Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Review - Roll For Initiative
It's time to play Bunkers & Badasses!
Review copy provided by the publisher
Two and a half years after the release of Borderlands 3, the developer behind the series is shifting gears a little with the Dungeons & Dragons-esque spin-off known as Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
The idea for a Tiny Tina-themed version of Borderlands dates all the way back to 2013 when the Borderlands 2 DLC entitled Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep was released. This DLC was more recently released as a standalone game for modern platforms to help set the stage for this brand new full-length game.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is not a major change to the overall Borderlands formula itself, but rather takes the foundation of the series and changes the setting to a fantasy one like would be found in D&D along with many of its own elements.
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The story in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is two-pronged, as there’s the actual setup of Tiny Tina hosting a session of what is known as Bunkers & Badasses with new characters to the series named Valentine and Frette. From there, you have the actual RPG campaign that puts you in control of the simply named Fatemaker as you journey to take down the evil Dragon Lord.
What gets really interesting though is how the game sort of blurs the line between the two by having Tiny Tina herself and the villainous Dragon Lord yelling at one another like it’s a real game within a game. This is made even better by the voice actors for the two, Ashly Burch and Will Arnett respectively, who always deliver outstanding voice performances and play off of one another very well in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
That is not all though, as the other two characters in the campaign have very enjoyable voice actors along for the ride as well. Valentine is voiced by Andy Samberg and Frette is voiced by Wanda Sykes, who also bounce off of one another, along with Burch as well. The Borderlands series has always been largely carried by its fun and quirky characters, such as the returning Butt Stallion, and the main foursome is really a lot of fun to experience throughout the game, as their humor and charm stand out here. On the other hand, the actual Fatemaker character is a lot less remarkable, though it kind of works as a way for you to feel like you as the player are part of the party instead of just playing as that character.
Being based in a fantasy world also allows for all-new enemies for the series, with there being all kinds to face while playing. These range from human pirates to skeletons, goblins, and even cyclops. The enemy variety can get a little tiresome due to just how many enemies you have to fight in the game, but that is something that is always to be expected as a result of the monotony that can come with a looter shooter.
The move to a fantasy setting may have you expecting a bigger change in the combat to be more fantasy-based, but Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands makes an interesting decision by maintaining the core structure that people know and love from Borderlands. Rather than switching over to something like swords, bows, or staffs, the game sticks to its guns, literally.
While the base gameplay is classic Borderlands, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands very much embraces its Dungeons & Dragons inspiration for the rest of it.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is full of a variety of different types of guns for you to find and use, including the usual assault rifles, SMGs, pistols, and more. There are also seven different manufacturers of these guns in the game, which each offer different levels of performance that you will have to play around with until you find just the right one for you. You will eventually unlock up to four total gun slots too, so switching between them is very easy to do. Beyond that, there are also the five elemental damage types that include Fire, Frost, Lightning, Poison, and Dark Magic that are imbued in certain weapons and will require a strategy to figure out which is most effective against each type of enemy.
While the base gameplay is classic Borderlands, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands very much embraces its Dungeons & Dragons inspiration for the rest of it. As per usual in the series, you have to pick a starting class that offers you special abilities and even a companion that is exclusive to that class. Each of these has a distinct skill tree that you can spend Skill Points on to unlock additional passive skills across multiple tiers. Making it even better is that you eventually unlock a secondary class slot by playing through the main story quest, allowing you to branch out and have even more fun.
During my first playthrough, I chose to go with the Clawbringer class that allowed me to toss a giant hammer with magical properties by using one of its two abilities. Once I unlocked the secondary class slot, I picked the Spore Warden class, which added another element into the mix and helped to poison enemies. The ease at which you can switch between your special skill in the skills menu allowed you to play around a lot and see what both classes have to offer. Each of the classes is also a lot of fun to play as, so it’s worth trying them all out at some point as well.
