Tiny Tina's Wonderlands began life as a DLC mission in Borderlands 2 but expanded on that in the best way possible. As someone who has played D&D since Middle School, I was incredibly excited to give this a spin.
It feels like a majority of the D&D games I've been a part of throughout my life, in positive and negative ways. The game takes special care of many of the tropes D&D players are familiar with, and not just the story and combat.
It also looks at the problems players and DMs face outside of the game and approaches them with the care I frankly did not expect.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands genuinely feels like familiar D&D adventures
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands has the player control "The Newbie", a newcomer to Tiny Tina's Bunkers & Badasses game. Two other players, Valentine and Frette, in the game, show up in cutscenes and through dialog in the background as The Newbie explores the game.
They frequently chat with Tiny Tina, even occasionally questioning her choices as the Bunker Master (BM). I like these three characters because they're all deep, fully-fleshed-out characters when it comes to the game.
Valentine is the D&D player that always wants to be the hero and often dives into problems without thinking about the consequences. He doesn't care much about the game's rules, only having fun. Conversely, Frette has been kicked out of all of her Bunkers & Badasses groups for being too caught up in the rules (being a Rules Lawyer).
The two characters grow and evolve as the game goes on, and in her way, Tina does too. For the most part, she is a terrific BM, creating fantastic stories for the player to go through. However, the game writers also do little things, like show some of the bad habits DMs have in Dungeons & Dragons.
In particular, she creates an NPC that she forces upon the players. The party didn’t trust this Naga, and Tina continually tried to push that this character is lovely, helpful, and excellent. This was Tiny Tina’s self-insert character, and when the players didn’t like them, Tina assumed they didn’t like her.
It was one of the many poignant moments in the game, and it all felt genuine as a long-time tabletop roleplaying fan.
Combat will feel familiar, but one significant change could help the franchise evolve
If you play Borderlands 3, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands will feel very familiar. The combat feels much like every other game in the franchise. You wander a map, absolutely demolish groups of enemies that come out of nowhere, and occasionally die to things you don't see.
Then they need to kill something to recover from fatal wounds (Death Save). Players can pick a class with decent character customization and, upon a certain point, can multi-class into a second class.
Character classes in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands
- Spore Warden
Players can murder enemies, level up and unlock skills and talents. Tiny Tina's Wonderlands have many different ways to approach the game. All of the classes feel good, but my favorite was the Graveborn/Spore Warden combo of the Morticulturalist.
There are, of course, thousands, maybe millions of pieces of gear to pick up, legendaries to find, and gear slots to fill with increasingly more powerful items. If you’ve played Borderlands before, all of this will surely feel familiar.
It’s what the franchise is built on - high-octane, action-packed shooting, and melee. It all works fine, but the best part of combat is one new feature: Spells. Instead of grenades, players cast spells that have an incredibly wide variety of effects.
I enjoy and appreciate that the game has Random Encounters in the Overworld. I also feel like they can get incredibly repetitive and boring after a while. Thankfully, the developers gave players an out; just melee the incoming attacker and that prevents the fight. If it approaches from behind, that is a whole other matter.
These random encounters are basically random stages where the player has to wipe a group of enemies and collect loot. It is very straight forward
I sincerely hope that Borderlands will take Tiny Tina's Wonderlands' spell system and move it to the rest of the franchise as we advance. It just felt so much better. Instead of "throw grenade, go bang", now they can do so many wild things.
Borderlands is an over-the-top franchise, and they can take what they've designed and bring it into a more futuristic setting. Tiny Tina's Wonderlands' spell system is just fantastic.
Equip a spellbook, and activate the spell for a nice set of effects. Players can heal, summon hydras, meteors, homing magic missiles, etc.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is a game within a game
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands may not be for everyone, and that's completely fine. It's a game within a game, set in the Borderlands universe. It may feel incredibly predictable too. Players are ultimately hunting down the Dragon Lord, overcoming tons of obstacles to their lair in Fearamid.
But that's what I like about it. While it doesn't truly impact the Borderlands universe in its own special way, it does. It keeps the people around Tiny Tina, who has made friends through Bunkers & Badasses, and highlights how friendships grow and evolve through tabletop gaming and other RPGs.
Sure, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is pretty simple, but the hilarious writing and touching moments kept me coming back for me. There are also many tributes to modern media, of course, and even to Dragon Quest while looking across the ocean to see the Dragon Lord's lair.
While the game is predictable, I don't think it's a negative. It's still a well-told story and features plenty of action, a wealth of hilarious and occasionally gross side quests, and more. It has post-game content with the Chaos Chamber's randomized dungeons, secret bosses, and multiplayer content.
That's what makes this game so great - playing with friends. Grouping with friends and slaughtering goblins is just so much fun. It may not be the most intriguing tabletop RPG story ever told, but sometimes, a murder-hobo game is fun. Players kill monsters, collect loot, and push the story forward that way.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is by no means a perfect game, but it's certainly enjoyable. It costs a lot of gold to upgrade the inventory and ammo capacity of the various guns, but players will likely want to focus on a couple of firearms instead of using them all anyway.
I love the story; I enjoy combat, but what I'm looking forward to most of all is playing this more with my friends. This is even easier, thanks to 100% crossplay across all platforms.
There's so much potential fun with friends in this game, and that's perhaps what I like the most about the actual gameplay. Side quests were fun, guns were rad, and I could tell that the developers understand Dungeons & Dragons.
Seeing players struggle with things outside of the game, affecting the game itself, and then the players growing a bit as a result? It was fantastic. Fans of Borderlands and fans of fantasy roleplaying/Dungeons & Dragons will find plenty to love in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: Gearbox Software
Release Date: March 25, 2022