There’s a scene in possibly the greatest movie of all time, Cool Runnings, where one member of the Jamaican bobsled team tells another to look in the mirror and realize that he is a “bad ass mother” who doesn’t take crap from no one. I bet Krieg the Psycho Bandit has seen this movie, because it is a work of art and also because he is a bad ass mother who breathes fire and likes to chop up people with his pointy buzz saw axe thingie.
Krieg is the newest playable character class for Borderlands 2. He’s available on May 14 for $9.99 or 800 MS points — sorry, he’s not included in the Season Pass — but I got to play with him a few weeks ago during a hands-on press event. Well, technically I mostly watched lead writer Anthony Burch play because my hands have molded themselves to fit only my mouse and keyboard and they only had Xbox controllers. But that let me take notes! And fortunately, I later got an early access code to take Krieg for a spin.
After several hours of play time, I can tell you that Krieg is no wallflower waiting for one of the Psycho Bandit Girls to ask him to dance. He likes to get up close and start grinding away. Grind grind grind. His action skill is the Buzz Axe Rampage which makes him a Very Angry Psycho which is basically Paul Bunyan on a murder rampage. When Rampage is activated, Krieg switches into a crazy melee mode where he moves faster and hits harder (like 500% harder) and instantly refills his health after he kills a bad guy. He also trades in his guns to go full-time with his Buzz Axe (hence the name), but there’s still an option to throw the axe and make enemies splatter from a distance.
Playing as Krieg is almost the exact opposite of my normal Siren gameplay style also known as the “tender lover” approach where I pop in and out of combat to Phaselock enemies, ideally one at a time. It’s tempting to hang back as Krieg and pelter from a distance if that’s what you’re used to, but his three skill trees encourage you to get right into the stinky armpit of battle.
Mania is Anthony Burch’s favorite tree and I also see it as the true Psycho class tree. The different skills reward you for taking damage by boosting your melee damage, firing rate and also the speed with which your action skill recharges. Killing enemies with excessive damage will also heal you. But what makes this tree a beautiful, hellish thing of synergy is the final skill, Release the Beast. If you activate the Buzz Axe Rampage action skill when your health is down to 33% or less, Release the Beast will instantly refill your health and turn you into a Badass Psycho Mutant, which is like Paul Bunyan on a murder rampage but this time with horse steroids. Oh, and after you return to normal, Buzz Axe Rampage is instantly recharged so you can do it all again. Beautiful.
The Bloodlust tree instead focuses on weapons. You can accumulate Bloodlust stacks by hurting baddies, in the process boosting your magazine size, weapon swap speed and also the speed at which the action skill recharges. I’m a big fan of the final skill in this tree as well, Bloodsplosion. When Krieg kills a bad guy, it sets off an Elemental Nova that will chain to any nearby enemies and explode off them as well. The explosion also matches the elemental damage that you used to kill the enemy and defaults to an explosive nova if it was non-elemental damage. I felt a stirring in my loins when I was able to blow up one bad guy then set off a chain reaction of explosions to kill three more. Boom boom boom boom. Of course, Anthony Burch had to then go and kill five in a row. My loins did not like that.
The last tree, Hellborn, is all about fire and elemental damage. I didn’t spend as much time playing with it, but dealing elemental damage generates buffs, and killing bad guys gives a chance of setting Krieg on fire. But that’s a good thing! Because once Krieg is on fire, he dishes out more damage and once he has the final tree skill, Raving Retribution, he also automatically shoots out homing fire balls that will hunt down enemies. Not required, but you can also yell, “Hadouken!” when this happens. Hellborn also lets you breathe fire, if you’re into that kind of thing.
During all my preview gameplay I was spotted a bunch of points so I didn’t have to work my way through the lower levels. So I’m not sure how a younger, less bad ass Krieg handles. Anthony told me that Kreig was designed for experienced players, but I think that anyone who is willing to play aggressively is going to get a kick out of Krieg. It’s refreshing to throw off your old habits and wade into the thick of things, swinging a buzz saw axe and screaming obscenities.
Ripping off a chain of Release the Beasts in the Mania tree was my favorite part playing as Krieg, but I can see each tree being worthy for different playstyles. Setting off chain reactions with Bloodsplosion was also a blast. It’s kind of like trying to see how many times you can skip a stone in a lake, except with killing people instead. Bottom line, playing with Krieg makes killing fun again.