Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is Gearbox Software’s best game. Building on the studio’s successful Borderlands formula, this experience adds a whimsical element to the well-known looter-shooter thrill, delivering so much firepower at your fingertips you’ll think you’re wearing the Infinity Gauntlet. Full of goofiness and always looking to make you laugh, Wonderlands hits you with a distinct charm, treating its characters and world with care, leaving you both embarking on a journey I didn’t mean to end.
From the start, we learn that Borderlands mainstay Tiny Tina invited some of her friends over to play a tabletop game called Bunkers & Badasses, which is essentially the Borderlands version of Dungeons & Dragons. Tina is the game’s dungeon master, and you are the newest recruit of the group – a hero of your design, right down to the deep class knowledge and details of facial features.
There is an instant playful chemistry between Tina and her friends, all accompanied by humorous banter and a sense that they know each other well. Tina is brilliantly brought to life once again by Ashly Burch, which blends well with the carefree adventure qualities of Captain Valentine (Andy Samberg), the stern, rules-driven leadership of robot Frette (Wanda Sykes), and the dishonest and vile virtues of the Dragonlord (Will Arnett ). These powerful personalities often entertain and make searching an absolute blast as you never know how they will react to the situation. The story bounces between Tina and her companions sitting at the board game table to discuss the next chapter of the adventure and your character making it up and traveling into this scenario, a point where the player is given control. This story flow works incredibly well and is a great way to book chapters and prepare for the next event.
Tina has the most impact on the quest and can use her god-like powers to change it at any time. Using her imagination, she can turn an ordinary forest into a magical mushroom kingdom – a stunning visual transformation th at you experience as you run through the environment. Your party members also affect the world and may suggest their character do something to complete a challenge, such as: B. Valentine romanticizing a drawbridge in order to open it, or the team figuring out how to remove a curl of cheese from the board. The situations are often wacky, beautifully written and fun to watch through to the end.
The missions draw you in with humorous setups and shine in combat, giving good reasons to unleash whatever you have in your arsenal. Borderlands’ excessive gunplay is alive in Wonderlands and enhanced by the wide range of spells. The gunplay is highly polished and feels like Borderlands, but with more punch due to the fantasy elements. For example, in a fight against land sharks, I alternated between a crossbow that fired explosives and an acid cannon that chained enemies together in a sticky spray. My pet wyvern spat fire at these enemies as it swooped onto the battlefield, and I added elemental chaos to the mix by firing electric crows from my fingertips. If an opponent somehow survived this frenzied attack, I could crush them with a massive hammer that unleashes an earthquake. You start the game off very powerfully, getting to the point where you’re halfway a ridiculous war machine with class blending enabled – a proposition that’s nothing short of awesome.
The loot that enemies drop can completely change gear and combat approaches. Most of the weapons are incredibly unique, fusing fantasy tropes with modern weaponry to create something to behold. The devastation wrought by the rarer weapons provides plenty of incentive to scour environments for secret stashes and take on side activities. I’ve also enjoyed delving into smaller wave-based dungeons to earn items that reveal even greater mysteries. Thanks to fluid platform mechanics and cleverly hidden areas, exploring the world is really fun. There’s plenty to keep you busy, including story-driven side missions that scale with you and never get too easy, and a great post-game dungeon called Chaos Chamber that changes every time you enter it. This endless gauntlet is a good way to grind levels and unlock Mythos rank.
Borderlands DNA is evident in most Wonderlands, with the exception of the overworld, which has more in common with an old Final Fantasy game. The point of view changes from first-person to isometric upon entering, and you can no longer engage in combat. The overworld eliminates most of the downtime that occurs in the Borderlands games. You move quickly between areas and can participate in any activity within seconds. The overworld holds lots of mysteries, just as much humor, and does a great job of mapping progress so you know what you’ve accomplished and still have to clean up.
Wonderlands’ cooperative play couldn’t be better, offering an experience where everyone is on an equal footing on the battlefield. A level 5 player will face a level 5 opponent, while the same opponent will show level 20 for a level 20 player – meaning you don’t have to look for XP or power levels to play with friends. Players can also determine how the loot is divided, allowing everyone to get their own drops or be shared. Crossplay and split-screen are both offered, but I didn’t get a chance to try either during my review.
Upbeat and fun from start to finish, Wonderlands offers a rewarding adventure filled with goofy characters, imaginative bosses, and a great sense of ownership of your character. Even with one of Borderlands’ most beloved characters at the helm, this experience feels like the start of something new: a rare offshoot of an existing series that deserves just as much attention. As someone who has played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, I loved how often Wonderlands reminded me to roll a 20-sided die with friends. It’s a love letter to spontaneous creativity and friends enjoying each other’s company in a make-believe world.