Grand Defeats

Motorhead looks like a real nasty bastard, yet a few seconds with my Combustion Hellfire SMG and he was toast. Too easy. If I'd gone up against Lemmy with an SMG, after a blinding gig in Hammersmith Apollo, I'm sure I'd have a much harder fight.

There is nothing quite so satisfying as being rewarded for all your efforts with a game, whether it’s from months of solving puzzles to eventually reach that elusive final boss or just to hit that ultimate level cap and know that you worked to get there. When the promise of something great lies at the end of the struggle, how must it feel to reach that final destination only to be let down massively?

There have been several occasions recently where I have felt that grand defeat… and all from the same game. The build up and anticipation have been so much that, when it ultimately never happened, I was left feeling not only let down, but absolutely cheated. Cheated by the law of random selection, cheated by the carrots being dangled in front of me throughout the entire game and, ultimately, cheated by the developers who made huge promises and failed to deliver.

For those of you who are unaware of my gaming tendencies, I won’t play more than one game at a time. It’s just not how we roll in my shire. It’s about immersiveness and dedication and so, for the last couple of months, I have been spending all of my time on Borderlands which started off as a single player campaign as Mordecai the Hunter and developed into a co-op scenario with my friend and fellow GamingLives writer Pete.

I give you... The Destroyer... guardian of nothing, and a formidable force to be reckoned with... for a few seconds, at most.

When we first entered The Vault and were faced with this huge writhing creature, The Destroyer, our first reactions were “Holy shit!” or some such surprised mutterance. Within the space of sixty seconds, however, the excited blurts had become painful cries of “What?! Shit!? Is that it??” because the big bad… the final boss… the last big nasty that you’re tasked to kill… was dead quicker than some of the regular in-game enemies and we were quickly subjected to the end credits so we could quickly jot down the names of the people who obviously found it hilarious to hype up this “Vault” as being something spectacular, rather than an oversized slug that dropped a few crap weapons.

It doesn’t end there though, unfortunately.

General Knoxx was a reasonably lengthy kill, but really it was mostly due to the four Devastators that would spawn to distract you, and various Crimson Lance Medics that kept turning up to heal him if they weren't taken out quick enough. I have to admit to constantly singing "Transformers - Robots In Disguise" the entire time I was shooting him too.

I have made no secret of the fact that a huge part of the experience for me was working out the quickest and most efficient way of getting through all of the red crates in one particular area in the hopes that they will be filled, or least be peppered, with weapons and shields superior to my own. Imagine my surprise and sheer delight when I discovered that my latest purchase, The Secret Armory DLC, not only included bigger bosses than the main game… but all new Crimson Lance crates containing more advanced and powerful weaponry than the main game as well as a final boss by the name of Crawmerax who, as I was frequently reminded during loading screens, would regress me back to that kid in a candy store (or, in my case, a Tandy store) as “Crawmerax has a chance to drop the best weapons and gear ever seen on Pandora”.

Some digging around the various gaming forums turned up information on the recent addition of the Pearlescent weapons which, while still generated using a random seed, would be specifically named and have statistics within a specific range… so it was easy to see in advance just how powerful these weapons and shields were. I wanted them, and those new Crimson Lance crates had the chance of containing these Pearlescent weapons, as did Badass enemies, Skyscraper (oversized daddy long legs with a superiority complex) and Crawmerax.

My digging also introduced me to a glitch whereby the player would have an unlimited amount of time to loot General Knoxx’ Secret Armory rather than the 2 minutes and 33 seconds that were afforded through regular game play. Being a crate whore I, naturally and unquestionably, exploited that glitch as many times as I could manage… but boredom got the better of me as I opened each of the 150+ crates several times over (including making my way through hordes of enemies each time) and not one single weapon was better than anything that I was already carrying… most of which I’d had since around level 40-45.

Sure, Crawmerax is a bit of a prick to kill until you get the hang of it but he certainly hasn't dropped some of the best weapons and gear for me so far... and I'm starting to feel duped!

Not being one to give up easily, I decided to give this Crawmerax guy a go and see what tasty nuggets he’d throw my way. He certainly wasn’t an easy kill, and I died three times before finding a nice safe spot to take him out without further consequence. His health bar dropped as each of his claws were ripped off by my Desert Penetrator sniper rifle and I sat transfixed on his health bar as the shock ricochet from my Vicious Orion stole the last few millimetres of his life. Dead. I had just killed Crawmerax and now I waited to be rewarded so, as his monstrous body crashed to the ground and exploded in a glorious rainbow of rarities, I rushed forward to soak in the “best weapons and gear ever seen on Pandora”.

