Developer: Gearbox Software
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X (Reviewed)
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $69.99 USD – Available Here $109.95 AUD – Available Here
The Borderlands series has introduced players to such a large cast of colorful characters that when a fantasy based DLC for Borderlands 2‘s Tiny Tina was released, fans took to it quite quickly. Now nearly a decade later Tiny Tina has been given her own game focused entirely around a fantasy setting created around “Bunkers and Baddasses,” Borderlands’ own version of D&D. Does this mean that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is something of a fantasy skinned Borderlands? Kinda, but that is far from a bad thing as tight gunplay, fantastic characters and comedic writing, and solid design make this looter shooter well worth diving into.
Set sometime after the events of Borderlands 2, players will find themselves taking on the role of Newbie, a new player that has been deemed as the Fatemaker with Tiny Tina serving as the world’s dungeon master. Newbie is joined at the table by the freedom of the world loving Valentine, voiced by Andy Samberg, and the more chaotic but rule-oriented Frette, voiced by Wanda Sykes. The Wonderlands have come under attack by the revived Dragon Lord, voiced by Will Arnette, who initially comes off as a standard main villain but quickly turns into something far more as he moves beyond Tina’s control and starts adding his own elements into the already ridiculous tales that she weaves.
With the setting basically being a game within a game, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands works incredibly well as many great developments can happen completely unexpectedly due to the nature of Bunkers and Baddasses’ take on Dungeons & Dragons. Tiny Tina is at her best when she is playing off of other characters and the addition of Valentine and Frette makes their interactions and narration over the events happening in the game almost always outstanding with plenty of great comedic writing and events mixed in as a result, far improved from what was generally found in Borderlands 3. There are plenty of references to various elements of pop culture including a number of more common events that can happen during any good Dungeons & Dragons session as well which is a nice touch.
This includes things such as the players putting Tina on the spot due to events taking an unexpected turn, or killing an important character, or even the thing that puts any good DM to the test, players taking far too much interest in a background character and completely ignoring the plot. Writing these elements into the narration as well as having Tina work well as a dungeon master by playing off the characters almost always makes for a great laugh. As for the player, Newbie mostly interacts entirely with the Dragon Lord himself who acts and comments separately from the player characters, becoming a fairly memorable enemy as a result.
It is great that the comedic writing and the narration work so strongly here as the core storyline is a bit simple in nature. Sure, players will still encounter a large number of outrageous quests including one that straight up has players killing little blue cartoon characters from the ‘80s that make sure that they really never know what to expect, but the overarching storyline is fairly tame in nature and, outside of a few emotional revelations that happen outside of the game board, rather straightforward which is a bit disappointing considering how much creative freedom this fantasy spin-off shows throughout most of its side-quests.
One of the first things that players will notice that is different from the norm is that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has done away with specific characters for each class and instead allows them to build a character’s appearance from scratch with quite a few customization options right off the bat, with more unlocked from drops within the game, and selecting their chosen class at the start of the game. There are six classes to choose from such as the elemental Clawbringer, rogueish Stabbomancer, health-balancing Graveborn, ice-focused brawler Brr-Zerker, magic oriented Spellshot, and ranger styled Spore Warden. Half of these classes come with a companion of some form and each class has its own unique traits that players can take advantage of. Some may be a bit easier to learn than others but thankfully there is a nice balance found between these classes. This is especially true since, after reaching a certain point in the game, players will be able to choose a second class to compliment their first. This second class is a bit weaker than if chosen as the primary but will offer nearly every benefit just the same, meaning that if players start as a Clawbringer and second class with Graveborn they will have two companions with them at all times to help deal damage in the field.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands still features an absolutely ridiculous number of guns available for players to use. They now feature a variety of different medieval or magical appearances though many still simply look like a standard gun and while many of the manufacturer’s names have been changed, the special features of each one remains mostly the same. This ranges from guns with limitless clips that only overheat, weapons that are thrown when reloading and now explode into either magical spells or flying fairies or hydra heads that deal extra damage, and ones that have special effects anytime a critical hit is struck. This is simply the tip of the iceberg as far as weaponry goes as players will encounter loot of all types while playing through the game and while there are plenty of weapons that are far superior to others, most weapons work well enough even if they aren’t a legendary drop.
A few other smaller elements have been altered such as shields now being called “wards,” the inclusion of a variety of melee weapons that increase the players melee attack and offer additional effects, the addition of dark and arcane damage types to the previous fire, freost, poison, and normal damage, and one of the bigger changes, spells now replace grenades. Spells work based around cooldowns and various spells can come with a number of charges that refill over time. These spells come in a variety of forms and types, from those that ripple out from the player’s location to being fired directly from their hand or charged over time to simply calling down a meteor or large ice spike to deal massive damage. In addition to this change, spells can also be used while the player is in the “Save Your Soul” stage to revive themselves unlike grenades.
