We spent some time slinging spells and lead in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, so here are our hands-on impressions of the Borderlands spin-off.
Ever have one of those fever dreams, where someone you know in real life is in someplace they shouldn’t be? Like an old teacher in your place of work, or a colleague appearing at a family dinner, a change of backdrop can be surprising and startling.
That’s a very weird way to open a hands-on preview for Gearbox’s latest loot-shooter and Borderlands spinoff, but the point stands — by transplanting the franchise’s shooting, looting, and comedic focus into a bizarre Dungeons & Dragons scenario, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands feels like a breath of fresh air for the franchise.
Sure, if you’ve played Borderlands 2’s Assault on Dragon Keep it’ll no doubt feel familiar, but here everything is bigger, better, and honestly, a lot funnier.
Bednobs and Boomsticks
Borderlands 3 opened up a variety of galactic destinations for Vault Hunters, but this standalone adventure offers new fantasy-based locales that are full of their own enemies, characters, and yes, loot.
Our preview of the game starts off on Mount Craw, a snowcapped mountain range where Goblins mine for precious materials. In our time here, we helped Jar, a Goblin, liberate some of our fellow Goblins as part of the Goblins Tired of Forced Oppression organization — yes, that’s GTFO for short.
As you’d imagine from any Borderlands game, though, this is done by gunning down foes and earning better and better loot, and much of Borderlands 3’s systems are intact here. Vaulting is here, and you’ll still have to get a kill to keep yourself alive when you’re in a “downed but not out” state, with the weaponry on offer being just as explosive as you’d expect.
One early weapon we picked up was a drum-fed assault rifle that could be converted to a grenade launcher, while another shotgun focused on ricochet rounds. Gearbox has really gone all-in with new reloading animations, too. Expect to see guns refilled by hot-swapping parts, sprinkling magic dust, and plenty more before going back to hurling fireballs at passing dragons. It’ll be exciting to see what kind of bizarre builds players can conjure up, with brand new classes on offer, too.
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We had access to two; the Graveborn and the delightfully named (but not inaccurate) Stabbomancer. The latter is, in many ways, a fairly standard assassin class, but the Graveborn feels wholly unique in Borderlands by converting health to damage. That adds a fun “risk and reward” element, while also having a Demi-Lich nearby to draw aggro and deal some damage itself.
There are new spells to learn, too, and while the preview build made sure that cooldowns were low, throwing elemental magic with the touch of a button was ideal for seeking tougher enemies.
The star power to match the firepower
The best part about all of the above? 2K says it’s an optional area, despite offering plenty of excitement. Borderlands has sometimes struggled in the past by making sidequests engaging, but this all felt exciting — feeling much closer to a main mission in the original trilogy than a siloed-off sidequest.
Even better, for the first time in years, Borderlands feels funny again. While some of that is down to Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands being less keen on riffing meme culture and more focused on having fun in its fantasy playbox, tropes and all, another is the cast.
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While we didn’t get a huge amount of Will Arnett’s bad guy, the inimitable Wanda Sykes subtly digging Andy Samberg for trying to be cool is great fun to listen in on, and Samberg himself is great — although he’s essentially playing a gunslinging Jake Peralta from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Ashly Burch is back as Tina herself, too, and having her change the story and attempt to describe scenes as you’re blasting through hordes of enemies is fun. We’re really curious to see if the comedy remains as enjoyable across an entire campaign.
Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long to find out. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will launch on March 25.