The truth was, much to my agony, that my backpack already contained twenty one items that were infinitely better than anything that Crawmerax had dropped… and this was with him being killed while I had a Scavenger class mod equipped that had “+4 Scavenge Extra Items” and “+2 Team Find Rare Items” which are the highest possible multipliers for these stats.

Mad Moxxi... no matter how let down I feel by the game, one look at her makes me feel alright. She's my favourite MILF

Today alone, I have killed Crawmerax more than ten times and I have yet to find a single pearlescent weapon although I DO admit that the penultimate kill for this evening turned up an Incendiary Thanatos pistol which had a faster fire rate and larger clip than any of my other incendiary repeaters, albeit with half of the damage… but it was still better overall.

If you asked me how I feel about those pearlescent weapons or the great drops from Crawmerax, I'd have to say that this image sums it up perfectly.

So there you have it – the greatest defeat I have found in my two and a half playthroughs of Borderlands is the defeat I feel myself from being let down by the promises made by the game itself. The bosses were a little too easy to kill, the DLC weapons were mostly inferior to those found in the main game, and the weapons dropped by Crawmerax may have been several million dollars resale value each… but the actual weapon statistics are, as yet, nothing to write home about. I’ll stick to my trusty Cold Thanatos!

That said, it’ll still be another couple of weeks of whoring Crawmerax before I finally give up and decide to move on to another game.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Adam Adam says:

    It’s a shame that most game developers are afraid to really challenge us in the ways we want too. If we’re told about the ‘big bad’ of our game world, we should be right to fear it. Whenever I’ve heard of enemies like that in the past, I’ve gone out of my way to prep for the battle as much as humanly possible, I’ve respecced, re-geared, re-thought every strategy and I too have fallen victim to waltzing into a room, buffed up to the eyeballs accepting that my bowels may move to evacuate without notice….and then killed the ruddy thing as quick as I kill anything else.

    If with a game like Borderlands, you’ve made the commitment to see it through to the end (and lets be honest with ourselves, it’s really not that often we do), it’s acceptable to think that the gamer isn’t doing it for the hell of it, they’re doing it because they want to. Why is it that we’re not been treated with the same respect we’ve shown the game by playing it this far?

    It really sucks that you’ve played a game like Borderlands and been let down by it like that MarkuZ, it really is. Games should be able to monitor your progress and ability and be able to come up with a worthy opponent and a just reward for your efforts rather than a pre-determined bunch of statistics you can sell in a strategy guide and a patronising pat on the head for showing up.

  2. Adam Adam says:

    …I probably shouldn’t have just watched Question Time…I’m all ‘Uppity’ and ‘Angry’ for seemingly no reason! Bloody Politicians.

    Still, I feel your pain!

  3. Samuel The Preacher says:

    And the love/hate sage of Mark versus Borderlands continues… a steamy affair with far-flung locations, passionate romance, more passionate falling outs, big guns, freakish aliens, and copious amounts of swearing.

    When things calm down a bit for me, I’ll have to make sure I get around to joining you and Pete in the game again, it’s usually good for producing the fun times.

  4. Rook says:

    I’ll have to give Crawmerax another go but I too searchrd in vain for better weapons. I never completed the game second time around as it was more just for levelling up purpses. And as you raided the red crates so many times, you may have some weaponry better than me. Still I’d play more if there was additional DLC.

  5. Richie richie says:

    Borderlands was pretty bad for this kind of thing. I acquired a sniper rifle and rocket launcher early in my 2nd playthrough and didn’t replace either until Crawmerax dropped something better.

    Still, it’s what happens with RPGs a lot. I always get to a point where I’ve got a ton of cash but there’s nothing good in the shops.

    Also, you can count the number of good FPS bosses on one hand!

    Good read, Mark.

  6. Pete says:

    I feel your pain dood! Quite vocally usually lol ;)

    Borderlands is one of very few games I’ve played through to the end… I’ve enjoyed it for the most part but like you have been grumpy about the bosses and rewards! I think the most disappointing thing for me though is the level capping! How hard is it for them to unlimit the levels and let you keep earning xp? The enemies are always of a level close to yours so how much extra disc space would it really take to keep on growing??

  7. Samuel The Preacher says:

    Sage? I meant saga. Christ I need to stop commenting on these at silly o’clock in the morning.

  8. Lorna Lorna says:

    Every time you said you were going upstairs to ‘finish the game’, I knew damn well that you were merely crate running again ;) I’m with Adam on the pain of spending so much time buffing up and carefully picking weapons for the final fight, only to never use most of them. I know damn well that when I get around to finishing Oblivion, those weapons which I haev insisted on dragging around Cyrodiil ‘just in case’ will largely remain unused.

    Shame about the pearlescents…sod’s law however, will ensure that when you do eventually get one, it will be crap.

