Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a thematic change in a new direction for what is still very much a Borderlands game — for better and for worse.
In 2013, Borderlands 2 got a new piece of DLC called ‘Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep.’ The adventure was so widely different and imaginative from anything we’d seen from the original two games that the extra content went down a treat with fans.
Fast-forward nine years and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands marks the first chapter of what appears to be a new franchise. Is this still very much a Borderlands game with all the familiarities that keep players coming back? Yes. Is it different enough and lively enough to become a celebrated series of wackiness all on its own? Just about.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands – Key details
- Price: $69.99/£59.99
- Developer: Gearbox Software
- Release date: March 25, 2022
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Microsoft Windows
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands trailer
Welcome to the wondrousness of the Wonderlands
I will preface this all by saying that I love Borderlands and have sunk hundreds of hours into the franchise. It has been a stellar ride to this point with each game offering players hours upon hours of looting, shooting, and a jolly-good tooting time. But after the disappointment of the Pre-Sequel and the ‘safe’ direction of Borderlands 3, some change was needed.
In steps Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a greater extension of the character’s original standalone DLC. The whole journey is essentially one big “Dungeons and Dragons”, sorry, “Bunkers and Badasses” session narrated and controlled by Tina herself.
The young, psychotic child that has an insatiable penchant for explosions and destruction gets a full game to shine and, in my eyes, has always been the best Borderlands character. The story itself is fairly basic, but because of Tina is in charge and running the show, the game ventures off into some truly incredible missions and side missions.
Familiar faces do crop up to satisfy the needs of long-time fans, from Queen Butt Stallion to the uncontrollable, expletive-friendly owner of Torgue, but it’s our new heroes that make the ride so much fun.
You yourself are no longer a Vault Hunter in this story, but instead a ‘Fatemaker.’ Joining you for the ride are Captain Valentine, voiced by Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Lonely Island star Andy Samberg essentially playing his typical comedic role to perfection, as well as Hollywood actress Wanda Sykes as the robotic Frette. Ashley Burch is back as Tiny Tina, too, completing a perfect jigsaw of comedic timing, tone, and writing.
The divisive meme-centric comedy of Borderlands 3 is now a distant memory; Wonderlands give its cast the floor and they are all hilariously vocal throughout the entirety of the tale.
- Read More: Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands system requirements
But the best laughs are reserved for the side missions as even after coming up with quests for 13 years, Gearbox have proven there’s still plenty in the tank. This is easily my favorite collection of side quests in Borderlands history, from the unbelievably arrogant and despicable Gerrit of Trivia to an incredibly disturbing quest about a farmer falling in love with their own created, attractive goblin, the imagination is allowed to run wilder than ever before.
A game wondering how to break free
From the game’s get-go, you’re presented with a hefty amount of customization options to shape your character how you want and the style of combat you’d prefer. This system is the deepest a Borderlands game has ever presented to us.
There are some other new ideas such as grenades being replaced with more fitting magical spells and the ability to essentially merge two classes into one.
But it isn’t long before the game falls back into its old ways and re-establishes many of the same Borderlands traits that we’ve seen endlessly rehashed over the years. Meaningless, boring loot that you’ll just keep selling, classes of weapons being massively overpowered compared to their counterparts, etc.
Sure, the weapons are as zany and impermanent as ever, but I wonder if there could have been more melee-focused options included as well, especially given the “swords and sorcery” vibes.
Every now and again you’ll find new things to enjoy that make Wonderlands feel different. For example, there is nary a Skag, Rakk, or Psycho to be seen here. Instead, we have Cyclops, Dogfishes, and more goblins than in all three Lord of the Rings films put together — Director’s Cuts too.
One of the game’s major problems is that when it tries to do new stuff, it doesn’t execute it very well.
The new Overworld for instance is a giant hub area that connects all the areas to one another. It has quests within itself, some more collectible opportunities, and Pokemon-style long grass to give random battle scenarios. The novelty very quickly became stale and irritating to navigate.
I just felt it took me out of Wonderlands as it’s too gimmicky and should never have been something forced on players. Encounters also became something I would audibly groan at as you’re usually presented with between one and three mini fights with a bunch of enemies.
They’re never interesting though, and you can sometimes end up doing the EXACT same fight two encounters running, which left me avoiding them at all costs.
This isn’t a bad thing, but the look and layout for Wonderlands don’t deviate from anything we’ve seen before from previous iterations in the larger scheme of things. Although, it would have been nice to have some new menus that are slightly easier to navigate than the usual, clunky Borderlands setup.
Slightly crisper cel-shaded graphics paint the game’s picture, and it’s quite a spectacle at times, especially with the revitalized version of the game’s main city — Brighthoof. Butt Stallion has never looked so majestic.
I did find the transition to cut-scenes a bit rough around the edges and an old ghost haunts the game’s dialogue as if you happen to interact with a Poem or some Lore, then it will overlap with important story exposition and vice versa.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is still very much a Borderlands game — which is both its biggest quality and to its detriment.
Its characters, story, and endlessly enticing gameplay will keep you coming back for more until you’ve explored everything and seen all Wonderlands have to offer.
Sadly, while the change of setting and theme has brought out the best in its writing, much of Borderlands’ core systems haven’t caught up.