The first time Gearbox gave us a look at the playable psycho bandit named Krieg, I knew this character was made for me. Krieg is rampage incarnate. He’s off-the-walls crazy. The more carelessly you play, the more damage you can deal. And I just love carelessly shredding into enemies. It’s what Borderlands was made for, as far as I’m concerned. And so there’s no better character to complement this endeavor than big, bad, muscular and very insane (and a little ugly) Krieg.
The very accommodating Mr. Mike Fahey captured some footage of said psycho Krieg for you all, which you can see spread throughout this article. Fahey is rocking a level 31 Krieg, and shows you what the bandit-man is capable of in all three of his skill trees.
Krieg might be considered a risky character to offer players. It certainly was for Gearbox, lead writer Anthony Burch tells me roughly two weeks ago over a demo of the newest character to Borderlands 2. In fact, Gearbox’s Paul Helquist had the general idea for Krieg thought out even before Borderlands 2 launched. But the Psycho character class is as much high risk, high reward in-game as he is out there in the market. So Borderlands 2 wouldn’t be shipped with this playable hulk of a creature, not when he might turn off some players. Krieg would be saved for downloadable content.
He’s going to make you do things that go against the gamer code you were raised by: namely, don’t get hurt.
“Well, shit,” I’m thinking. As much as I am dedicated to the Siren class, I would have played as Krieg straight through the game from the get-go if they’d let me. But I’ll settle for extra content on a second playthrough because he’s that amazing. Let me tell you why.
I like Zer0, the assassin class in Borderlands 2. He’s neat; he has some neat moves. But he’s the sniper class, and therefore typically at his best when you play as a stealthy killer. While I do enjoy silent and scoped kills, it’s not quite my preferred style. I rather opt for the exact opposite: guns-blazing, face-slicing killing where there’s not a moment’s break. And Krieg lets me be me.
The philosophy behind Krieg, Burch tells me, is to put players in an awkward position. He’s going to make you do things that go against the gamer code you were raised by: namely, don’t get hurt. But as Krieg’s shields are down and his health is below a certain percentage and he’s literally on friggin’ fire, he can actually deal more damage. Asking your co-op friends to shoot you in the face is a thing you will (reasonably) request while playing as Krieg, because some skills allot you extra damage as you take damage. Including the friendly fire kind.
Krieg’s basic action skill—that one special move that’s specific to his character class—is a melee Buzzaxe swing, shown quite a bit in the videos you see here. But it’s not as simple as that. You can do so much with Krieg, both within the bounds of his action skill and outside of it. On its own, when you enter Krieg’s buzzaxe rampage mode, you’ll immediately regain all your health and swing or throw massive damage at enemies. Sounds fun enough. But if you choose to go for the Bloodlust skill tree, your melee weapon can include a pack of dynamite stuck onto it. Or if you choose to go for the Mania tree, things can really get interesting. You can spec your Krieg to get maximum melee damage, and throw additional skills on top to turn yourself into an ever-rampaging beast.
With Mania, your melee damage can multiply by 250% (but you run the 12% risk of smacking yourself in the face in your raging confusion—stupidly hilarious). You can turn into a badass psycho; physically deformed and way stronger than before. Instead of fighting for your life, crawling on the floor like an injured animal, you’ll enter a rage mode where you can flick sticks of dynamite at people, or even go suicide bomber on top of them. In the latter case, if you killed the enemy in the process, you’ll instantly be revived and put right back in the game. You can even set up combat scenarios that give your action skill an instant cooldown. There’s a lot you can do in this skill tree to keep the pace—and your adrenaline—up.
While I grew to love Mania, Hellborn was the first to catch my eye. This skill tree is all about lighting yourself on fire, and building the tree in a way that gives you bonuses for doing so. You can mold Krieg’s abilities to increase your fire damage, reduce all damage to yourself, and even breathe fire at your enemies like a bloodthirsty dragon. Best part about this skill tree is the many lines of monologue—both somewhat sane but more often crazy—that Burch wrote for Krieg. You can hear some in the video above. Unfortunately there seemed to be a PC bug where the fire-breathing went a little...consistent, but you get the idea. You can see a bit of that in the video above.
Bloodlust is more calculated. It's similar to the Mechromancer’s stacking skill tree. As you make kills with your gun, your melee damage increases. As you make melee kills, your grenade damage increases. And as you make kills with grenades, your gun damage increases. You can stack kills by setting off nova explosions that will produce a domino effect if the first explosion manages to kill an enemy. The nearest enemy will die, and then the one next to him, and on and on as long as the damage is lethal.
Building Krieg up from scratch doesn’t feel too exciting. Things really get going when you approach the level 30s and have room to play around with your skill tree. Ideally you want to get a healthy mix of two trees. If you haven’t already tired Borderlands 2 out with multiple, multiple playthroughs, Krieg is my new favorite character that's well worth another run.
The psycho bandit releases next week on the 14th for roughly $10.