderlands 3, we know that we will be traveling off to different planets across the galaxy. At the end of Borderlands 2, it was shown that there are numerous vaults across the galaxy that need to be protected from those that will abuse the power it may give them. That isn’t the only reason though; during the final boss fight with Hector, Lilith had to sacrifice Sanctuary to defeat Hector. Lilith tells everyone to find the other vaults while she rebuilds the Crimson Raiders. But in reality, she is going to find the Vault Key.
Despite its short length, Commander Lilith is a satisfying new piece of content for Borderlands 2, and as a longtime fan of the series, it definitely made me even more excited for Borderlands 3 this September. But even with a new game on the way, going back to experience this new DLC just reminds me how special Borderlands 2 is: specifically, the story.
People will often speak of last-gen games like BioShock, Red Dead Redemption, and Spec Ops: The Line with plot twists or scenes that blew their mind. While all of those games and those moments are completely valid, I don’t think I have ever been blown away by a game the number of times that I was in Borderlands 2, and playing through the Commander Lilith DLC only made those feelings stronger.
Despite Borderlands 2 originally releasing on last-gen consoles in 2012, it truly is a spectacle how well this game has aged so many years later; not as much in its visuals or gameplay, but mainly with its hilarious and surprisingly deep story. Not just deep, but dark. Whether it was learning about a new character’s backstory or more about a character we already knew, the story in Borderlands 2 constantly went into surprising places, from love, dealing with death and loss, and of course, its amazing lore. Even after so many years, I still find the game so compelling, especially in these character-driven moments.
Each character in Borderlands has a dark past, some more than others. There’s Gaige the Mechromancer, who had to flee to Pandora after her invention (and buddy) Deathtrap killed the girl who got first place at the science fair after being shoved, and Deathtrap recognizing her as a threat. And then there’s Tiny Tina, who was sold to Hyperion with her parents to be experimented on, eventually leading to her parents’ deaths. It is really incredible how Gearbox was able to make characters that at first impression are happy and funny, but who have also dealt with these heavy experiences.
I especially think back on the moment where we found out that Angel was a Siren the whole time while she was guiding the Vault Hunters in Borderlands 2. At the end of the original Borderlands, Angel tells the Vault Hunters that she is watching over them while a Hyperion satellite comes into view. Up until then, I thought that she was an AI: the way that she talked throughout both games just gave me the idea that she wasn’t an actual person. Of course, in the back of my mind I knew something was suspicious, only to be be confirmed in the second game that she was in fact a Siren.
And then there was the whole fact that she was the daughter of Handsome Jack. It shocked me how this father used and abused his own daughter for his own personal gain; Jack was already a villain to me, but that was the moment where he truly felt like a monster (then having the audacity to try and tell me that it was all my fault). This was all happening at the same time that Jack killed Roland in cold blood. I couldn’t imagine how other gamers felt who played as him in the original. Even with all the revelations, all the loss, and all the pain, I couldn’t help but have my jaw open and be impressed. Gearbox was willing to take big risks in their storytelling with Borderlands 2, and it paid off handsomely (no pun intended).
At launch, Borderlands 2 received countless accolades (including a 9.5 in our own review), and to me that still speaks true. Since then, it seems to me though that the game does not receive the level of continuous praise that other games from the last generation receive that are in a similar caliber, and that’s a shame. It is still just as great as it was then to the point where even if Borderlands 3 ends up being a better game, I can still easily see myself going back again and again to its predecessor. The story, humor, and characters never get old: even after hearing my favorite parts from the game again, line-after-line, I still love it.
Borderlands is a franchise that can’t be replicated. Its humor and characters are a front for the dark themes that lie below: they’re a distraction so that you don’t expect the real-life moments and emotions that occur throughout the story. They’re full of death and loss that the big businesses of the galaxy are responsible for: Hyperion, Dahl, and Atlas have all lead Pandora to near destruction.
From what we’ve seen of the game so far, Borderlands 3 seems to be no different, and that excites me. I want Borderlands 3 to be dark; I want these characters to deal with death and loss again, but in a way that I won’t expect. I want Gearbox to make even more risks in 3, even if they don’t all hit, because Borderlands is a franchise about causing mayhem. Borderlands 2 provided me with one of my favorite video game stories and experiences, and if you know someone who is getting Borderlands 3 as first game in the series, make them play 2 at the very least. It is such a special game and it is a disservice to yourself to miss out on it. Now if you will excuse me, I have some bonerfarts to kill.