Borderlands’ explosive and incredibly self-aware franchise doesn’t deal with intricacies, and neither does the upcoming spin-off game The wonders of Tiny Tina. Bringing the series’ high-octane action and near-endless arsenal of weaponry to the realm of a high-fantasy setting inspired by tabletop role-playing games, the spin-off aims to introduce a new take on the popular “looter-shooter” series.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a free sequel to Borderlands 2’s most popular expansion, Dragon Dungeon Assault, which blended hyper-violent cartoon shooter carnage with a mindful Dungeons & Dragons-style campaign. It features new heroes, weapons, and an all-new campaign with the titular character serving as guide and dungeon master for the party of heroes.
This spin-off is coming to PC via the Epic Games Store, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S on March 25.
I was able to play about an hour of gameplay, test out two unique character classes, and the spin-off stays true to the fundamentals of Borderlands action and quirky sense of humor.
As an admirer of the Borderlands series, I found its most recent entry, Borderlands 3, to offer a stellar mix of solid shooter gameplay and a compelling RPG progression system. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands builds on the foundations of the previous game but puts a different spin on the action and setting, bringing its loud and incredibly high-energy storyline to the fore.
Swapping out space sci-fi for a high-fantasy setting that still has working weapons, the spin-off presents its take on a familiar RPG backdrop. You’re right in a fantasy RPG campaign, with references to fantasy fiction, and the plot also pokes fun at the absurdities that occur when a tabletop RPG campaign regularly spirals out of control.
Much like previous games, the style of humor can sometimes feel random in Wonderlands. Unlike the others, however, this spinoff’s plot and jokes feel a bit more focused as it engages in its RPG pastiche. Some of my favorite moments came from helping overworked goblins working in a mine to rebel against their captors and form some sort of union. And all this while using firearms and magic to vaporize any enemy in your path.
With this spin-off, it’s clear that the developers at Gearbox are doubling down on what made the Borderlands series such a hit with gamers – its emphasis on fast-paced, fluid shooter gameplay that incorporates some seriously over-the-top skills from your chosen characters. .
In keeping with the concept of playing a Borderlands version of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands allows players to develop their character appearance and class type. While the final game will feature 6 character classes, the demo I played focused on the Graveborn and Stabbomancer classes – the Borderlands version of the Necromancer and Rogue archetypes, respectively.
Another twist Wonderlands introduces to the familiar loop of shooting enemies and watching the loot flow is mixing different class types. Playing as Graveborn, I was able to call upon the abilities of the aptly named Brr-Zerker class, which mixes ice magic with ferocious melee strikes. The Graveborn and Brr-Zerker were definitely an odd couple of classes, but it made for some really wacky attack combos that tore through groups of goblins during my dungeon runs, resulting in some really enjoyable battles.
One change we didn’t see much of in the preview build was the overworld. This gameplay element allows you to move around a world map with a cartoon version of your character to venture into new dungeons, take on side quests, and see dynamic activities. Sadly, this wasn’t present in the demo, but the single major location set in a snowy mountain promised a bunch of hidden side events.
Ever since it was announced, I had a lingering concern about Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Although presented as a standalone game, it gave me the impression that it would stay very close to what was done on Borderlands 3, making it a bit like another expansion. However, its sense of humor and new setting give it a noticeably different flavor to previous games, which I leaned into during my session.
This spin-off is unlikely to win over players who aren’t already into the Borderlands series. For fans though, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands packs in something quite different from the main series – it’s all built around the premise of a raging tabletop RPG campaign mixed with the smooth gameplay of a Borderlands game. And that’s pretty compelling to me.