Ride Into the Nonsense Zone.
Borderlands has had no shortage of DLC expansions, but the Claptastic Voyage definitely stands out. Like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel itself, this story is supposed to help fill in the gap between Borderlands and Borderlands 2, picking up where the Pre-Sequel story left off. When Handsome Jack finally takes over Hyperion, there is one last hurdle for him to bypass before he can have access to all of the secrets Tassiter has hidden about technological advances made by the organization. Those secrets are known as the H-Source Code, which Tassiter has hid them inside of Claptrap, and in order to retrieve it Jack needs to digitize some vault hunters.
I played through the DLC as Athena which was nice since the overall plot follows the same storytelling format of the main game, with Lilith interrogating Athena about what happened—with the big question of why she still helps him. It basically all boils down to money, or else none of the vault hunters would continue helping Jack at this point; that is, except for Lady Hammerlock, who just really likes shooting things and doesn't need the money. Once you are digitized, though, the entire story is all about Claptrap.
Every facet of the game's level design is related to something in Claptrap’s conscience resulting in some comical moments especially when doing side quests; for instance, coming across a small group of “cookies” who ask you to help “mine data” for them. You’ll often find that the road to discovering Tassiter’s secrets is more of an obstacle because of Claptrap’s inner demons and not the failsafes put in place by the former leader of Hyperion.
The enemies you’ll fight are a diverse bunch of computing-inspired foes based on robots and viruses. The robot enemy classes are more related to Claptrap in the sense that they are all a form of “insecurity bots” that fight against you as you delve into memories Claptrap is trying to repress. Some of the badass robots are literally firewalls, spewing fire at you if you get too close, making them extra dangerous; others are Trojans, equipped with ominous horse heads. I found that the robot enemies were a little easier to handle but there are also flying spybots that can get a little annoying especially because there are instances where they attack from a distance while you’re dealing with other enemies, even bosses. There are also spybugs as well, and although they do not shoot at you. they do project ads directly into your face so you have to shoot them down.
The viruses are very interesting enemies to fight because some have a unique ability where they can adapt to the weapons used against them, forcing you to be more tactical and also serving as a representation of how actual computer viruses adapt over time. While running around The Nexus, you’ll also stumble upon pop-ads which literally shoot up from the floor directly into your face. You can choose to spend money on them to get overpriced items and they are purposefully gimmicky. My favorite part of the set pieces were holographic messages throughout the Nexus that represent Claptrap's inner thoughts, my favorite being a tie between “You fail 100% of the things you try” or “Be better at stuff." Who can’t relate to that?
The new glitch weapons are a nice touch but at times become more a nuisance to use, particularly when you find one with great specs in the absence of glitch mode. Every now and then, the glitch weapons might release a strong barrage of bullets even if you’re just using a pistol, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have that happen. Over the course of using glitched-out SMGs, Shotguns, and Assault Rifles, I found that the most common glitch was continuous firing.
They helped when I was fighting a larger number of enemies, but there were a few boss battles where I would just end up spraying bullets into nothing as the Boss moved quickly around the battlefield. It uses up your ammo too, so if you get continuous fire going and there’s no immediate ammo around you, you might turn into a sitting duck. There was one instance where I has lucky enough to have a high-powered shotgun glitch out right at the end of a boss fight, helping deal the deathblow; however, those moments are a little to far between.
The real standout here is not the weapons or the enemies—it’s the story of Claptrap. The memories you access aren't just ones necessary to discover the H-Source, as they also explain how Claptrap became a vault hunter and what happened to him after Jack abandoned him. I really loved the exposition on Claptrap’s character because you wouldn’t really think you’d care to sympathize with his story, but you really do. Despite being a robot, he is not perfect and although we’ve seen these flaws play out playfully before as comic relief, it’s different witnessing it firsthand.
There are a few instances where no matter who you play as, the NPCs in the memories regard you as Claptrap, reinforcing the despair Claptrap has felt during some of the worst moments of his life. You also get to revisit some familiar areas from Borderlands and Borderlands 2, which is a lot of fun since they are warped re-imaginings of familiar places so it’s a little like being in a Twilight Zone episode.
My only gripe with the DLC is strictly a logistical issue. Once you travel deep into the sub-subconscious of Claptrap’s memories, the levels become more twisted and fantastical. One of them even feels like an homage to a Escher painting with upside-down stairways and paths to nowhere. As much as I loved traveling through these areas, it wasn’t really the best place as far as fast travel was concerned. After a particularly difficult boss fight. I used a fast travel station to regroup myself since I knew I was most likely about to go into another major fight.
Upon returning to fast travel. the waypoint was not there and I had to travel through a rather lengthy level to get back to where I was without waypoints. Backtracking is definitely a part of the Borderlands experience, though this instance seemed a bit much for me as it would be easy to get turned around or distracted by enemies along the way if you are trying to bring along a large group to help you kill a boss. I highly recommend not using fast travel once you get to the subconscious levels of Claptrap’s mind, since that’s when shit gets real weird, including the waypoints.
When it comes to Borderlands DLC I would have to say that the Claptastic Voyage is a runner-up for the best one. While it’s not as expansive as Assault on Dragon’s Keep, it has a lot of charm and has a solid story about a character many players love. It also does a great job of introducing fun level designs that were clearly inspired by popular science fiction like Inception, Tron, and Fantastic Voyage. The Nexus level in particular really reminded me of Tron with orange and blue light pathways you can jump into and speed around the level in.
If you already have the $29.99 season pass, then you’ll have access to the expansion at launch and if you do not have the season pass, you can purchase the DLC separately for $9.99. For any Xbox One or PS4 owners, the DLC comes bundled with the Handsome Collection which costs $59.99 and is bundled with all the DLC for Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel so that’s an amazing deal. I would advise anyone interested in playing this DLC to be level 30 or higher when you start it; if not, you’re gonna have a bad time, mmm'kay.