Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Review
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands IS Borderlands, but with magic, guns, magic guns, and Fantasy-4 explosives (get it?). I’ve talked about this in our preview from a few weeks ago, and since then I’ve been able to play more of it to see just how much crazier things can get. There’s a sinking feeling inside that what has taken me a number of hours to play could easily become a hundred or more, reminiscent of the times I spent on Warframe, Destiny, and of course, Borderlands.
The premise is you, the player, are marooned in a cave where Tiny Tina (my favorite explosive firecracker played by Ashly Burch) entertains you and a couple of other captive audience members to play Bunkers & Badasses, the equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons in this world. Since it’s THIS world – everything is dialed up to 11, except now you get spells and swords. It’s a feeling and setting that is very much missed because it’s not often we get this mix in an era where it’s mostly futurism or realism that’s ubiquitous in FPS design.
Prepare For Crazy
Our fellow tabletop enthusiasts are Andy Samberg and Wanda Sykes, playing Borderlands-brand versions of themselves (NOICE). Make no mistake though, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is an FPS through and through. The supporting cast doesn’t really play with you during shootouts but acts as disembodied advisors commenting on things you can or should do. This might’ve been a waste of talent for an astounding good set of casting choices fit for Borderlands-style humor, but they start to feel natural very early and brings a lot of life into what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill fantasy origin/story.
We play the Fatemaker, which is essentially a cool shiny name for Player Character and we can be just about anybody we’d like, including a gender-fluid furry. I love how Gearbox is unabashed with NOT being tongue-in-cheek here, character creation is as progressive as the release date would suggest, and I love it. Slider Overdrive is a thing too, and lets you, as old school D&D grognards would say but rarely mean – play whatever the hell you wanna be as in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands…
Except for the classes – of which there are exactly six to choose from right now. They’re analogs of the traditional RPG tropes, again with a usually gun-related spin. Brr-Zerkers and Clawbringers are fighters, warriors, and barbarians, Graveborn and Spellshot are your mages and priests, Spore Wardens are your druid/ranger with a summoned partner monster, and Stabbomancer is your sneaky rogue.
With those initial choices, along with the option to dip into other skill trees, builds and specializations are going to be a big thing in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands and is par for the course for a looter shooter. In fact, the game encourages a lot of experimentation not just with itemization, but with how your items interact with your stats too.
The weapon variety in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is crazy deep, even early on too – loot pinatas basically just provide you with more and more options every drop. Players will have to practice a lot of restraint because you’re going to be finding yourself with a full inventory if you can’t manage to control yourself from picking up every single green item on the ground.
A lot of the loot you’ll get is trash but getting a good one from the chaff is not a rare occurrence – even sidegrades are fun because a different weapon would necessitate an adjustment in playstyle most of the time. Thankfully, because shooting and slashing are on the menu, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has got you covered.
The spells and character feats in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands make good headway in keeping the combat fresh. You get access to spells nearly from the start and class feats unlock shortly at level 5. Spells are mix-and-matchable as much as guns and melee weapons are since they’re a distinct inventory/loadout slot, so that can offer players another playground for customization.
Rolling The Dice
The Overworld in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a way of giving you a little freedom much akin to a tabletop RPG. You are granted the opportunity to travel or fast-travel from instanced locations in between encounters or quests, similar to how a Dungeon Master might offer you options while moving around your miniature plastic figure about on the world map.
These are well-timed, in my opinion, as the continuous barrage of most levels or quests can get a tad tiring. Most of them are the usual beats – Step 1: head to the area indicated in your map, Step 2: shoot/interact with everything in that area until there is nothing else to shoot/interact with, and then Step 3: repeat until there is a big loot crate for your deserved reward. It’s simple, really, which can turn off some enthusiasts looking for some other kind of innovation here. There are some, but that isn’t a point I feel I need to make about Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
One thing I didn’t like in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is that the gun-feel hasn’t changed much from what we’re used to in Borderlands. It can fall flat or be repetitive in terms of feel sometimes, and I’ve felt let down in some instances, like how shotguns feel a bit soft and not… boomy enough? If you’ve played Doom Eternal – the guns felt very distinct in how they fired and felt in terms of feedback aurally, visually, and sometimes haptically. Here? Not so much. Maybe this is a fault of the genre itself in Wonderlands’ case because guns here aren’t THE guns. Some are, but when there’s an infinite amount of guns around, they can blend in with each other quite easily. It doesn’t break the game for me, I just don’t feel like it’s a strong point.
Still, I have to say – it’s a blast (pardon the pun) to just play a videogame knowing it’s a videogame. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands makes no secret of how it will handhold you through the story, with Tina narrating her fiction-within-fiction Bunkers & Badasses game nearly all the way. The world and its characters are very self-aware of the situations they and you are in, and immediately sets expectations about how this isn’t a different game where some grand mysteries are hidden at its seams.
This is Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, where snarky and clever in-jokes and pop culture references are hidden instead. When Tina says a bridge pops out of thin air right after you get to the end of an area, it pops out of thin air. The villain has plot armor, but so do you. The Bunkermaster is as much part of the storytelling, if not just the plot, and I think this is precisely the kind of unique innovation the original Tiny Tina DLC in BL2 advertised and demonstrated, and now is in wondrously full effect in its own legit game. The 4th wall is blasted to smithereens into a <insert absurd numerical amount of> pieces here, and it is hilarious.
You can also play with friends and forever one-up each other with your loot pickups. Coopetition allows you and others to play together as teammates but it’s everybody for themselves when it comes to loot, while the more traditional your-loot-is-your-own option is also available. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is seemingly primarily designed for singleplayer, so there’s no fret if that’s your jam instead.
What we liked:
- Hilarious comedic performances from the cast
- Classes are distinct and promote skill synergy
- Various levels of customization
What we didn’t like:
- Not much innovation from Borderlands 3
- Guns sound and feel disappointing
- Standard and linear quest and mission design
Verdict: Buy it!
I cannot recommend Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands enough to people like me who’re absolute fans of looter-shooters and clickfests and Dungeons & Dragons. Heck, I’d even recommend it to people who watched and enjoyed Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Arrested Development, and Pootie Tang if only for the cast. The performances shine and really add a layer of enjoyment to the game.
However, for players looking for something that’s a lot more different, disappointment might set in because this is basically Borderlands in everything but name. There are a ton of guns to use and choose from, and while the feel isn’t as solid as other shooters out there, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands delivers well enough in other areas.
You’ll know (and get) what you pay for, coming into another big world presented by Gearbox (and sardine-packed with more guns than even Tina imagines). 50% of the time, it works every time there is magic in making more of the same, and this time, it worked.
*Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands was reviewed on a PC with a review code provided by the publisher.