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Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Review

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Review

Whenever I think about first-person looter-shooters that have outstanding writing, over-the-top characters and pop culture references coming out of every orifice, it’s hard for anything to come above Borderlands in that respect. Despite Borderlands 3 falling short in the writing and character front, it still had solid DLC campaigns that tickled my tick boxes.

When the prospect of an entire game based around the Assault on Dragon Keep DLC from Borderlands 2 was teased, I couldn’t help but be invested in the development of that title. Now here I am, with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands in my hands and can’t wait to get stuck in.

Tiny Tinas Wonderlands Screenshot 022.03.27

It was here that I hit my first issue, as I sat waiting for a good half hour at the title screen, wondering when the game was going to start. This is when I looked at my second monitor and saw that the game was requesting to link with my Epic account to do some back end shenanigans, which I assume is for the whole cross-play malarkey that players can enjoy. So don’t do what I did and sit there like an absolute plum, waiting for something to happen.

The game kicks off with a cinematic conclusion of a Bunkers & Badasses session. We see new faces emerge with Valentine (Andy Samberg), Frette (Wanda Sykes), and the Dragon Lord (Will Arnett) doing battle at the top of the Fearamid. One other character sticks out, known only as Newbie, with their non-painted model as pointed out by the Dragon Lord. This newcomer character just so happens to be me, I am the Newbie!

Tiny Tinas Wonderlands Screenshot Dragon Lord

Once this session ends, Tiny Tina, our resident Bunker Master, kicks off a brand new game session, designating me as the Fatemaker; the hero of her new story. Valentine and Frette act as my advisors throughout my adventure and Tiny Tina hands me a character sheet to start detailing my avatar. As this departs from the usual pick-your-protagonist format from previous Borderlands games, I was presented with the choice of six classes — Brr-Zerker, Clawbringer, Graveborn, Spellshot, Spore Warden, and Stabbomancer — with the Clawbringer being my selection for this review.

Then came the eternal damnation of character customisation. I always spend an unhealthy amount of time in these; going through all the options, seeing what kind of abominations I can create within the boundaries of the systems in place. It was nice to see a varied range of sliders and presets available, including facial features, body sizes, hairstyles, facial hair, voice type and voice pitch, and many more. Body types are defined by ‘This One’ or ‘That One’, rather than the old-fashioned Male or Female designations, which I feel is a very nice touch, along with what I feel is a first in a game: being able to select my pronoun for my character. I can’t recall this being an option in any other game I’ve played, even in role-playing games, so the He/Him, She/Her, They/Them options available is an outstanding inclusivity feature, though I will admit to not noticing if this choice impacted how other characters interacted with my creation.

Tiny Tinas Wonderlands Screenshot 2022.03.25

With my beautiful character ready for action, I’m thrust into the gameplay which is unapologetically Borderlands. While we’re under the guise of a fantasy world, Tiny Tina is quick to remind us that this is her fantasy world, which means guns and explosives are a strong part of the experience. Those looking for more of a swords-and-sorcery take on the Borderlands formula, may be disappointed: while you can equip different melee weapons that have different effects and stats, and also utilise various spells in place of a character ability, these still feel secondary to the gun-toting standard that Borderlands is well known for. There are some variations to this with some guns that are turned into crossbows, or magical wave beam weapons, but for the most part it’s the usual bullet-throwing, rocket-chucking madness that we’re used to.

My quest starts with the prevention of the Dragon Lord being resurrected; however, this doesn’t go to plan (otherwise the game would be even shorter than it actually is) and we need to reach the city of Brighthoof to stop the skeleton invaders. It is here where I meet Queen Butt Stallion and I’m tasked with locating the Sword of Souls, the one weapon that can stop the nefarious Dragon Lord. Unfortunately, things don’t go to plan as the Dragon Lord swoops in during my knighting ceremony, grabs the Sword of Souls and swings that chopper with zero regard to health and safety regulations. This sets me up for the rest of the game; I must hunt down and defeat the Dragon Lord.

