I was intrigued by the demo of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands from the beginning, but when I found “Catatumbo of Discipline”, things really went well. My first legendary weapon was a hand-held crossbow, which summoned a devastating AOE lightning bolt on the enemy’s head every time I took a headshot, and I loved it. It’s a classic Borderlands gun, but with a fantasy twist that goes a long way toward updating a series that’s more than a decade old.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a standalone Borderlands spin-off that continues the theme of Borderlands 2’s 2014 DLC, Tiny Tina’s Assault of Dragon Keep. The action in Wonderland isn’t a story about an average vault hunter, but takes place in the Dungeons and Dragons equivalent of the Borderlands universe, played by explosive recurring characters Tiny Tina and friends.
Tina’s cosplay world is an eclectic kitchen sink high-fantasy world with a very different look from Borderlands’ established Mad Max/Space Cowboy aesthetic, and the framing sets the comedy to the rhythm of the tabletop group. It’s reminiscent of the popular key-character web series in a good way (voice of Tiny Tina, with Ashly Burch happening to guest star).
It plays like a normal Borderlands game, though: each character has special abilities to use as they pick up an endless stream of slightly different guns.
The pre-release demo gave me two of the six classes: Graveborn, a black magic, necromancer-adjacent character with a floating skeleton companion, and Stabbomancer, a classic double-dagger edgy DPS guy for you I’ve never had any luck in LFG queues. I’ve had a lot of luck alternating between Graveborn skills that sacrifice health for AOE damage, and equippable spells that heal me at a percentage when cast due to Graveborn passive skills ( Think grenades). I can see some creative builds needed in the final game.
Guns are the core, though. With at least one enemy dying in the loot rain in every battle, the speed at which guns and gear can be acquired can be overwhelming. Most of the equipment is not worth mentioning, the mouse and keyboard in the inventory interface are a bit clunky, there is a lack of fine-grained sorting, no double-tap equipment, low screen space utilization, and requires a lot of scrolling a double-layered list of all your items.
Despite these issues, it was exciting to find a well-specified device throughout the demo, and I never found anything that pleased me. For example, I could feel my Lightning Crossbow approaching its end of life at the end of my demo playtime. I got into a happy flow state of using and tossing new gear, which almost reminded me of Breath of the Wild’s weapon system, just without the stressful element of resource management.
The variety of threats, with a mix of ranged goblin gunners, mobile goblin artisans and powerful melee trolls, forced me to adapt. However, in the builds I played with, the balance between weapon types wasn’t quite right. In all of my runs I have had a ton of powerful, useful pistols, including my beloved Catatumbo, but it took me a long time to find any assault rifles that I felt were worth using, but I didn’t find any shotguns, snipers Rifle or SMG enough damage to justify itself. Hopefully the full game pulls me towards every weapon archetype, not just a couple.
As for Borderlands’ sense of humor, which PC Gamer previously described as “a family circus in Spencer’s gift,” I braced myself for the worst of 2011’s “Epic Victory” Imgur , but the more time I spend in Wonderland, the more its charm affects me.
There’s a lot of banter here, a per-minute banter rate that I don’t usually take. It comes in the form of comments from the game’s “real life” peers: the kind-hearted robot Fret, the selfish mercenary Valentine, and the titular little Tina. Most of their opinions amount to commenting on what’s going on in the game and then notoriously winking at the camera.
“We can use the crafting rules to craft our own gear,” the bot Frette offers in a forging-related side quest.Little Tina replied, “Sounds boring girl, we don’t have time for this crap.” Valentine rejoins, “Yeah, it’s much quicker to fight people and take their stuff. and more exciting. “I made a Fox Mulder-like face and looked at anything that had nothing to do with aliens in response to that exchange.
However, I am enthusiastic about it. The dialogue reminds me of a webcomic or video series from the late 2000s: wink, self-referential, a little complacent. It sounds like an ironic compliment, and certainly not everyone likes it, but I found a light comfort there. This is junk food writing that blends nicely with the junk food fantasies of the predator shooter.
The fictional world of tabletop gaming is fascinating in itself and requires fewer qualifications. The main mission of the demo focuses on an incompetent goblin named Jar and her resistance to the dragon oppressor. I fought almost all of the fights for her, but at the end of one mission I was prompted to pick up an axe and hand it to her, encouraging her to fend for herself and stand up for all the other little things goblin – hard not to laugh .
In one of my favorite side quests in the demo, another goblin, Bunky, asked me to deal “nonviolently” with a threatening wizard. After heading to the wizard’s tower and listening to his devious plans, I was given a choice: press E to “intimidate” or press Q to “lure,” a cheeky take on dialogue-based quest solutions so often found in RPGs Repeat (looking at you, BioWare) and maybe some tabletop player preferences. A stranger’s clumsy and unexpected attempt to seduce the terrifying Baldar, understandably uncomfortable, runs away. It’s not the pinnacle of imitation, it’s the kind of good-natured stupidity you come to Borderlands.
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I’m an intermittent Destiny 2 lover, but most of my friends have given up on the game, and trying to play it for extended periods of time feels like riding a seesaw alone. In contrast, Tiny Tina’s relatively simple Wonderlands campaign is easier to sell to potential partners, and a more attractive one-player offer if they lean on you. If the rest of the game is as fun as the ones I played, even people who are fed up with Borderlands may find themselves returning to the series. Little Tina’s Wonderland hits theaters March 25.