borderlands 2 claptrap

An Ode To Claptrap: Borderlands 2 Retrospective

“Allow me to introduce myself – I am a CL4p -TP steward bot, but my friends call me Claptrap!”

As Claptrap is well aware, he is the last of his product line. As he confronts your smoldering form in the arctic, having just barely survived the wreckage of an intentional train crash, he makes you aware of this. Almost fittingly, you, the silent protagonist, are the last Vault Hunter – both of you have been nearly wiped to extinction by the ruthless Handsome Jack.

Your mission: Join the Resistance.

Your companion: Claptrap.

Claptrap is more than just a collection of amusing and ridiculous quotes (and he has plenty of amusing quotes). He’s an eccentric, sure, but he’s also your guide. Without Borderlands 2 Claptrap, as ridiculous as it sounds, you would never make it to Sanctuary, never so much as navigate yourself out of the tundra.

Early into your adventure Claptrap brings you to his lair, but it’s not an evil one. After a quick retinal scan, Claptrap brings you to his dwellings, disparate, desolate and depressing as they are.

“Sorry about the mess,” he says. “Everything Jack kills, he dumps here — bandits, Vault Hunters, Claptrap units… if I sound pleased about this, it’s only because my programmers made me this my default tone of voice. I’m actually quite depressed!”

Here we are, Claptrap next to a makeshift furnace, isolated from the world around us, bodies and blood strewn around the floor of the lair like they belong here.

Claptrap, our companion, our guide, who is often played for comic relief, admits that the wackiness of the world of Pandora can actually be quite depressing — if you’re not in the right circumstances. Not in Handsome Jack’s circumstances.

This is quickly undercut by a Bullymong, a four armed ape-like creature, coming and ripping Claptrap’s eye from its socket, underscoring how cruel and unfair Borderlands 2 really is, if you think about it. The immediate mission was changed. We now have to help our pal in need, our Claptrap, get his eye back. Now knowing his tone of voice is at best, a facade, and at worst, a bleak existence that he cannot hope to undo due to his programming, Claptrap leads you to find his eye.

“Onward, seeing-eye minion! Let me know if I’m going to run into anything!”

Of course, Claptrap immediately runs into something. Multiple things, in fact. Does this blur the line between what is comedy and what is tragedy? Mel Brooks seems to think so, when he once famously said, “If I got a paper cut, that’s a tragedy. If you fell down an open manhole and died, that’s comedy.”

It’s like watching someone else slip on a banana peel.  Or get kicked in the balls. Your reaction is based on the fact that it’s both visceral and not happening to you. Not that you could ever have your eye ripped out, or realistically live in a cave full of blood and bodies while playing Borderlands 2. Those things would never happen to you. But what if they did? Could you even imagine that happening?

That’s what we call empathy, and that’s what I felt toward Claptrap while retrieving his eye. We’re not laughing at Claptrap, or at least we’re not supposed to be. We’re laughing with him. As the player, we were just nearly killed from the fuselage of an exploding train. And our entire team was murdered. Yes, we have not been suffering as much as Claptrap has, we have not been tormented as much as Claptrap as, but we’re still with him. He may calls us his minion, but we’re fellow sufferers.

We move forward on the arctic tundra, no longer confused as to why we’re helping Claptrap, and soon confront a Bullymong of larger than average proportions. Sure, we’ll fight enemies that make this one look like a lame duck in future exploits, but for now, this is the most challenging combat gets.

The Bullymong, of course, is not difficult to kill for an experienced Vault Hunter like you, but sometimes the thrill of the kill is not what’s important.

Sometimes, you just want to have a little empathy for your fellow man (or robot) and helping Claptrap get his eye back is one of those instances where you’ve just made Pandora a better place.

Well, at least for Claptrap.

“Got my eye? Great! Now we just gotta find someone to put it back into me. Much as I’m sure you’d like to jam your fist into my skull, optic surgery is best left for professionals…”

Claptrap trusts you, of course, the great Vault Hunter to take the mantle from the heroes of the first Borderlands. And more importantly, he’s completely aware that you’re just about at the end of the rope with him. But still, he knows you’re not the one to do the surgery, you may be good at many things, but optic surgery is not one of them.

But while this quest will last a little bit longer, Borderlands 2 Claptrap got by with a little help from his friend.

And frankly, you did too.

Like this? Read my other video game retrospectives:

Daisy Fitzroy – Bioshock Infinite

Chex Warrior – Chex Quest

The Slave Auction Massacre – Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry

Always Sometimes Monsters review

Oblivion Voice Actors – The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

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