Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is surprisingly charming

I had fun with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands demo from the beginning, but things really clicked when I found Discipline’s Catatumbo. My first legendary weapon was a hand crossbow that dealt devastating area-of-effect lightning strikes on the heads of my enemies every time I landed headshots, and I loved it. It’s a classic Borderlands pistol, but with a fantasy twist that in many ways refreshes a series that’s now over a decade old. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a standalone Borderlands spin-off that continues the 2014 DLC theme for Borderlands 2. Tiny Tina’s Assault of Dragon Keep. Instead of a story about one of the usual vault hunters, Wonderland takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons-equivalent Borderlands universe, played by the explosive recurring supporting character Tiny Tina and her friends.

Tina’s RPG world is an eclectic high-fantasy world away from the established Mad Max and Borderlands space cowboy aesthetics, with framing setting the pace for tabletop group comedy. It’s reminiscent of the popular web series Critical Role (in which Tiny Tina’s voice, Ashly Burch, starred) in a good way.

However, it’s played like a regular Borderlands game: each character has special abilities to work with as they pick up an endless string of slightly different guns.

The pre-release demo offered me two of six classes: Graveborn, a dark magic character, a close-to-necromancer character with a floating skull companion, and Stabbomancer, the riff of your classic double dagger, a sharp DPS guy who never gets lucky in LFG bursts. . I’ve had great luck with alternating Graveborn, which sacrificed health for AoE damage, and equipped spells (like grenades) that healed me for a certain percentage on cast thanks to Graveborn’s passive. I could see that something creative would need to be done in the final version of the game.

However, the main focus is on weapons. At least one enemy per fight dies in a rain of loot, and the pace at which weapons and equipment are acquired risks being overwhelming. Most gear isn’t worth picking up, and the inventory UI is a little clunky for mouse and keyboard, with a lack of granular sorting features, double-clicking to equip, and poor use of screen space requiring a lot of scrolling. a double list of all your items.

Despite these issues, finding well-equipped equipment remained exciting throughout the demo, and I never found anything that satisfied me forever. For example, I felt like my lightning crossbow was nearing the end of its lifespan towards the end of my demo. I went into a pleasant state of flow using and dropping new gear that almost reminded me of Breath of the Wild’s weapon system, only without the stressful resource management element.

Threats were very diverse: long-range goblin gunners, mobile goblin mechanics, and imposing melee trolls mixed things up and forced me to adapt. However, the balance between weapon types wasn’t exactly right in the build I played. I’ve had a surplus of powerful, useful pistols in all my runs, including my beloved Catatumbo, but it took me a long time to find assault rifles worth using, and I didn’t find a single shotgun, sniper rifle, or submachine gun that would fit. enough damage to justify itself. Hopefully, the full game will pull me into every weapon archetype, not just a couple.

(Image credit: Gearbox Software)


As for Borderlands’ sense of humor, which PC Gamer previously described as “The Family Circus through Spencer’s Gifts,” I was preparing for the worst of 2011’s Imgur “epic win,” but the more time I spent in Wonderland, the more its charm got to me.

The dialogue reminded me of a webcomic or video series from the late 2000s.

There are a lot of jokes here, a rate of jokes per minute that I don’t usually agree with. This comes in the form of comments from the game’s “real” tablemates: Frette, the good-natured robot, self-serving mercenary Valentine, and the titular Tiny Tina. Most of their input comes down to commenting on what’s going on in the game and then winking at the camera.

“We could just use the crafting rules to make our own gear,” Frett the robot suggested during a blacksmithing side quest. Little Tina replied, “Girl, this sounds so damn boring, we don’t have time for all this nonsense.” Valentine objected: “Yes, fighting people and taking their things is much faster. as well as more exciting.” I made a face like Fox Mulder looks at everything that is not related to aliens in response to this exchange.

However, I warmed up. The dialogue reminded me of a webcomic or video series from the late 2000s: winking, self-referential, and a little smug. This may sound like an ambiguous compliment, and it’s certainly not to everyone’s taste, but I found it a slight consolation. This is a letter about junk food that fits perfectly with the fantasy of junk food in the looter shooter genre.

I was offered a choice: press E to intimidate or Q to seduce.

And the fictional board game world itself is charming and requires less skill. The demo’s main quest centered on an underperforming goblin named Jar and her rebellion against the dragon oppressor. I fought for her in almost every battle, but at the end of one quest, I was asked to pick up an ax and hand it to her, encouraging her to stand up for herself and stand up for all the other little goblins – it’s hard not to smile.

In my favorite side quest from the demo, another goblin, Bench, asked me to deal with a threatening wizard in a “non-violent way.” After I got to the wizard’s tower and listened to his devious plan, I was offered a choice: press E to “intimidate” or Q to “seduce,” a cheeky nod to the dialogue quest solutions so common in RPGs. (looks at you, BioWare) and possibly some of the board gamers’ leanings. A clumsy and unexpected attempt at seduction by a stranger made Baaldaar the Wraith understandably embarrassed and he fled. It’s not the pinnacle of parody, but the kind of good-natured silliness that you come to Borderlands for.

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(Image credit: Gearbox Software)

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(Image credit: Gearbox Software)

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(Image credit: Gearbox Software)

I occasionally get into Destiny 2, but since most of my friends have quit the game, trying to play it for any serious amount of time is like riding the swings alone. By contrast, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ comparatively simple campaign is an easier sell to a potential co-op partner and a more compelling solo offer if you don’t like them. If the rest is as interesting as the one I played, even those tired of Borderlands might return to the series. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands releases March 25th.

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