Man on fire: an afternoon with Borderlands 2's new psycho class

Assassin Krieg.

Ultimate Badass Savages? These guys don't sound like they're going to go down easily. Yet with Krieg the loveable psycho - he's Borderlands 2's latest class, and I added the loveable bit myself - they're despatched in a matter of seconds. This is because of Krieg's action skill - a neat little piece of classic Borderlands design called Buzz Axe Rampage. Press that bumper button, and Krieg produces his signature psycho axe. Melee power and movement speed are both given a serious boost, and he can even lob axes around like some kind of deadly and deranged hot dog vendor, pacing the bleachers at the world's bloodiest ball game.

As if throwing axes around wasn't enough of an incentive, there are a couple of additional tweaks going on with the skill, too. When you're in the midst of a buzz axe rampage, scoring a kill builds up your health, while taking damage whittles away at the interminable cooldown. You're basically encouraged to dance on the very edge of your comfort zone, taking all the lumps you can while strategically finishing off the odd baddy now and then to keep yourself alive. It's a truly psychotic way of playing.

That buzz axe move is backed up with the standard three skill trees - Krieg's are called Hellborn, Mania, and Bloodlust. Mania focuses on damage for the most part: boosting it, boosting the extent that incoming damage reduces the action skill cooldown, allowing you to drop grenades when killed, and offering other treats like the option to attack yourself, to transform into a mutant when you enter buzz axe mode with limited health, and even to replace the standard fight for your life sequence with the ability to dash around with a fizzing stick of dynamite or twelve as you bleed out.

Hellborn, meanwhile, is all about elemental stuff, generally offered up with a fiery twist. You can Improve your chances of setting yourself ablaze, you can reduce damage received when you are going up in smoke, you can transform melee into a flame-breathing act, and you can spawn homing fireballs. After that, Bloodlust brings things home with a bundle of skills that tackle everything from gun perks (something Krieg's a little light on otherwise, since he has no natural affinity for any weapons class), various nasty tricks tied to the amount of bloodlust you've stacked, and the option to turn vanquished foes into elemental explosions. This one's about psychotic momentum, then. Oh, and you can tie dynamite to those axes you're chucking about as well.

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Meat Krieg! Now that's funny.

Lean, twitchy and constantly simmering, like an S&M Tarzan who's been doused generously in Tabasco sauce, Krieg's a bit of a weirdo class - the kind of leftfield experiment a title can support when it's well into its DLC period. He's a melee character thrown into a gun game, and a risk/reward lunatic lodged in the middle of your well-balanced team. He's at his deadliest when he's taking damage, and he's strongest when he's nearing death. The best part of a tenner might feel like a lot for a new character by itself (and it's undoubtedly a bit of a swizz that he isn't included with the season pass) but if you aren't put off by the price, there's plenty of stuff here to suggest Krieg's worth checking out. If only to see how he handles those ultimate savages.

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