  9. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    This news just in…. nothing new to report! Can’t think how many other times I’ve killed Crawmerax since publishing this only yesterday but I’m still no further forward in getting the pearlescent weapons, which is a shame. Still enjoying killing Crawmerax over and over though and the fact that he/she respawns as soon as you leave the cave means I can just keep going back in time and time again.

    Determined to pick up at least one Pearl this weekend though, just not sure if it’ll be worth it. Nevermind.

  10. Richie richie says:

    What’s your Crawmerax-killing method, Mark?

    I know about the hiding place but that still leaves the target on his back. As soon as I step out for that he Fritzl’s my face.

    I had to beat him in co-op and even that was pretty devilish.

  11. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Depends on how I’m feeling really! Most of the time I’ll take my hunter over to the left hand blind spot and take him out using my Desert Repeater sniper rifle (4.2 fire rate, repeater sniper) and then switch over to my Liquid Orion sniper (679 damage, 2.4 fire rate, 3x shock with ricochet) and fire it off the obelisk structure either to his left or behind him if I can get a decent ricochet, other times I’ll use my TEK Malevolent SMG which has a twisted path and ricochet. I’ve spent 20 minutes before just trying to find the right ricochet point to his his back, which isn’t worth it.

    More recently I’ll take my level 34 siren (I only made her yesterday) and once I’ve taken every critical hit point apart from the back I’ll send her up in the lift, phasewalk her over to the v shaped drop on the right hand side of the plateau and duck her down, then get her incendiary SMG pointed at his weak spot, fire off a few rounds and then switch back to the hunter as soon as Crawmy turns his back on the hunter. That tends to do it.

    Can sometimes take 20-30 minutes, which is grating, but other times I can have him out in less than five minutes and just respawn him. Have had three whole loot drops at one time, but he’d been killed at different spots each time so they didn’t all get mixed up.

    Add me (MarkuzR) if you want a shot at co-oping him, I always switch to a +4 Extra Items and +2 Team Rare Items mod just before the final shot to get better loot.

  12. Richie richie says:

    Sounds good. You can have first dibs on the pearlies.

  13. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    SUCCESS!! Picked this up about ten minutes ago before quitting for dinner… but got it from the Crimson crate that you can (barely) see from the red glowy bridge thing that leads to Roads End (the crate where you have to jump on the two moving pistons before actually entering Roads End). Saucy.

  14. Samuel The Preacher says:

    Very snazzy. Not exactly a reasonable rate of return, but at least you eventually got something for all that effort.

  15. Kat says:

    Put the game down Mark and back away slowly… ^_^

    I did have an “oh is that it?” moment for Arkham Asylum but I’d been playing it on an easy setting so I guess that’s forgiveable.

  16. Adam Adam says:

    I am a fan of procedurely generated content (I’ve calmed down a bit from my Question Time Rage when I first posted up). I think that it’s a great thing for a game like Borderlands to have as it always gives you a reason to keep going back. Admittedly it’s not a great nor glamorous reason but I’m with you on being one of those guys who will keep playing the odds, work out the time needed to do the task, the time I have and the maximum number of times I can do it all before having to move on.

    I even get superstitious and start opening chests from a certain side.

    The worst I’ve found though is when there are some perfectly legitimate glitches in the system you can exploit and make good use of. I always know that I shouldn’t play into them because its not how the game was designed to be experienced, but you just try and stop me!

  17. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Well, I have to admit that exploiting the “floor glitch” in the Armory that takes you straight down to the room with all the crates has proven to be pretty damn pointless. Almost all of the weapons have been substandard and so I just avoid that completely now. Instead, I’m going for the Crimson crate by the entrance to Road’s End (where I got my first pearlescent item) and killing Crawmerax over and over again.

    When Pete was up at the weekend, we likely went through maybe 20 hours all told TOGETHER as well as another 10 hours on my own, or thereabouts, and only picked up another four “pearlies” (thanks Rich) so the rate of return is really low. With a drop ratio from “pearlescent” to “dark orange” of 1:66, and the chance of even getting a dark orange as being 1:101+… it really means that there’s a 1:6666 chance of picking up a pearlescent item. That could be a bad calculation on my part but I worked it out as 1x101x66.

    I can generally get to Crawmerax’ Lair within seven minutes, then another three minutes to kill him (assuming there’s no death on my part!!) then an immediate respawn means that I can likely spend 16-20 minutes on a three-kill spree before quitting back to the menu to clear off all the unused weapons and starting again. It’s fun… so much more fun than going through the Armory. I need to pick a stopping point though, like you say… and I also went through a stage of kneeling my character in front of the crate and saying “please be good, please be good, blease be good” before clicking the button to open. Sad? Yes. Bothered? Um… yes!!