Videogames are far too often overly serious, dramatic things. They’re full of serious men discussing serious situations with deep, serious voices. It can be a bit much. The world we live in in 2022 is already serious and sobering enough, we don’t need every single game to be about saving the world while making commentary on the state of it.
Thankfully, Gearbox and 2K have been serving up stupidity and hilarity in equal measure since the first Borderlands launched all those years ago. Creating a game that is both enjoyable to play and funny at the same time must be difficult. Comedy is incredibly subjective and so not every joke is going to land.
That being said, Borderlands has more hits than misses. Yes, there have been problematic content in the series and the controversy surrounding the making of the games often overshadows the games themselves but overall, Borderlands is a celebration of the stupidity of gaming. It’s the series that brought us a teddy bear who wants to have sex with a spaceship for god’s sake.
Borderlands is a celebration of the absolute chaos and wholly bizarre circumstances games allow us to find ourselves in. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is an extension of that.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Preview
Where Borderlands is sci-fi, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is high fantasy. It retains the style and tone of the former but replaces the spaceships and lasers with dragons, magic and crossbows. Gearbox dipped its toe into the fantasy setting with Borderlands 2’s Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC but with Wonderlands, it’s dived in, fully clothed in wizard garb and not just any old wizard garb, full-on, 20-sided Dungeons & Dragons gear. With Borderlands it never felt like Gearbox was being hemmed in but it feels even less so with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. It’s a chance for the devs to geek all the way out and let players live out their ultimate D&D fantasy without having to learn all of the rules and roll 1,000 dice.
Some people, me included, love that side of pen & paper RPGs. Others, just want to blow some shit up with magic. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has plenty for both types; and everyone in between.
Like with Borderlands, Wonderlands does not take itself seriously at all. It’s the antidote for serious, sombre fantasy worlds with nothing to say besides ‘Bad guy bad’ and ‘good guy good’ and maybe ‘magic complex and highly political’. Eff that noise. Wonderlands just wants players to party with swords and magic and weird guns that still somehow work in a fantasy setting.
The hands-on preview build I played took place in the Mount Craw zone. According to Gearbox, this is one of many optional areas in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. These optional areas are designed to be explored at players’ leisure and include their own dedicated story and plot as well as additional side quests, enemies and more. Basically, these optional areas are the side dishes to Wonderlands’ main course. In the build, I was also able to try both the Graveborn and the Stabbomancer; lich/sorcerer and rogue respectively. While the classes were noticeably different, as they were both quite low levelled, it was tough to get a handle on exactly how they’ll be min/maxed down the line and what to expect when they’re fully OP.
Like Borderlands, characters are customisable through skill trees which unlock abilities, skills, buffs and so on. However, in Wonderlands, players are also able to assign Hero Points which add a bit more RPG flavour by augmenting stats such as critical chance. The further you level your characters, the more you’ll be able to invest in specific stats and create the death-dealing character of your dreams. As I mentioned though, being low levelled, I was pretty much playing both characters quite similarly; kill stuff, loot stuff, rinse and repeat.
Thankfully, as Wonderlands is built on the incredibly solid foundation of Borderlands it plays like a dream. That being said, because Wonderlands feels so much like Borderlands there is a bit of a ‘been there, done that vibe’ even with the fantasy setting. My first thought when I started playing was that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands must have originally been created as Borderlands 3 DLC that grew beyond that scope. Whether it is or isn’t is neither here nor there but, if you’re not the kind of person who enjoys the gameplay loop of Borderlands, you’re not going to be won over just because you love high fantasy.
I continue to reference Borderlands in this preview of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands but it’s inescapable. Wonderlands really is Borderlands with a D&D skin and Andy Samberg doing VO. It’s the same game and level design, the same mechanics and the same humour. Sure, there are additional flourishes and some minor changes, but for all intents and purposes, Wonderlands is just the fantasy Borderlands. For me, that’s wonderful, I’m a fan and have spent a stupid number of hours shooting Psychos and looting increasingly bizarre and OP weapons. Now, I get to do it all over again except now, everything has a twisted Tolkien vibe.
In Mount Craw I met a goblin named Jar who wanted me to assist with the Goblins Tired of Forced Oppression mission; GTFO for short…lol.
This led to a series of encounters with numerous enemies in arenas filled with elemental barrels, chests, boxes to loot and so on. You get the idea. What I found refreshing was the inclusion of magic, melee attacks and the speed with which I could perform my ultimate. Instead of grenades, players can equip a number of magic spells and a huge variety of melee weapons. Think axes, swords, pitchforks etc. Each one has different stats and different effects and you could, conceivably, play Wonderlands using melee only. I’m not sure why you would, given the gun game is so exceptional, but you could if you wanted to.
I was excited to play Wonderlands and now that I have, I’m excited for its release. After several Borderlands games, Gearbox has gotten them down to a fine art and Wonderlands is no exception. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little disappointed that Wonderlands follows the exact same format as all of the Borderlands games though.
Games as a service can be viewed as a dirty phrase but I think Borderlands/Wonderlands is ripe to move into that space. If players had more reasons to jump back into those games besides chasing new loot or playing the latest (short) DLC there’d be plenty more people getting on board and staying for longer. I’m not suggesting Borderlands or Wonderlands go full Destiny, but it would be great to see Gearbox apply some of the lessons Bungie has spent years figuring out in order to give these titles a proper endgame and more reasons to play longer and play with friends.
Until that happens, we’ll just have to be satisfied with a bonkers game full of guns, magic, goblins, collectible D20s and some amazingly stupid jokes.
What’s not to love?
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands was previewed on PC using digital code provided by the publisher.