The Average Gamer
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Borderlands 2 – Krieg (DLC Character) Preview

BL2 - Krieg Standing 2Pandora’s box has once again creaked open, revealing a new downloadable character for Borderlands 2! In the style of a ‘Match.com’ profile page: His name is Krieg, he’s a Psycho, he enjoys blood-rampages and axes, and his favourite hobbies are dismemberment and exploding dynamite. All this could be yours, ladies and gentlemen, for the price of 800 Microsoft Points, or your platform’s equivalent. I sat down with Paul Hellquist, Creative Director at Gearbox who designed Krieg, to talk about the character’s history, new skill-sets, and pricing.

If you’re a Borderlands 2 Season Pass holder then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Krieg will be a separate piece of DLC and will only be available by purchase, much like the Mecromancer was. Though the Mechromancer was technically free if you pre-ordered the game, Krieg is an entirely new animal into the Borderlands 2 roster.

Krieg plays unlike any other Borderlands character that came before. Krieg enjoys being damaged. If you have a lower recharge rate on your shield, in a large swarm of enemies, then this counts as positive to Krieg. The more injured he is, the crazier and more psycho he becomes. Thus, he deals more damage while this is happening. There’s even an entire skill tree for Krieg that involves him setting himself on fire. Setting himself on fire.

BL2 - Krieg Smash

The premise of Krieg is that he plays almost the complete opposite way all other Borderlands 2 characters do. There are no advantages to hiding, or taking cover, only from unending carnage and mayhem. Krieg is a melee focussed character, even more so than Zer0, thanks to his trusty axe. His special attack, “Buzz Axe Rampage”, gives a massive damage boost for his axe and unlimited super sprint while activated – it’s a thing of bloody beauty.

Krieg has three skill trees for upgrades: Bloodlust, Mania, and Hellborn. Bloodlust has a unique feature called ‘stacking’. This equates to you gaining more advantages from stacking upgrades by getting more kills. For example: if you have the bigger clip upgrade unlocked, by getting more kills in quick succession your clip will become even bigger – temporarily – thanks to stacking. The faster and more often you kill stuff, the better your upgrades will become – for as long as you can keep the destruction coming. These upgrades can vary from attaching dynamite to your axe, to chaining elemental damage to neighbouring enemies when an enemy dies from an elemental attack.

Mania is where the lack of shield being an advantage comes in. The lower your shield, the more damage you do. When you take damage, you deal more damage. There’s even one upgrade “Overkill” that will give you a health boost based on the amount of damage you do. “Light The Fuse” is the best: instead of being downed, like regular Borderlands characters, and having to earn a second wind; Krieg will have the option to throw dynamite everywhere upon losing all his health. Once you have thrown all your dynamite, it will explode, if this gains you a kill, you will not die. Leaving you free to to carry on your rampage. It’s non-stop destruction.

BL2 - Krieg Dynamite

Hellborn is the previously mentioned “setting himself on fire” skill tree. This one is complicated simple: when Krieg sets himself on fire, he takes more damage, which as mentioned before now leads to him dealing more damage. The fire deals less damage than, say, an enemy grenade, but it still gives the perk advantages of it. This can mean anything from increased melee range to increased fire rate and magazine size. It builds up to the top tier upgrades that include: breathing fire and being able to shoot homing fireballs. Homing. Fireballs.

If you are able to get your skill trees correctly in line, you can take less damage by being on fire, while sending out homing fireballs of death, and have your melee range increased the more you kill. It’s insane, ridiculous, and that’s how Krieg was meant to be played. You’re a god damn psycho.

Paul Hellquist, Gearbox Creative Director

Paul Hellquist, Gearbox Creative Director

How did Krieg first come about, as a character?

The Psycho, it kind of became sort of obvious: why not the guy on the box? [laughs]. We’ve had this guy on the box, he’s an iconic symbol of the franchise, but he’s just “Joe Bad Guy”. We knew this character resonated with people, so why not let them be that guy? Thankfully, the skill ideas I had in mind before fitted really well with this sort of character, much more of a risk/reward style of gameplay. It fitted really nicely with an insane, killer who doesn’t care about his own health of safety.

