We've played the new Borderlands 2 DLC

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Five years after the last add-on for Borderlands 2, it's nice to be playing a new one. The announcement of Borderlands 3 already gave me the motivation I needed to replay one of my favorite shooters (and about a million other people had the same idea, according to Steam's numbers), but it's a sweet bonus to actually have new stuff to explore while I continue spending 2019 ignoring more recent games in favor of one that came out in 2012.

Something that's always been a bit annoying about Borderlands 2 is that when you want to play a different class you have to start over from level one, and it takes till level five to unlock their action skill and find out if you actually enjoy their shtick. The Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary DLC released today lets you make a new vault hunter who is boosted to 30 so you can jump right into it, which means never having to play the tutorial again.

Of course you can also play through this expansion with an existing character, and that's what it's designed for. It's an epilogue that sets up Borderlands 3, getting characters and a plot MacGuffin into place for the sequel, while also dealing with some Tales from the Borderlands fallout. (If Telltale's spin-off has been sitting in your backlog, definitely play it before this.)

That makes this the third Borderlands 2 epilogue, by my count. Of the other DLCs both Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep and The Son of Crawmerax explicitly deal with how the events of the story have affected the cast. It's a very "for the fans" kind of thing to keep doing, with a lot of explicit callbacks and running jokes for players who've built up a fondness for characters like Brick, Tannis, Moxxi, and even Claptrap.

Obviously, there's a lot of shooty-shooty-pew-pew as well. This is still a Gearbox Borderlands rather than a Telltale one. The level cap is boosted to 80 and a whole new tier of weapons above the legendary rarity called "effervescent" has been added. I found a talking sniper rifle called Hot Mama and an assault rifle called Toothpick that jets flame out its side, both of which are as colorful as rainbows on an oil slick.

The enemies I was shooting with my shiny new guns weren't quite so exciting. There's a military group called the New Pandorans in town who are mostly just boring soldiers. They've got specialists like medics, snipers, and guys with flamethrowers but what seemed like setup for jokes at the expense of Team Fortress 2 was wasted. Their leader Hector feels like a rehash of General Knoxx from the first game.

His plan for taking over the planet and turning it into a paradise involves releasing a gas that transforms people into plant monsters, which results in some tweaks to the way you approach fights—clouds of spores that power you up in the short-term but cause damage if you stand in them too long, budding pods that release bad guys if you don't shoot them in time—but "bandits with leaves on them" isn't a thrilling theme for monsters. At least none of them are as annoying as that Poison Ivy boss fight in Arkham Asylum.

That doesn't matter as much as you'd think, because the emphasis is definitely on the heroes rather than the villains. Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary is mostly about saying goodbye to Borderlands 2, with some of the new locations being busted-up versions of familiar places and various fan-favorite characters returning to do their thing. Claptrap has a side mission where he gets into cryptocurrency, two of the shopkeepers become housemates as if they're in a wacky sitcom, Tannis rants about mad science schemes. 

Sure, there's also a new raid boss, more skins, and two more Overpowered levels for the kind of people who are never happy with the amount of "endgame content" anything has, but there's also a lot of time spent just hanging out in a new hub that accrues NPCs over the course of the story. Dangling story threads are tied off, and everyone gets moved into place for the planet-hopping plot of Borderlands 3 and its new spaceship hub.

Mass Effect 3's Citadel expansion is still the gold standard for this kind of indulgent farewell to a videogame family, but Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary is a similarly fun hangout with bantering NPCs that happens to have some shooting in it. And for the next month, you can download it free.

Now bring on Borderlands 3.