Borderlands wasn’t the first game to heavily focus on loot as one of its main features, however it was definitely a series that propelled so-called “looter shooters” into the mainstream. The very first game saw a decent amount of success, but it was really its sequel that perfected the formula and stole the hearts of fans. Borderlands 2 remains of the greatest shooters from the last decade, but sadly, the highly-anticipated Borderlands 3 (and the oft-forgotten Pre-Sequel) failed to come anywhere near to the heights of the second game. Now, it’s clear that Gearbox takes one step back and searching at what made Borderlands 2 work, going as far as to provide fan-favorite character Tiny Tina her very own fully-fledged game.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a fantasy-focused spinoff of the Borderlands series, even though it may seem to be taking a drastically different direction on the surface, it’s clear that this spinoff has more Borderlands DNA in it compared to marketing would lead you to believe. Wonderlands is absolutely its very own thing, but it takes what Borderlands does best and makes several meaningful changes towards the formula to give the game its very own identity. It does enough to satisfy diehard fans of the mainline series, it appeals to newcomers too.
If you’re a Borderlands veteran, then you definitely most likely remember the series’ greatest DLC expansion of all: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep (which has been re-released under new “A Wonderlands One-Shot” branding). This DLC pack let people play via a tabletop RPG campaign with guns and explosions, spearheaded through the titular Tiny Tina.
Not only maybe it was a hilarious romp that poked fun at RPGs and also the fantasy genre, but it was also a heartfelt story about Tina’s grief following a era of Borderlands 2. It might appear like Wonderlands is pandering to fans by revisiting this idea, but Wonderlands seems to feel fresh even if you’ve played the existing expansion in the past.
Despite its fantasy coat of paint, Wonderlands continues to be very much a Borderlands game. There are some new weapon types that fit the setting, but for the most part, you’re still looting assault rifles and shotguns and interesting in fast-paced firefights. The gunplay was among the best areas of Borderlands 3, and Wonderlands retains the same excellent weapon feel. Guns are punchy and satisfying, there really are a ton of these to collect.
Wonderlands does create a pretty significant change to the formula by adding a world map, however, and it’s a much-appreciated difference. Instead of driving around empty open-world maps to achieve the interesting areas, Wonderlands presents players with a lot of linear combat arenas with an overworld map connecting them much like an old-fashioned JRPG.
There are side quests and optional areas to find out on the world map, but you won’t inflict fighting until you reach a designated area. You will find random encounters with enemies though, and becoming jumped by an opponent will force you into a combat arena to consider them down.
The world map may seem just like a small addition in writing, but it’s arguably the smartest decision that Gearbox makes with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. It trims body fat from previous Borderlands games and gets you to definitely the enjoyment parts considerably faster. There’s also so much to find out around the world map, from optional areas to full side quest chains, and it does indeed a lot to make Wonderlands seem like a fully-fledged RPG. Areas that you do get to shoot through are also far better designed as a result too, so it feels like the best of all possible worlds.
If you felt as if you needed to play Borderlands 3 with muted dialogue, then you’ll thankfully have a better time with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. The performances are fantastic, largely due to the game’s star-studded cast. Will Arnett stars as the Dragon Lord, the game’s overarching antagonist, and it’s clear the Bojack Horseman star is having a great time in the role. Wanda Sykes and Andy Samberg play your primary party members while dining, and their commentary is engaging from beginning to end.
Ashly Burch reprises her role as Tiny Tina, and she’s great as always. Much like in the past games, she still seems to steal the show, that is impressive given the talent she’s working alongside within this game. Lots of people, myself included, were worried that Tina’s boisterous over-the-top personality would become grating on the fully-fledged game where she serves as the main narrator, but she works well because the game’s main character.
Of course, performances aren't anything with no decent script, and I’m very happy to report that Wonderlands is really funny. Not every one of the jokes land obviously, but with the series’ staple million-jokes-a-minute pace, enough of them elicit a grin to stop the dialogue from getting annoying. A lot of the jokes are focused on Dungeons and Dragons along with other tabletop tropes, to feel a bit underwhelmed if you’re not a huge RPG fan. If you’ve ever played through a tabletop campaign with friends, however, you’ll quickly realize which kinds of players the sport is poking fun at.
While your party is talking in your ear, you’ll be mowing down mobs of fantasy-themed enemies as expected. To higher fit with the fantasy setting, players happen to be granted a few new abilities in Wonderlands. You can cast spells now, that are equippable items which may be used on cooldown just like a grenade. When you can make builds that focus on magic, you unfortunately won’t have the ability to drop your firearms and become a total wizard.
The same applies to the brand new melee weapons, which let you slightly customize your standard melee attack. This really is still a shooter first and foremost, however, you possess a bit more flexibility with your playstyle thanks to these new additions.
Speaking of flexibility, Wonderlands enables you to create your own custom character on your own in true tabletop RPG fashion. Because there are no predefined characters to choose from, you are able to choose any of the six available courses of instruction for your custom character and even multiclass later in the game to help set yourself apart from the crowd. Builds really are a huge part of the Borderlands experience, especially once you start farming for legendary weapons, so Wonderlands will certainly please everyone else that keeps playing following the credits roll.
The game’s endgame system, known as the Chaos Chamber, also gives grinders a great deal to work with. It’s an endlessly replayable randomized dungeon that has multiple enemy types, locations, and bosses, and it’s where you’ll spend all of your time after finishing the primary story. It’s not enough to help keep most people playing after overall the main story, but again, if you’re among those people that loves to farm for rare drops to master your build in Borderlands games, you’ll enjoy yourself with it.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands may appear to become a simple spinoff on its surface, but it’s actually capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with the mainline series. This is a bonafide Borderlands game regardless of the name change, also it makes multiple meaningful improvements towards the foundation laid out through the mainline series.
To use a tabletop metaphor, Borderlands is really a pre-written Dungeons and Dragons campaign; Wonderlands is an improved form of the established text with its own personal flair. Just like Tina goes with the flow as Bunker Master of the group, Gearbox deviates from the established formula to make the game a lot more fun for everybody at the table. Wonderlands is really a funnier and more focused form of its predecessors, and it’s an all-around great shooter.