- Plays nice
- Tiny Tina is hilarious
- Lots of D&D references
- Excellent voice acting
- Great to play several times
- Battles get repetitive
- Lack of overview in inventory
You have those games that gamers look forward to months in advance. Titles that occupy the mind long before there is even a release. They then dominate social media, are among the best-selling games and everyone is talking about them. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is not such a game. The roleplaying loot shooter from Gearbox Software and 2K Games is a spin-off of the Borderlands series and, partly because March was packed with excellent games, flew a bit under the radar. Still, we’re glad we finally found time to take a look around Tina’s wonderland, as this just might be one of the funniest and funniest games of the year.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is basically a game within a game. We are dealing here with characters from Borderlands, who come together for a game of Bunkers & Badasses, with Tina the Dung… er, Bunker Master. That’s not a new concept. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep was released in 2013. That was an expansion for Borderlands 2 and the debut of Bunkers & Badasses. At that time, the concept was only worked out in a much less in-depth manner. The adventure kept players busy for about four to five hours. The subtitle of that expansion was therefore ‘one-shot adventure’, which is of course also a well-known concept for tabletop RPGs, especially for groups of players who can’t meet each other regularly and just want to have an afternoon of fun with a relatively short, but manageable adventure.
So the game wasn’t that extensive yet, but the 2013 expansion proved that the idea was good. The content later even appeared as a standalone content pack, so that even gamers who didn’t have Borderlands 2 could get to know Tiny Tina’s special stories. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is therefore the successor to the expansion from then. In fact, the game more or less picks up where the game left off. The player joins the group as a ‘Newbie’, just after the previous adventure, thanks to Queen Butt Stallion, has been won. But as it goes in Bunkers & Badasses, things don’t stay quiet for long in the kingdom. The evil Dragon Lord soon manages to escape and return,
Before you do that, you first create a character, as you should in tabletop RPGs. Players can choose from a Brr-Zerker, Clawbringer, Graveborn, Spellshot, Spore Warden and Stabbomancer: well thought out class names that, if you look closely, all have their similarities with well-known archetypes from comparable RPGs. The nice thing is that later in the game you get the chance to add a second class to your character, so that you can combine properties of two classes to come to a composition that works best for you. The choice of a class has quite a bit of influence on the gameplay. It determines what special attack your character has and how effectively you can use magic. We chose a Stabbomancer, which looks a lot like a classic rogue,
Still, it’s not the spells that make up the main ingredient in the game. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands may not be an expansion for Borderlands 3, but it remains a game based on the well-known loot shooter. That aspect of the game, so shooting with weapons that get better and better, because you keep finding better weapons after you defeat enemies, is also the foundation of this game. You defeat most enemies by blasting your weapons at the skeletons, live mushrooms and monsters that storm at you. In this, the game ‘just’ feels like Borderlands 3, but that is certainly not a downside. In that game the ‘gunplay’ also worked very well and that plus remains in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands proudly. It can be said that a downside that applies to Borderlands 3,
That aspect is not helped by the random encounters that the player with his group can get. Those confrontations with different kinds of enemies often take place in the same kind of environments. They start in the ‘Overworld’. This is actually the gaming table Tiny Tina built, showing the entire game world. Here you move between different parts of the world where parts of the story will be played. Between those parts you will therefore occasionally encounter random battles, which are therefore quickly repetitive. Fortunately, you can skip many of those fights by simply punching looming enemies before such a fight can really start, but regularly you will have to go through a fort or cave for a quest, so you can’t escape these fights.
D&D references everywhere
Fortunately, the repetitive battles should certainly not spoil the fun. In fact, you have to do your best to put an element in the game that is so bad that you could not laugh at Tiny Tina and all her antics. Because what this game is above all is a very funny representation of playing a tabletop RPG with a game master who is as crazy as a door, but without losing sight of the basic principles of such a game. The way you develop your character, the buffs you get with the different stuff you find and put in your armor and the rolling of the Lucky Dice-d20 die you find here and there: it’s all part of it. And when you seem to run into your target without any problems and a quest seems easy to complete,beware of the smiling DM.
The unexpected quips that Tiny Tina occasionally comes up with are definitely part of the fun. For example, where necessary, she invents a complete cave that ‘was there all along’, because that is just as convenient. Or she approves of the suggestion that an already-destroyed catapult be allowed to be “un-destroyed” for a while, so the group can shoot themselves across a ravine: too cool to disapprove!
