Huge mushrooms twisted against each other, towering like trees, blocking the sunlight. Corrupted crystals seep from the ground, gleaming with malice. As you stand in the banshee’s lair, mist surrounds your feet. Captain Valentine’s voice sounded: “Watch out, she’s going to kill the party!” What are you going to do next?
Well, of course, you grab your shotgun and plunge headlong into a chaotic battle of green slime, loot boxes and unicorns!This is Little Tina’s Wonderland… Dungeons & Dragons If it accidentally gets into all the blue Smarties, mix it with a bucket of energy drink and guide you through a frenetic dream sport. That makes you kind of look forward to next week’s meeting.
I came to Wonderland as a Dungeons & Dragons lover, but never finished a Borderlands game. I’ve attended multiple weekly events – including DMing and playing games – I have more dice than any reasonable person needs, and my shelves are filled with Beholder figurines and Wizkid miniatures. So when I saw that Borderlands was turning its wildly popular Raid DLC into a full-blown game, complete with a TTRPG, I knew I had to grab some nerds and throw in the towel.
Just like starting any RPG, tabletop or otherwise, the first step is to make a character. Occupations in Wonderlands are obvious hints to those in 5e: Brr-zerker is your savage and he gets “angry”; Stabomancer is your rogue; Spellshot is a wizard who even possesses a savage called “Transfiguration” ability. There’s also a Spore Warden, which feels like a reference to the Druids of the Spore Circle. Basically, you won’t feel overwhelmed by choosing a course here.
Even the character sheet you glimpse in the background is basically a carbon copy. Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, Intelligence – the only statistical difference is Charisma for Attunement. This is the first look at the main differences between Wonderland and TTRPG. This is a game about fighting, only fighting. Forget Fairy Fire and Leomunds Tiny Hut – Hell, even Cure Wounds – Wonderlands is about slamming it in the face with an axe to fight evil.
However, this goes beyond the next most important step: character design. Dungeons & Dragons is nearly limitless in the colorful and creative ways you can combine a character both mechanically and aesthetically. Wonderlands understands this to a certain extent: you don’t pick and choose from fantasy races, but mix elements from them, such as orc and elf faces, feline pupils, reptile eyebrows. So you can definitely create a party of players that look different from each other, but I spent an hour playing with the menu and was never really satisfied. Maybe it’s the eternal curse of wanting princess braids in digital media, it’s not easy to make, or maybe it’s a basic set of armor and limited hair color options that make the whole thing feel lacking.
But when you’re in the game, it doesn’t really matter what character you make in the end. Wonderlands seems to have gotten the desire to make custom characters from D&D fans, but this openness means you can make anyone, which basically doesn’t make sense. And in some role-playing games that are meant to be references that feel a little disappointing.
If they create a different set of heroes to choose from (like in a regular Borderlands game) so you can really embody someone and their place in the world instead of being a random no-one Personality entities, this could be better. Yes, you have all kinds of lively voice lines, but when you’re playing D&D, that’s not enough. From that perspective, it’s hard to even call Wonderlands a role-playing game when you’re used to tabletop games.
Dungeons & Dragons also lives or dies depending on who you play with – friends are an important part of the experience. There are NPCs in Wonderland who play other roles in your party, but they’re just voices; you don’t see their minis on the map, and you don’t see their characters in battle. They joke every now and then, but most of the time, you’re going to be lonely on the road. Even if you have friends in co-op, it won’t affect your game too much. They are also an ambiguous character who may or may not really be anyone. It’s only when you go back to the table and see other people sitting with you that you feel like you’re part of the team, led by the namesake Tiny Tina.
But despite feeling it all, Wonderland managed to hook me. This is Borderlands. This is a video game. This is not Dungeons and Dragons. Wonderlands doesn’t try to make itself like playing D&D because it knows it never will, but it definitely gets the game we all love.
It’s full of references. This is a complete, clunky love letter to D&D pages and pages with lots of post scripts. The gearbox clearly loves D&D. It blends beautifully with games in a fantasy world, sitting around a table with your friends and pretending it’s not your thing. Part of the game takes place in an overworld, which means a physical map on your desk, where you move your mini, dice are scattered in random places, and caps fall in the middle of the path.
Then comes the start of the boss fight, your vision goes back to “real life” and Tina pulls out a scary mini and smashes it on the board. It’s exactly what playing with friends feels like when you combine your imagination with the joy of knowing you’re playing with friends. None of this is real, it’s a strange magical journey that you both agree to go on together.
Plus, the world is beautiful. The icy Borderlands style has been transformed into majestic sights ranging from towering rainbow castles in medieval towns to gleaming lakes in the heart of the forest. We put a lot of effort into making the world at least feel like we’re running a D&D game. Yes, it has vending machines (and obviously many, many guns), but none of them really feel out of place.
The neon bistro sign and metal lanterns are designed to fit in perfectly with the surroundings. It’s also the kind of meta content you add with your friends while you’re playing. I accidentally referenced an in-game vacuum that turned into magic canon tech. These real-world tips are my favorite part about getting metadata with friends. Plus, it’s very Terry Pratchett science/fantasy, with magic flickering in the lights, suggesting a completely plausible fantasy interpretation.
Yes, there are guns. But as someone who plays gunsmiths and metal chows, I can easily forgive them. They have a steampunk flair and shoot ice flakes or acid streams more often than any bullet. They basically make you a very efficient wizard or wizard and distill the magic into the perfect killing machine.
All that being said, I don’t think Gearbox intends to make a game that feels like playing Dungeons & Dragons, but they did look around their friends one night, and the cheers were like a natural 20-volume, good- Using miniatures made of Lego or plastic dinosaurs, the DM glanced from behind the screen and wanted to do something for these people.
I think they did.
Maddie Cullen is an avid board gamer with extensive experience in Dungeons & Dragons and even worked on the official Dungeons & Dragons Youtube channel! You can view her work on iGamesNews partner site Dicebreaker via the link, and see her full D&D coverage here.