Despite having remasters, spin-offs, and even a pre-sequel to sate their appetite, Borderlands fans have been ravenous for the next mainline entry in Gearbox’s open-world looter-shooter series. Just a few months before Borderlands 3’s release, Gearbox has served up a surprising hors d’oeuvre. Commander Lilith & The Fight for Sanctuary is a new Borderlands 2 expansion that drops players back onto the deadly planet of Pandora, priming them for the adventure to come. While the new DLC faithfully builds on the Borderlands 2 experience, some aspects of the series have aged better than others.
Commander Lilith takes place directly after the events of Borderlands 2, and chronicles the titular siren’s attempt to defend Sanctuary from Colonel Hector, a new villain hell-bent on transforming Pandora’s dusty landscape with a deadly toxin. Like any good leader, Lilith delegates most of the heavy lifting to you and your vault-hunting friends, who must fight plant-infected mutations of familiar enemies and explore a few new areas of the planet. Numerous other returning characters pop up for fun cameos (including a few faces from Tales of the Borderlands), rounding out cutscenes and dispensing quests. Commander Lilith mirrors the length of Borderlands 2’s previous DLC expansions, offering a couple hours’ worth of content for the main questline, and a few more hours of side content. A new level cap, raid, “Effervescent” tier of procedurally generated loot, and a few replayable boss fights offer additional thrills for longtime grinders.
Having not played Borderlands 2 since it first released on Xbox 360, getting back into the swing of things wasn’t easy. Commander Lilith allows players to create a level 30 character and jump straight to the new adventure, but you have to relearn the various systems, acquire better loot, and puzzle together a decent skill-tree build on your own. Even with the upgraded visuals provided by the Handsome Jack Collection, I was struck by how simple and mechanical the world feels. The manic combat has also lost a bit of its punch over the years, overshadowed by smoother, flashier, and more ability-driven shooters.
Commander Lilith’s mission design feels particularly dated, with most of your objectives boiling down to banal fetch quests – get 10 of these, kill 10 of those, etc. The goofy dialogue from fan-favorite characters helps blunt some of the repetition, but it can’t hide how much time you spend running back and forth through the same areas to advance missions. Managing inventory space, sifting through piles of worthless white and green guns, and the sluggish pace of opening and looting containers also hamstring the entertainment. After acquiring some overpowered legendaries and readjusting to the pace of Borderlands’ addictive gameplay loop, I remembered why I fell in love with the series, but some of the passion is gone.
Some of Borderlands’ humor also feels tired seven years on, from the endless bedonk and bro jokes, to the “midget” enemy subclass, whose high-pitched squeals induce more winces than laughter. The series’ crass humor has always been hilarious to some and intolerable to others, and the new DLC is no different; Handsome Jack’s returning “Butt Stallion” is the perfect litmus test for finding out where you land on the spectrum. While I experienced more involuntary eyerolls than I was expecting, I did enjoy catching up with some of the classic characters like Lilith and Brick.
Commander Lilith is another solid DLC arc that fits right at home with the previous Borderlands 2 expansions, and it’s a great way to prepare yourself for the sequel. As someone for whom Borderlands’ formula has already worn a little thin, however, Commander Lilith left me yearning to see what improvements Borderlands 3 may bring to the table, even as I enjoyed the moment-to-moment action.
Commander Lilith faithfully recreates and adds to the Borderlands 2 experience, for better and worse.
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