Yet it is not only the whims of Tiny Tina that provide a solid foundation. The game can also build on excellent writing and just as convincing voice acting. The latter is not surprising, because Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has a nice star cast in the house. Tiny Tina herself is, just like in 2013, done by Ashly Burch, who you know as the voice of Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West. Co-star Valentine gets his voice from Andy Samberg, known for Saturday Night Live, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Lonely Island, while villain Dragon Lord is brought to life by Will Arnett, who previously did Arrested Development but is also the voice of for example Bo-Jack Horseman and from Batman in the Lego movies. You could do worse.
Wonderlands full of surprises
The combination of all of the above makes Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands worthwhile. You never know what madness will come your way in a few moments. So at a good moment we ran into a talking magic bean, who asked us to bury him somewhere. However, the bean turned out to have been taken over by a malicious parasite, which sent an entire village for miles into the sky. We could have skipped the bean, but ended up in a beautifully crafted part of the game world, in which we had to climb, bounce and slide on the beanstalk. All this is then accompanied by funny conversations and colorful additional characters that you encounter in the game world.
In that game world you can also do all kinds of smaller, optional quests. These are always good for some extra gold and experience points, but generally have little to do. Still, we’d recommend playing them, because while they aren’t usually that challenging, these bits of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands also have tons of humor. The game almost turns into an interactive comedy at times and the writers are constantly able to surprise and come up with more insane levels, jokes, and stories.
All of this can be played completely solo if you wish, but like Borderlands 3, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands was created with co-op gameplay in mind. Everyone plays the same role in the story, that of the Fatemaker, but in the gameplay you can of course complement each other nicely by choosing different classes. That is much less important in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands than in other co-op games, where you have to find a good balance between healers and attackers, for example. It’s good to know that if you’re playing the game on a console, you’ll be able to use split-screen co-op for two players, which can be a lot of fun given the humor in the game. Also nice: if you want to play together with friends who play on a different platform, you can. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has cross platform support between all platforms.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands does introduce some new things on a technical level compared to Borderlands 3, such as the Overworld, in which a top-down camera angle has been chosen, which pretty well mimics the effect of playing on a table. Outside of that aspect, the games mainly share many characteristics. Both games are made with Unreal Engine 4 and have the same style of cel-shaded graphics. Our gaming PC had no problems at all with the game and ran the game continuously well above 60 frames per second in the highest settings. For console gamers there is a choice waiting when it comes to graphics, where you can opt for optimal framerate or better images. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X also support 120Hz, although that is according to Digital Foundryin practice more between 80Hz and 120Hz, with the Series X achieving a slightly higher average frame rate.
It takes about sixteen to twenty hours to complete Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. If it would stop there, the game would have very little content to offer for the sixty euros you spend on it. Fortunately, this is a game that you can easily play several times. Each class provides a different experience, and the loot system is so extensive that the second time around, you may encounter completely different types of weapons and spells that you didn’t have before. At least it could. Another possibility is that you simply overlooked that weapon or spell. The way the game displays your stuff can at least be called clumsy or cluttered and because the game doesn’t display the combined effects of your active equipment anywhere, that part sometimes remains a bit cluttered.
Once you’ve completed the game, you’ll also gain access to the Chaos Chamber, where you can earn extra strong loot by completing specific, more difficult encounters. This comes as an extra on top of the rest of the game. How interesting this part of the game is is probably personal. Without a story, most games lose their appeal for us a bit, but Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands certainly does its best to keep players playing. For them, it is then possible to increase their Fatemaker in Myth Rank after reaching level 40, the maximum, with which extra buffs can be earned again.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is great, but definitely not the best game this year. There are elements in the game that could have been better developed. For example, the battles become a bit repetitive over time and inventory management is too clumsy. Those who don’t like the campaign enough to play through a second time also don’t have a lot of content available. Still, we are fans of the game. That’s because the gunplay works just as well as you’re used to from the Borderlands games, but in a much nicer, even funnier setting. The way Gearbox has translated tabletop RPG play into Borderlands, complete with an equally brilliant and wacky game master in Tiny Tina, is fantastic. For experienced players of such RPGs, this game is a feast of recognition. The dialogues are also excellently written and are lifted to a higher level by the strong cast, so that you occasionally laugh out loud in front of your monitor. There are too few games that can do that and for that reason alone you should play this game, especially as a tabletop RPG enthusiast.