For Gearbox Software and 2K Games, the Borderlands series has been comfort food players pine for and depend on, establishing a series that has refined its formula over several titles, delivering more of what players like, and experimenting every once in while to spice things up. The latest in that line of thinking is spin-off Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, an entertaining fantasy looter-shooter that feels perhaps a tad too familiar.
The titular character was a breakout star following her debut in Borderlands 2, and she brings her maniac and effervescent energy to her very own game in typical fashion. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is all about the ridiculous, and everything in the game pushes this idea to the limit.
Setting players up in a Bunkers and Badasses session inside Borderlands itself, this universe’s take on Dungeons and Dragons is all about breaking the fourth wall, so to speak. The game recognises its existence as an interactive entertainment medium, so do the different characters that you meet throughout your adventure, it is a whole cocktail of meta speak that just so happens to be a looter-shooter that players can enjoy.
This helps to create wonderful situations that would seem out of place in any other game. As Tina and her cohorts discuss and argue over how their session of Bunkers and Badasses should be like, the world around us changes and transforms in delightful ways. The environment can switch in an instance, boss characters are introduced as figurines before becoming flesh, it all works to show off the comedic writing that has always been a series staple.
Obviously, the star power involved in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is going to help, with Ashly Burch back as Tiny Tina, and Andy Samberg and Wanda Sykes joining the party as Captain Valentine and Frette the robot, and Will Arnett as the big bad. The voice acting and comedic timing is often on point, and makes for hilarious moments that live long in the memory.
There is also an inherent charm in which the game deals with the travel between semi-open spaces where quests take place. Instead of a connected world, players get to travel on an overworld with their avatars, just like a regular board game. It is a nice touch that cements this game’s love for the genre it is aping and offers something new to the proceedings.
However, that is not to say the same quality applies to the entirety of the game, especially for the main narrative. You might have fun laughing at the hijinks of these characters while being backed up by an intriguing mainline story thread, but that never really happens. This is probably the most straightforward plot you can find in the series, and that can be a disappointment for those looking for a more fleshed out tale that stars excellently realised characters.
On the other hand, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands holds true to tradition in delivering on the looter-shooter aspect that continues to be a hallmark. There are countless variations and combinations of weapons, traits, and more that can be added to your arsenal throughout the game, albeit in a more high fantasy fashion.
You might not have laser rifles or plasma guns, but you still get exploding automatic crossbows or axes and swords that take the place of normal melee attacks. If you were already a fan of the combat loop that was found in Borderlands, then you will feel right at home here, even if you are counting more on magical spells and such in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
Sticking to what they know best also means that the developers were able to create combat that remains fun and enjoyable from start to end. Between the frenetic gunplay, crazy enemies that come in numbers and varying levels of challenge, and bombastic bosses that are as close to roleplaying tropes as you can get with a healthy dash of craziness added on top, the madness never truly stops.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that if you were never before a fan of all of these elements, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will not change your mind one bit. While the game may take on a different coat of paint, the underlying mechanics and systems do largely remain the same. Even some of the enemies will feel familiar to series veterans, and for those looking for something fresh, this might not cut it for you.
Perhaps the best addition in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is how the game treats its character classes. There is much more flexibility and freedom in which players can adjust how they want to play, with mixing and matching of abilities resulting in hybrid classes that can fulfil many roles. When co-op is in full flow, the synergy and combinations that can arise are always pleasant surprises, who knew adding a secondary class could make such a big difference?
Whether you are exploring the different regions trying to accomplish your quests, fighting in combat encounters on the overworld, or charging towards the endgame with the more extensive Chaos Chamber with roguelike mechanics and more loot to obtain, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands definitely knows the meat of its experience lies in keeping players constantly locked in delightful combat, and picking up more precious loot.
Even with a fantasy take on things, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands continues to rely on the tried and tested formula for success that has powered its predecessors. Whether that moves the needle for new players remains to be seen, but for returning fans who have been clamouring for more hilarious writing, ridiculous situations, and that sweet combat rush, this is one tabletop adventure you should be rolling your dice for.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A spin-off starring a memorable cast, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands may have played it a little too safe to make it stand out as a looter-shooter at the top of the pile.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 7.5/10
Value - 8/10