In the years since it’s inception, the Borderlands franchise has certainly grown to a household name within the gaming scene. Known for it’s fast paced, looter-shooter action and humorous characters and writing, it’s not hard to understand why many, including myself were excited for the first full length spin-off title when Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands was revealed last year. Upon playing the game, it’s clear to see the Borderlands 3 DNA it’s built upon, but the fantastical new setting and expansion of a number of systems had me constantly engaged with the world and continually coming back to loot, shoot, adventure and level up again and again.
As just mentioned, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a spin-off title from the Borderlands series, and more specifically a sequel to the Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC for Borderlands 2. While that DLC was more of a small scale one-shot expansion, Wonderlands fleshes out much of the groundwork that was laid in Dragon Keep into a much larger full length adventure.
For those that have played Dragon Keep, you may be aware that Wonderlands in another campaign of Bunkers & Badasses, a fantasy style tabletop role playing adventure game with fan favourite Borderlands 2 character Tiny Tina participating as the game master. Your character is within the game, at the forefront of the adventure which constantly twists and turns as Tiny Tina narrates and tweaks the adventure in real time. The game is as chaotic and entertaining as a live Dungeons & Dragons game and can literally change by the minute. As those that play any kind of tabletop role playing games may be familiar.
Upon beginning the game, you’ll notice one key difference between Wonderlands and Dragon Keep, and even Borderlands that came before it. You’ll get to create a fully custom character. Rather than just selecting a premade character/class you’ll be able to select the race, appearance, background and class of a character you get to build and name, providing a lot more fine tuned customisation right out of the gate and replicating the feel of creating a ttrpg character sheet, just within the world of Wonderlands.
Upon release, Wonderlands features 6 character classes to choose from. Each of which feature their own unique class feat and action skills. If you’re familiar with fantasy games and the tropes that come with them, you’ll quickly understand the kind of characters each class is designed to replicate and the playstyles which they may be best suited for. There’s the Clawbringer, Graveborn, Spellshot, Spore Warden, Stabbomancer and the Brr-Zerker, each of them proficient in certain skills and magical abilities but in true Borderlands fashion, enhanced via the use of the game’s many, many guns and projectile weaponry.
Throughout the adventure you’ll also gain the ability to multi-class, once again further adding in another layer of customisation to your character. This opens up the abilities and skills of another of the 6 classes, and can result in some really amazing combinations if you pair the skills of each of your subclasses cleverly. And provides further motivation for multiple playthroughs if you want to experience the other classes and their playstyles.
Where Dragon Keep was and expansion of the core Borderlands 2 experience, Wonderlands at it’s core is very much Borderlands 3. So much of the DNA bleeds through to what you’ll experience in Wonderlands when it comes to the primary design of the game, but it’s incredibly refreshing to have it all set in a lush, vibrant fantasy universe rather than the harsh, apocalyptic setting so prominent in the Borderlands series. Wonderlands is certainly the most beautiful these games have ever been from a world design and art direction standpoint.
If you’re a Borderlands fan you’re likely going to love Wonderlands. Though I feel if you’ve played the series in the past and didn’t quite like the design of them, Wonderlands doesn’t do a whole lot at it’s core to change your mind. Although it features a refreshing new setting, it’s still very much a looter-shooter, with the same style of humour and writing that has become a staple of the Borderlands series.
Speaking of the writing, it is hands down the best thing about Wonderlands. Well, at least the thing I enjoyed most. The main overarching story itself is very much a typical tale of stopping the plans of a resurrected big bad evil guy but the individual characters, their quirks and their interactions with each other and the world are where this game really shines. It has so many laugh out loud funny moments, characters you’ll get incredibly invested in and many references to things that are so relatable to those that play tabletop rpgs. The quality of the characters and writing doesn’t dip, in fact it gets better the further the game progresses, which I loved to see.
Besides introducing a new world to explore and spells to use, Wonderlands includes a board game over world that is used to progress through the key locations of the world and the story of Wonderlands. This mode takes you out of the traditional first person view of the game and you’ll control a bobblehead-like version of your player character in the third person as you traverse the game board, talking to other npcs, collecting side quests, completing combat encounters as you move from place to place throughout the lands. The introduction of these combat encounters I initially thought was a nice change up, but they quickly become really repetitive and offer up few useful rewards outside of those that you actually need to complete certain side quests. They’re encountered on the main overworld and transport you to a closed off arena battle where you’re tasked with taking down a number of enemies and collect the loot that spawns before you’re able to continue on your way on the overworld. They’re fun at first, but the bland closed off arenas and the repetitive nature of the encounters had me wishing there were a wider array of mission types and levels available for this aspect of the game.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a refreshing take on the traditional Borderlands formula. It’s not so far different that I can recommend it to people that don’t like the design of Borderlands, but if you are, or you’re a fan of fantasy games or looter-shooters then there’s a lot here for you to like. It’s incredible writing, performances and endless amounts of customisation will keep players coming back to replay the game or enjoy it’s endgame content for a long time to come. If Gearbox decide to make Tiny Tina’s world a staple series alongside releases of core Borderlands games, that’s something I’d fully be on board with.
A PS5 Review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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