When Gearbox first announced Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, I was excited–but extremely skeptical–about the game. The main driving force behind this skepticism was the rather lackluster experience I had with Borderlands 3. My fear was Tiny Tina’s would contain elements from the last main entry that I really did not enjoy, thus possibly ruining my time with one my favorite Borderlands characters.
However, and thankfully, I have been pleasantly surprised by this spin-off. To be honest, I prefer Tiny Tina’s universe to that of the original Borderlands one.
The story begins with three heroes Valentine, Frette, and the Newbie (you) approaching the almighty Dragon Lord to defeat. The Dragon Lord raises an army of dead with his powers, only to be thwarted moments later by the glorious Queen Butt Stallion who holds the Sword of Souls. The Dragon Lord is then imprisoned for centuries and the game of Bunkers and Badasses comes to an end.
You’re swiftly brought back to reality, where Tiny Tina sits at the head of a table as your Bunker Master. She is preparing another game of Bunkers and Badasses, with you playing the role as “The Fatemaker.” Since I’m not one to spoil the story for people, you’ll have to play to see what happens.
Tina’s well-built fantasy-themed world is far more than I had originally imagined. While a decent portion of the enemies are just reskins of adversaries found in the Borderlands series (ex. Cyclops = Goliath), I chalk this up to a game of B&B as being a product of what Tina sees in her everyday life. Obviously her fantasy realm would contain creatures that have similar attributes to things she sees in real life. Art imitating life and all.
While I don’t have an issue with this, others might see this as lazy work–but from the perspective of Tina’s character, it makes sense.
The rest of the Wonderlands is literally that, wonderlands. Certain sections of the game contain unique attributes. For example, the first wooden money boxes have clasps in the shape of a bust of Queen Butt Stallion. A “swampy” area revealed loot chests that looked liked fallen down logs with tons of florescent green mushrooms growing off the top. It’s intricate little details like that which truly allow me to enjoy an experience.
Vast open spaces are actually filled with loot chests, mini bosses, collectables, and Dice. The Dice are worth the time to explore for, as each one rolled gives a random number that’s then added to the Look Luck score in Hero Stats section of the menu. I’ve rolled over 85 of them, and I believe my luck is now 1.70x better. I will double check. My miles of walking in Borderlands 3 and I saw a fraction of the loot and collectables.
My only gripe is that having to walk everywhere can be a real Debbie Downer.
There are several big differences between Wonderlands and Borderlands, all of which make it special in its own way. But that doesn’t mean it’s all good. For starters, there is a character creator–and I must say, it has quite a bit of options for a game of its quality. Plus, I’m always a sucker for being able to intensely customize anything in a video game.
Along with this new character system, are the brand-new character classes. Gone are the Vault Hunters–at least for now. There are six classes to choose from, all with various Skills; some featuring Companions as the main piece of that classes’ build. Wonderlands is more along the lines of a true RPG, as builds are important, and the gear that’s acquired does affect the character. There are also “Hero Points”, which you get when leveling up, that can be placed into attributes like Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence. This means a more customizable build for the class.
Of course, each class has Skills that can be unlocked, and these are structured similarly to that of the Borderlands series. So, that’s not too surprising. What is shocking though, is at some point, your character gains the ability to use a second class. Now, depending on how these are setup, a true powerhouse can be born out of the Newbie; and there are no restrictions on what classes can match together.
When it comes to the combat, it’s a tad different as well. Grenades do not exist, but spells do and they are the best feature to ever grace the franchise. They come is so many forms, in all the different elemental effects. Right now, I’m hurling out huge balls of ice (even though it does not go with my character). but I’ve had dragons shoot out of my hand, and ones like darts, among others. Plus, true melee weapons were added to Wonderlands, so there is an extra weapon slot for swords, maces, axes, and the like.
Lastly, is the Overworld. This is supposed to represent to table top board of the Bunkers and Badasses game that’s being played. When a character enters this area, it goes into third person, where you see your character as a painted figurine for this game board.
The board can provide a short reprieve from the never ending fighting that happens during missions. It’s also has plenty of encounters available for those who enjoy the constant combat and you can unlock new paths throughout the Overworld after helping certain citizens. Watch out though, grassy patches scattered about are filled with enemies, and they’ll pop up to drag players into an encounter. Walking through these patches slows down the character, so the fastest route possible is best. Finally, the Overwold provides “dungeons” you can progress through. Three rounds of encounters, if you die, you start over.
One of my favorite parts of the game is the voice acting. Ashely Burch returning to reprise her role as Tiny Tina–replacing her just wasn’t an option. Will Arnett, who voices the Dragon Lord, fits this character perfectly. He always seems to nail the right amount of sarcasm for each quip, and the script was executed well, making his interactions with the heroes a delight.
Valentine is played by Andy Samberg, and his robot cohort Frette voiced by the lovely Wanda Sykes. These two character’s interactions actually made me laugh and chuckle, as well as have some big ol’ smiles. It’s not that the voice acting in other titles is terrible, the skills are simply not there. Having the acting and story intertwine so beautifully gives me hope Gearbox will bring changes to any future Borderlands titles. Or Wonderlands games.
If you’re a fan of the Borderlands series (or a fan of Tiny Tina), buy this game. It’s great fun and if you’re looking for a game that’s not super serious–this is definitely it. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands consistently gives a top-notch experience all the way through, which I haven’t felt since the Borderlands pre-sequel was released. Of course, it does have its own quality-of-life issues, but this doesn’t take away from the rest of what the game has to offer.
Although Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands does not exactly adhere to how the actual Dungeons & Dragons is played out, it’s still an amazing ARPG that deserves a tad more respect than it’s been getting.