Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is an excellent idea for a video game. It takes Borderlands 2’s Tiny Tina DLC (the best DLC Gearbox has ever made, and one of the greatest across all of gaming), and turns it into a fully-fledged idea: what if Borderlands, but Dungeons & Dragons? I think it’s the best idea gaming has had in years, so much so that it motivated me to speculate, most likely in vain, about whether Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect could see a similar DLC spin-off realised. It’s a fresh way of doing things; this small piece of fan service was a lot of fun, so let’s bulk it out into an entirely new experience. Unfortunately, for a game constructed around such a great idea, what lets it down is that it doesn’t have many good ideas to go with the great one at its centre.
My main concern in the preview phase was that this game still felt too much like Borderlands. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Borderlands - I’d go so far as to say it might be my favourite FPS - but this is not meant to be Borderlands. It was strange to be running around helping goblins while carrying a machine gun. After experiencing the full game, I still don’t like that we have pistols, SMGs, sniper rifles, etc. when the enemies have traditional D&D weapons like bows and swords, but there’s way more variation than I’d previously expected. My pistol was a pseudo-crossbow that fired icicle spikes, my machine gun shot lava balls, and my sniper rifle… well, that still shot bullets but when they were wiping a third of the boss’ health off I wasn’t complaining that they should have been fairy farts.
Did you think that was funny, just there? When I said the word ‘fart’ hehehe? If not, you aren’t going to laugh at Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands even the slightest bit. If you giggled though, Tiny Tina will make you wet yourself, which will be even more funny because toilets are funny! To be fair, there are some well constructed jokes in here, and a few of the typical bits of Borderlands silliness land (very partial to coins from skeletons being called ‘Crypt-O Currency’), but there’s also a mission where you have to find the stinkiest loincloth in all the land, so you do have to strap in for a daft old time. Again, if ‘strap in’ made you laugh, you should probably pick up Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
The voice cast is top tier as well, fully understanding how silly the game is and leaning into it at every opportunity. Ashly Burch is in fine form as Tina once more, while your companions are voiced by Andy Samberg and Wanda Sykes, with the big bad as Will Arnett. Arnett is more than a little BoJack in his delivery, but nothing is phoned in. Much like the humour though, Andy Samberg going full Andy Samberg might be a negative for some of you as much as it is a positive.
The weapons are very Borderlands, the jokes are very Borderlands, the whole game is very Borderlands. Somewhere along the way though, this becomes less of a familiar framework and more of a crutch. While I can get over the fact it relies a little too heavily on the classic Borderlands weapons by dressing them up, I’m less on board with the classic Borderlands gameplay. This is a Dungeons & Dragons game in the same way Fortnite is a Batman game - it isn’t, it’s just wearing the costume.
You venture around many towns, caves, dungeons, and cities, and all feel like classic D&D fare. There are goblins, skeletons, demons, the whole shebang. It’s D&D, right? Except, it’s not. There are story quests, side quests, and even random encounters you can stumble across, but they all end in the same way - fight people, win, quest over. You might be sent to a different place after, or have to pick up some items they drop (note: this is incredibly annoying when each enemy drops eight shit guns), but the loop is always the same. That’s just not how Dungeons & Dragons works.
I think I’m probably quite an annoying D&D player, because I often do stupid things. I’ve won encounters by grabbing enemies hand diving into a river, rather than attacking them with my axe. I caused a mage to leave our party forever when, rather than solve a prisoner’s puzzles in order to gain a clue, I chopped off his fingers. I always want to do things in the strangest way possible, or at least to experiment with different approaches. Wonderlands just wants you to use Eldritch Blast over and over and over again, only Eldritch Blast actually means ‘shoot goblins with a shotgun’.
That's not to say the D&D aesthetic isn't fun, but you'd think there would be more attempts to lace it into the gameplay. The overworld is like a weird David Lynchian Pokemon game, where your avatar wanders around a diorama city with one of those early '00s Big Head cheats, running away from gnomes that spring from the wild grass. The classes are jazzed up with D&D names and you get fantastical spells and abilities - my class came with a wyvern who would burn my enemies to a crisp, while my special attack would trap my foes in a wall of spinning knives. When the D&D stuff influences the game it's bonkers, but it works. Unfortunately it's a bit too afraid of committing and a lot of the time you're just going to D&D-looking places, shooting enemies, then leaving. Hardly an epic quest.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is a Borderlands game. It's not a spin-off, it's not inspired by, and it's not a mix of Borderlands and D&D - it's just Borderlands. It's a waste of a great concept, and comes with the typical Borderlands drawbacks of potentially grating humour, way too many guns, way too small storage space, and a lot of always-on characters who aren't given enough room to breathe. It's fun, but it's nothing special. The worst part is it could have been.
Score: 3.5/5. A PC code was provided by the publisher
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