That isn’t all with the D&D inspiration either, as Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands also gives your Fatemaker its own character sheet. When you first start the game, you are given the choice between one of five character archetypes that set your character stats in the six categories of Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, and Attunement. You are then given 10 Hero Points to use to set the rest of your starting stats, while also telling you which stats are most important for each class. Levelling up in the game will not only give you a Skill Point to use but also a Hero Point each time to increase your character stats, which is a neat twist on the Borderlands formula.
Some of the most enjoyable and intricate quests in the game happen to be sidequests, including a few surrounding everyone’s favourite Claptrap.
Taking down hordes of enemies will leave you plenty of loot to pick up, which is a staple of the series. The same rarities are here as you would expect, though there are some changes in the types of gear you will be equipping to your character. On top of the usual armour, you have a ward, ring, necklace, and also a spellbook. The type of spellbook equipped gives you different spells to use in combat besides your class-based skills, which can come in very handy. The only real issue here that is also a problem with the series, in general, is that so much of the loot you receive is useless, with the game still giving you mostly common gear even up until the very end.
Besides the main story quest, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands offers an abundance of different sidequests for you to complete as well. Some of these are short ones that can be completed in less than 10 minutes, while some others take much longer. To keep yourself levelled up well enough for the main story, you will find yourself having to complete some of the sidequests in the game, but you definitely will not have to do all of them just to make your way through the main story.
Some of the most enjoyable and intricate quests in the game happen to be sidequests, including a few surrounding everyone’s favourite Claptrap. A large majority of these quests are located in the same general vicinity, but some are more sprawling and the game’s inclusion of fast travel can help in those cases.
One of the most unique aspects compared to previous entries in the series is the usage of an angled top-down overworld throughout the game. The majority of the time you will spend in the game will be in the larger scale areas while mowing down enemies, but the game’s overworld is used as an interlude between some of these areas and fits right in at home in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
This feels like something right out of a classic JRPG, while also mimicking the feel of moving around your miniature figurine on the table during a D&D campaign. It isn’t just used as a way to travel from one location to the next, as there is plenty more to be found when you start exploring.
The overworld houses a number of shrines for you to find and challenge, which will reward you with useful items and even what are known as Shrine Pieces. This can be collected in each region of the overworld and turned in at special temples to give your character permanent status buffs. There are also smaller campsites and even random encounters when you walk in tall grass that lead to more combat situations where the goal is to clear the encounter and move along.
There are also a few puzzles to figure out in the open world, some of which play in with some sidequests that you can pick up from NPCs. For instance, one sidequest will reward you with a special lens that allows you to see hidden bridges to gain access to items that were previously impossible to reach. There are also bottlecaps found throughout that open up shortcuts, with the overworld itself all being one big area by the end of the game, rather than small segments between locales.
After beating Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ main story campaign, you will also unlock what is known as the Chaos Chamber. This serves as the endgame and provides players with randomized dungeon loops to play through, which brings all sorts of challenges. There are many players that will be satisfied with just the story campaign, but this is a great offering for the post-game.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a unique concoction of the classic Borderlands formula mixed with a Dungeons & Dragons experience all in one package.
Playing the game on PC, I never ran across any sort of performance issues or glitches outside of a few pieces of loot being hard to pick up sometimes due to their placement. Load times were present in areas, but they were never too long when going between the overworld and the different areas of the map. The visuals in the game look quite good also, as the not quite cel-shaded look that the series is known for is always nice and colorful. Having the new overworld adds to this as well, as it gave the development team some more creativity in the visual design than usual too by having things like can drinks and cheese puffs laying on the map like they would a game board.
While the game can be fully enjoyed in single-player, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands also offers players the ability to play only in co-op in either Cooperation or Coopetition modes when it comes to how the loot drops are handled. This can be done very easily and will even support crossplay across all platforms from day one, which is a fantastic feature of the game.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a unique concoction of the classic Borderlands formula mixed with a Dungeons & Dragons experience all in one package. The relatively small core voice cast and charming story will keep you captivated as you take down hordes of enemies with your guns and magic in the very worthy spin-off Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.