Developer Gearbox managed to spice up the Borderlands series with its latest entry, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands (or TTW). The successor to the fantasy-themed DLC for the 2012 game Borderlands 2, it has largely been successful so far.
However, the latest mainline entry, Borderlands 3 (or BL3), remains popular among fans.
Released in 2019, it introduced many mechanics and fundamentals that Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is based on. That said, which title should newcomers check out first, Borderlands 3 or Tiny Tina's Wonderlands? Here's a rundown.
Both Borderlands titles are similar in some ways while very different in others
BL3 stars a new group of Vault Hunters who band together to stop the Calypso Twins from harnessing the power of the Vaults located across the galaxy. TTW sees the Fatemaker attempt to thwart the Dragon Lord's evil plans.
It is basically a Bunkers & Badasses tabletop RPG session played by key characters of the Borderlands saga, including Tiny Tina herself. As such, it doubles down on the fantasy theme of Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep with familiar tropes like magic, goblins, and dragons.
However, BL3's story and writing have been harshly criticized for their poor quality and inconsistent nature. The characters also either fall flat or can be downright forgettable.
TTW is a noticeable step up in that regard, thankfully. It doesn't just have better humor but also a better villain (though still not comparable to the top-tier Handsome Jack from past games).
2) World and content
Both titles have players exploring a variety of areas. In BL3, each area is a different planet, ranging from desertscapes to lush jungles. TTW, meanwhile, features ruined medieval towns and creepy dungeons.
Exploration is more fun and meaningful in the latter, thanks to collectibles that have a direct gameplay-boosting incentive (i.e., Lucky Dice), which relies more on vertical exploration than BL3. This is in addition to the charming overworld map inspired by real tabletops and JRPGs.
There is filler on both ends, though. BL3's maps can often have vast empty stretches of nothingness. TTW is a tad tighter in that regard, with more verticality but is bogged down by forced enemy encounters on the overworld map.
This staleness extends to its lackluster endgame. While BL3 features four full-blown DLC story campaigns to enjoy, TTW has randomly generated dungeons in the form of Chaos Chambers and Mirrors of Mystery.
3) Combat and RPG mechanics
Like Assault on Dragon Keep was for Borderlands 2 before it, TTW is basically a reskin of BL3. Which playable characters are superior is arguable, but what isn't is that BL3 skill trees offer more depth and options.
With the Designer's Cut DLC, each Vault Hunter gains an extra skill tree for four. TTW's Fatemaker has more tightly designed skill trees since each Class can only have one skill tree; with Multi-Classing, that is raised to no more than 2.
But as a looter-shooter, rarity-tiered gear is the main attraction. BL3 is a big step up from 2 regarding movement, gunplay, etc., and it is preserved in TTW as it is the same engine as BL3.
However, due to its fantasy theme, there are more unique and exciting weapons, like a shotgun that can summon a meteor strike from above. Some behaviorally familiar enemies make it over in TTW (like the Cyclopes being repackaged Goliaths), and some weapons can feel a tad sci-fi-esque for the setting.
However, overall, it still feels distinct enough, thanks to the introduction of new elements like dedicated melee weapons, spells, and so on.
4) Technical makeup and support
Funnily, despite being developed during the COVID period, TTW is less buggy than BL3. The latter, to this day, has bugs from launch, like user name tags disappearing randomly when playing co-op (thus making it harder to determine where their buddies are amidst the chaos of spells and gunfire).
Since TTW is newer, too, it will get more frequent support and updates, like events, new skins, and more.
In conclusion, newcomers should check out Borderlands 3 first. Since it is the older title, it has more content to sit through and enjoy, despite the lousy story and mediocre level design.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, meanwhile, pales in comparison with regards to content but is a more attractive and polished experience and still has room to grow.
Note: This article is subjective and reflects the author's opinions.