BL2 - Krieg Halitosis

Why is he called Krieg?

We started with things like “Grim”, kind of a grim reaper angle. It felt a little cliché, and a bit dull. We had a whole board full of words we thought were ‘Bandit-y’. He was called “Rip” for a little while, because of ripping flesh from the bone and salt the wound kind of stuff. That felt too normal though, you could find someone on the street called Rip – rarely, but you could. Eventually we started looking at names that were also verbs.

The first one we liked was “Wolf”, as you would wolf down food. That was kind of cool, but it reminded me of Wolf Blitzer who’s a CNN news correspondent. I thought that “Blitz” was pretty cool, as The Psycho runs really fast. Some people hated that name. One person said: “Oh, I see. Like Blitzkrieg. Why not just called him Krieg? That’s the cooler half of that word.” We weren’t even thinking of that word, but he was right. It evokes everything about the Psycho with the battles, and the war, and the lightning fast reactions and stuff. Long answer, but that’s how we eventually settled on Krieg.

BL2 - Krieg Attacking

How does Krieg fit in with the current playable characters? Should he not, technically, be the ‘bad guy’?

He’s got to feel like a Vault Hunter and a hero. We knew he couldn’t just look like Joe Psycho, he had to look like a heroic version. He had to look like he’s a boss, like a psycho boss. We needed him to look different so in co-op you wouldn’t be gunning down your co-op buddies all the time. The same issue happened with the voice, because if he sounded like all the rest in co-op you wouldn’t be able to tell. He started off saying stuff like ‘The Greatest Hits of Bandits’ style lines, but we threw that out and aimed for a more Incredible Hulk style. He still says things, but he’s driven by rage and his sort of feral nature inside.

The idea is that he used to be a hero, like the other Vault Hunters, he was perfectly sane and ready to go treasure hunting. He got put through the ringer though, by Hyperion, so badly that his brain essentially broke. He got tested on, that turned him into this physical specimen, and that created the persona everyone sees. However, deep down inside, there’s still that tiny nugget of that hero. Every now and then when you’re playing the game you’ll hear that inner hero speak, inside his own head.

The way Bruce Banner is still a small part of The Hulk that stops him squashing babies. It’s kind of the same way with Krieg. He even has a specific skill point for that called “Silence The Voices” that dramatically increases his melee damage, but with a 12% chance of hitting himself in the face. When he does it, he says something to the tone of “ARGH! LEAVE ME ALONE!” and hit himself in the face. You even start to hear the voice inside his head reply sometimes after the hit with stuff like: “You can’t get rid of me that easily.”

Courtesy of: mentalmars, on DeviantArt

Courtesy of: mentalmars, on DeviantArt

What do you think is the best aspect of Krieg?

It was that we wanted to make the player feel like that guy. It had to be the mechanics, as well as the skills and the names of the abilities that achieved that. For example: one of rules was that no skill should ever let the player benefit from hiding. No taking cover, no standing still, everything drives the player to stay in combat. That was our top priority. Then we tried to turn any negatives into positives. Things to show Krieg doesn’t give a crap, things that normal people would worry about, he doesn’t worry about.

It comes together to change the way the player uses him as a character. Their whole player experience will change, because of the way you manage Mania and the gear that goes along with that. I want people looking for a shield with a 6 second delay because for Krieg that would be awesome for a lot of the Bloodlust skills.

BL2 - Krieg Armed

Why does Krieg cost 800 Microsoft Points? I assume the Season Pass decision wasn’t in your control, but what will players gain from Krieg that they would want?

How I think of it is: if I’ve done my job well, you’ve just got another 100 hours of play. 200 hours if you’re going for the Ultimate Vault Hunter mode too. A campaign can give you maybe 10 hours, but a character class can give you hundreds of hours, if I provide players with a different way of playing that makes them think differently and play differently than before. I hope I’ve done that with Krieg.

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