If you think being in lockdown for a few months is bad, try 7 years. Now imagine you are locked in a casino. Someone has come to bail you out, but it’s too late. You’ve become a bitter, twisted, addicted, Borderlands enemy.
It’s not all bad. Meet “All-in” Alan, he’s having the time of his life. “7 years? I didn’t even notice! My big win is just around the corner!”. As long as he has his optimism, he’s winning on the inside.
Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot is the first paid DLC released for Borderlands 3, and just like a real casino, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. You’re also not going to get your money back. It was hard to understand the angle of this before playing it, but it starts to make sense when you get there. This casino is so big, it exists as its own planetary structure floating in space by itself. The owner is missing in action and security protocols have come into effect, locking people inside for the last 7 years with no way out. Many events have unfolded in those years so you’re not just “going to a casino” in this campaign, but discovering an entire civilization of depraved casino dwellers.
The characters really make this place feel unique. Some of them are good people, but even they have developed extreme personalities in here. You’ll find a jazz musician, fire-obsessed dancer, a Mayor who talks like Jesse Jackson, and even some robots have developed personality quirks.
“Hello sir, would you like your wallet sanitised?”
Why yes, thank you. What a nice cleaning robot. Look at its cute bowtie! I’m not going to spoil too much, but there are some unexpected places and people that keep this massive casino planet running. A standout element of this campaign is that the large majority of things are brand new, it doesn’t rehash too many old characters like the main campaign. This feels like its own game world.
The gameplay features a lot of fun quest design, with side missions and challenges that involve different outside-the-box triggers and thinking. There’s a good dose of creative platforming, object interaction, secret doors, collectables, and of course lots of shooting and looting. The map design is sometimes multilayered and rewards you for exploring with optional challenges hidden. Seeing something cool on a ledge above you and thinking “how am I gonna get there?” is a refreshing diversion from combat.
The trees might be fake but they look nice. How are we breathing here anyway? Either they learned how to manufacture air by 2700, or the supply is just running very low at this point. Perhaps this is what became of our Earth, after we mined all its resources and abandoned it…. we came back to steal the air. We could have also evolved to breathe differently and Earth is just fine. Yeah, I’m going with the least depressing option. This might seem like a tangent, but you do get to explore under and around the casino and have a look at all the things that make it work. It makes you think about waste, mechanical design, and what happens in space.
I hit the level cap of 57 while playing this DLC and felt a bit strange. What better place to have an existential crisis than a casino? I was mowing down robots and thugs with no gain whatsoever and it made me ask myself, what is the point? Is this still fun? Can a bathroom only have one sink?
The answer is… yes. Borderlands gameplay is damn fun and that didn’t change at all without arbitrary EXP rewards. Firing my corrosion SMG at machines to melt them, then switching to the Assault Rifle to finish off looters as the machines took corrosion damage, making sure my action skill is back just in time to get more aggressive. Good times. The flashing lights and addictive sounds of the casino enhance the euphoria. Not only is the gameplay fun, but it’s a fascinating place to explore.
The music isn’t quite as good as the Cartel event but it’s good in its own right, with more of an organised rhythmic stucture. In general I feel that Borderlands 3 music is improving as they branch out into new genres and get ideas. There were standout songs in certain areas I enjoyed, but overall it’s just good hype and complimentary to all the casino style sound effects which really do take center stage. The end credits has some smashing music as well. This was a very large-scale production with 3 songs worth of names.
I personally don’t like gambling and I feel dirty around casinos, but I still enjoyed this DLC. There’s a few machines where you can pull slots or play blackjack on treasure chests, but nothing is really lost and there’s no actual gambling. If you think about it, the whole random loot nature of the game is gambling anyway. You can get lucky with a good item in the slots, or have a grenade explode in your face. It’s all good fun. You’re just going to respawn anyway. The overall feeling of the casino is that it’s a trashy place that’s been shut down. It’s like walking through an abandoned mall, but everything is still on and someone is still playing the claw machine. Speaking of machines, you get to smash the pokies for loot in this game.
*whack* take THAT, capitalism! I’m taking you down one machine at a time.
Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot offers high quality content with some great looking environments, and some of the most well-written story and missions the series has seen yet. The diversity of characters, areas, and gameplay is surprisingly rich considering all you know at the start is “casino”. It hits on quite a few different themes and really exceeds creative expectations. It probably took me 10 hours to play through it, with 5 or 6 large map areas to explore. I’ve held off posting screenshots of very specific looking areas, just because I valued their surprise and don’t want to spoil that for others. Don’t expect anything mindblowing but I just thought they looked cool and interesting. Overall I loved this DLC and recommend taking the plunge if you want more Borderlands. I rate it 777 out of 10.