Having spent two hours exploring one of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ many areas, I can tell you one thing: this is Borderlands in everything but name.
Whether that’s a good or bad thing entirely depends on how you feel about the Borderlands franchise, I suppose. Practically every function and system you’d expect to see in a Borderlands game is here, though its name or appearance may have been tweaked somewhat to make it more “fantastical”.
Because, just like Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, a repackaged Borderlands 2 DLC that released as a standalone experience late last year, Wonderlands puts you inside a tabletop RPG that the eponymous Tina is playing with her friends. As a result, enemies are more high fantasy-like, grenades have been replaced with spells, and you have a few extra pieces of equipment in your inventory, like body armour and a spellbook. Oh, and “second wind” has been renamed “death save”.
The font’s a bit different too; tool tips and menus have opted for a nice, olde-worlde serif font to double down on idea that this is high fantasy. But aside from a few mostly cosmetic changes, this is Borderlands. It even has Claptrap in it, for crying out loud.
The demo I got my hands on allowed me to explore a slice of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands‘ map, follow through a main quest and pick up a few side quests. Some functions – like fast travel – were locked out for me, so I didn’t get to glimpse any other areas of the world. Nor did I get to experience the ‘Overworld’, which leans into Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ tabletop gaming theme by providing a top-down, third person view as you travel between areas. I did, however, get to try out many of its weapons, experience its loot system and shoot my way through a lot of enemies.
Yes, guns are still very much the order of the day in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, despite its fantasy setting. You can, however, equip one of a variety of melee weapons – something the Borderlands series has never allowed – and it seems that by investing skill points you’ll be able to greater rely on melee attacks. You still swing your weapon by pressing in the right stick, though, which doesn’t exactly lend itself well to consistent use. But considering many enemies you come across are of the flying variety, you’ll be glad of a gun to shoot them down with.
I got to try out two character classes of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands‘ six: The Graveborn and The Stabbomancer. The Stabbomancer is an assassin-type character who focuses on sneaking around, dealing critical hits and summoning magical blades to damage opponents. The Graveborn, on the other hand, is a “death-touched acolyte” who sets herself apart with her damage-dealing creature companion and her ability to perform deadly dark magic attacks. On paper, they sound a far cry from Borderlands’ line-up of Vault Hunters, but once you’re in control of them, with a gun in their hand, it really doesn’t feel that much different.
In terms of missions, it seems there’s a range of stuff to do, and all of it is as random and entertaining as you’d expect from something set in the Borderlands universe. The dialogue is very well written, with some excellent one-liners that really hit (not least Claptrap telling you to “fuse the ores, apprentice”, Obi-Wan Kenobi style). The main story mission I followed through had me rescuing oppressed goblins from slave-drivers working them in a mine. That, obviously, culminated in a lot of combat, but I was duly rewarded for my efforts. Elsewhere, a mission I accepted from Claptrap had me mining various ores and, ultimately, doing his job as a blacksmith for him.
Outside of quests, there are some neat features in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands that go some way in setting it apart from the Borderlands series. In each area, there’s a series of lucky dice hidden, and each one you find increases your loot luck level ever so slightly. So, finding all the dice means you’re more likely to find better loot, which is always a boon. There are also Ancient Obelisks, which upon activation summon an enemy, and ‘Poetry Pages’ to be found, providing a humorous taste of in-game lore.
Of course, the game’s world is brought to life further with some excellent voice acting across the board. Characters you meet in-game are all voiced, but it’s the voices you’ll hear from the off-screen players that really bring things to life. Ashly Burch’s Tiny Tina is as over-the-top and wonderful as always. And she’s accompanied by such talent as Andy Samberg and Wanda Sykes, who are a delight to listen to.
In terms of technical performance, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands looks and plays beautifully – even considering this was an early build, with many fixes still to be implemented. It looks great; of course, it adopts the same comic book art style of the Borderlands series, but this time around things look perhaps that little bit more crisp and sharper. Playing on a RTX 3070 paired with a Ryzen 5 3600, it performed admirably at max settings, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the game’s world looks like.
It should come as no surprise to most people that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands really is just an extension of the Borderlands series. And so, if you’re a big Borderlands fan, you’ll be able to hit the ground running here, lapping up the same over-the-top first-person gunplay and basking in more loot than you can shake a stick at. Add into the mix some impressive voice acting talent and some promising new additions – like loot dice and the Overworld – and you’ve got a title that should be featuring highly on your ‘most anticipated games of 2022’ list. It already was on ours, but now we’ve had a taste of it, we’re even more excited to play more.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is scheduled to release on 25th March. It’ll be available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.