As for the places players will be fighting through, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands features many large stages ranging from medieval style cities to creepy woods and graveyards as well as plenty of mysterious sunken ruins as well as a unique take on an overworld. Rather than feature any vehicle sections to travel around, players will find themselves in chibi form on an overworld board created by Tina herself where rivers are orange cola, bottlecaps serve as shortcuts, and cheesy poofs are accidental obstacles. Here in the overworld players will find themselves traveling between places, encountering side-quests, and facing off against random encounters that can either be punched out or taken head-on. These random encounters drop players into a mini-area where they must slay a certain number of enemies to complete the encounter. These types of battles are unfortunately extremely common as not only is this type of fight used during random encounters but also during any mini-dungeon or cave exploration as well as serve as the core element of the game’s endgame content.
The problem with this is that while enemy spread during normal levels and exploration is handled incredibly well, these contained fights are often the exact opposite. Not only do enemies often either spawn too slow for players to actually feel like they are being threatened or spawn too far away in the area and need to be hunted down as a result. This leads to many mini-dungeon encounters being more about hunting down an enemy in a corner or waiting for them to spawn than anything else.
Once players hit the level cap of 40 they will continue to grow stronger as every level from that point on will reward them with “Myth” points that can then be applied to various stats such as improving the character’s own abilities, increasing damage done by spells, melee, and firearms, boosting drop rates, increasing run speed, and more. This type of endgame leveling works rather well though when combined with the lackluster endgame that is the Chaos Chamber things can begin to feel a little stale in the postgame since there are no raid bosses of any form and the only way to actually fight a boss again is through the Chaos Chambers.
These Chaos Chambers are unlocked once players have beaten the game and serve as the only real source of endgame content at the moment. While players will be able to partake in a variety of these modes, increasing their Chaos rank is the primary reason for tackling these challenges. The chamber places players into a series of battles in the same aforementioned mini-areas as other encounters and will run them through a gauntlet of these in a row. Players will be able to take a small “roguelike” approach by being able to choose between portals when advancing through each round with rewards ranging from extra loot, more diamonds that can be spent at the end of a run on loot spewing bunny statues or used to purchase buffs for the current run, and selecting a challenge that will modify encounters and increase diamond drop rate. These chambers are fun for a bit, especially since higher levels of chaos can be rather challenging even for a well-built character, but unfortunately they become incredibly stale far too quickly and suffer from the same issues as every other small encounter.
Now, as for the game’s co-op features Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands features all of the same options fans have grown to be familiar with, with the added bonus of being able to allow everyone to receive different loot so there are no fights for drops. The title features some great couch co-op that works flawlessly as well as online multiplayer that supports cross-play between platforms but unfortunately online multiplayer remains an issue even at this time. While it is possible to remain connected to other players for a solid play session, these instances are few and far between as the consistently dropping SHIFT servers mean that not only are players constantly disconnected from one another but even trying to find proper matches can be an issue at times due to long wait times and connection issues.
Visuals & Audio
The same art style that has been used in previous Borderlands games remains the same in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands only this time the fantasy reskin has done a solid job creating a unique world with enough variety in gun and weaponry appearances to keep things feeling fresh countless hours into the game. The amount of character customization options is quite pleasing and can be changed at any time once players reach a certain point a few hours into the game and the areas that players are able to explore sample wonderfully from the fantasy world including desert oasis, haunted swamps, medieval towns, and more. The enemy design is also handled quite nicely though it is a bit unfortunate that there aren’t a few more enemy types in the game as players will quickly begin to see countless repeats of foes even outside of stages that would make sense for such enemies.
As mentioned earlier, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands features something of an all star cast including plenty of comedy greats and it is all the better for it. Celebrity appearances can often hamper a game but with Andy Samberg, Wanda Sykes, and Will Arnette leaning into their roles so heavily it helps bring the comedy to another level entirely, especially since they play so well off of Tina. Along those same lines the generic NPC dialogue is often quite funny as skeletons will remark how they are dying a second time or have a bone to pick with the player and much more.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands successfully puts a fantasy twist on a familiar formula by changing just enough to keep things feeling fresh while still retaining most of the best aspects of the series it is spinned off from. With the support of some great writing for its characters, outstanding voice work, and wonderfully over the top combat that is constantly changing thanks to the options available to players, this looter shooter remains just as strong as a spin-off as it would as a standalone game. With plenty of options open to players when it comes to classes, powers, spells, and ridiculous weapons Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands won’t disappoint even if it plays things a bit too safe at times.
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