Tiny Tinas Wonderlands Screenshot 2022.03.25

The gameplay is split between the Overworld, a tabletop representation of the game world, where quests and random encounters can be experienced by the almost bobblehead-like representation of my character. There are chests and numerous D20 dice scattered around the zones offering money, while sigils are dotted around that correspond to several Shrines. These Shrines will grant a permanent buff once four sigils have been located; for example, the Shrine of Mool Ah will grant a 10% gold gain increase.

For those zooming through the main story quest, I can tell you that there will be several zones that you’ll simply not visit at all as there’s no main questline that will take you there. I felt like there were no incentives to go explore those zones, so they felt pretty redundant. I’m not sure why this was the decision made, but as the story will take on average 25–30 hours, there could have been room for some padding in this instance. I also hit another issue after completing one of the side missions the game has to offer, as, during the mission, spraying graffiti triggered some NPC dialogue about how annoyed they were. From then on, every time I visited Brighthoof or just ran around the different districts, these dialogue lines kept on playing, despite having completed the quest a long time ago.

Tiny Tinas Wonderlands Screenshot 2022.04.05

After the main story is complete, there’s no ramping up the difficulty like Borderlands let you, no “True Vault Hunter Mode” for artificially increasing the health and damage of enemies here. The endgame of Wonderlands is a roguelike-style dungeon run within the Chaos Chamber. This plops you into a multi-stage run with purchasable modifiers that affect the playing field, such as making all enemies elites, in order to obtain more crystals for your reward. These crystals can then be spent on gear or weapons with the hope of finding something that will improve your loadout. This is essentially your endgame loop and I felt it didn’t offer that much content to keep me engaged for more than a couple of runs.

In terms of the writing, Wonderlands does show a return to form in terms of humour and script, as it is certainly stellar in this game compared to the rather lacklustre Borderlands 3 plot with those annoying influencer twins. The jokes are on point, the game is genuinely funny and the general dynamic between Tiny Tina, Dragon Lord, Frette, and Valentine is rock solid. Some interactions had me laughing until my ribs hurt, and other dialogue hit deep as I felt there was an underlying substory with Tiny Tina and her attempts at handling the loss of a loved one. This may be spoiler territory for some, however, it’s no secret in the Borderlands universe that Tiny Tina and Roland — one of the main characters of the original Borderlands and leader of the Crimson Raiders — were extremely close.

Tiny Tinas Wonderlands Screenshot 2022.03.29

Roland is known to say that he saved Tiny Tina’s life on a few occasions, and that she saved him on more than he can count. During Borderlands 2, Roland was killed by Handsome Jack, a death that was felt by not only players of the game, but the characters within the story. During the opening of Assault on Dragon’s Keep, Tiny Tina is holding off from starting a session of Bunkers & Badasses as she’s waiting for Roland to arrive; Lilith has to break the news that Roland won’t be joining, which appears to be something that Tiny Tina brushes off casually. Throughout Wonderlands, a narrator is handling some key story elements via scrolls of prophecy that most definitely sounds like the same voice actor that was behind Roland. We have flashbacks of Roland introducing Tiny Tina to Bunkers & Badasses, the deep-rooted connection between these two characters, and what I felt was how Tiny Tina is using this tabletop game as a coping mechanism to mask her grief over the loss of Roland. A most poignant twist in the story of the game, and one that really hit home with me.

Overall, a return to form in writing isn’t enough to raise Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands to the stellar levels that Borderlands once achieved; I still enjoyed what I experienced and it’s certainly better than Borderlands 3, but still falls short at the finishing line. Perhaps some future DLC may drag me back in, but for now, I’m done rolling for initiative.

7.00/10 7

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

A jovial jaunt through a reskinned Borderlands experience. The humour and references are on point, but the short length left me disappointed…

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Neil 'Wedge' Hetherington

Neil 'Wedge' Hetherington

Staff Writer

A purveyor of strange alcoholic mixes and a penchant for blowing shit up in games. Proud member of the glorious PC master race.

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