The 2022 sleeper hit known as Tiny Tina's Wonderland, is more of a Borderlands game with new packaging, be that detrimental or beneficial to its nature. The concept behind the game is commendable; a mixture of Dungeons and Dragons and looter-shooter undoubtedly sounds like dumb fun.
Question is, if the game really delivers on that point. In all honesty, there was no hype whatsoever leading up to Tiny Tina's Wonderland. The past few months it has all been about Elden Ring.
Being released at a time when almost everyone is still hungover from Elden Ring is perhaps a major drawback for the game.
In order to compensate and compete, Tiny Tina's Wonderland had to up their ante by a large margin. Lo and behold, it does exactly that and acts like a great counterweight to the reception of Borderlands 3 proper. It is the perfect combination of chaotic fun and full blown comedic energy.
Gameplay & Synopsis
This is not the first time Tiny Tina made her appearance in the Borderlands franchise. She first starred in a Borderlands DLC back in 2013 and reappeared in 2015. However, this is her first standalone game with her being the central figure, away from the core Borderlands story. Although the game may feel like just another expansion of Borderlands, it is a much more refined experience than before.
One could say that Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is essentially this DLC concept expanded into a full-game, with old names (such as Claptrap and Torgue) appearing with new elements such as the tabletop over world map, melee combat, and character creation. Being able to create a character which is modelled after a table-top role playing game feels pretty engaging, but generally, gameplay seems no different than what everyone has come to expect from the tried-and-true Borderlands formula.
These elements are all great, given that this is in some ways, a worthy successor to the Borderlands series. But it's also a standalone humorous spin-off, substituting 'Bunkers & Badasses' for Dungeons and Dragons. Not only does the player play an action-packed, shoot-and-loot RPG, but they are also sometimes dragged away into cinematics that aren't reminiscent of the RPG they are playing, in fact, it is a fabrication of these characters' and their TTRPG campaign's imagination.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands may appear to be a joyful fantasy-comedy, yet it operates similarly to Borderlands 3. Some of the weapons fire crossbow bolts, and grenades have been replaced by spells, but for the most part; the players shoot swarms of bad people who repeat pithy one-liners and drop loot, after which you can compare loot to determine whether the new guns and shields are better than the old ones, so on and so forth.
As said before, the gameplay by and large is essentially the same as Borderlands. With that being said, it is obligatory to talk about some of the weapons spat out by the procedurally generated randomness. A highlight was a sniper rifle that fired sawblades, each of which dealt more damage the more sawblades there were in a target. Tediore weapons that don't need to be reloaded by converting into throwable explosives and then teleporting a fully-loaded replacement into the player's empty hands has been brought back, as has one that didn't change into an explosion but instead transformed into a laser pixie that tormented the bad guys. Another summoned hydra heads that spat poison, which is satisfyingly entertaining to say the least.
Character creation brings the biggest change in the game. Rather than being tethered to a certain character, players will have to play as a nameless "newbie," creating a face and color scheme and selecting a voice and then selecting whatever class you want. Even the pitch of the voice can be changed which is something that hasn't been seen since Saints Row 4.
Unlike in earlier games, when each class had many skill trees, they only have one now. Although they do unlock a second active special, like the 'stabbomancer' getting an option to turn invisible instead of throwing a knife tornado. Building diversity comes from multi-class specs once the player reaches a certain level and is allowed to bolt on a secondary class.
As someone who is interested in TTRPGs but frequently lacks the time to dive into one, they will find this expansion quite fascinating. Unfortunately, the novelty wears off shortly. Gearbox has definitely introduced a slew of subtle tweaks to Tiny Tina's Wonderlands in order to improve on the pre-existing Borderlands concept and give it a gleaming new protagonist which is the player himself.
However, in its zeal to spit-and-polish its old prized steed, the studio appears to have overlooked some essential fundamentals. Worse, the UI and map have become even more jumbled than before.