Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: March 25th, 2022
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Reviewed on: Xbox One
One of my favorite franchises of all time is Borderlands. With the Diablo-style loot system of super rare weapons to find, mixed with a first person shooter that bends the rules, dashed with an over-the-top paint job of being ridiculous, it is just one of those series that speaks to me. I’ve played everything since the original release, sans maybe an oddball DLC here and there, but I’m a deep-dish fan for sure. The newest release is a spinoff from the main series––Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Is the magic still there on this title, or am I just trying to find the fun again?
Tiny Tina has invited you over for a brand new game of Bunkers and Badasses. You are the Fatemaker, here to fight for the honor of thy highest royalty, Queen Butt Stallion. But the evilest evil, the Dragon Lord, is threatening to destroy all of the Wonderlands. Will our heroes be able to withstand the wicked skellyman army? Only one way to find out: roll for initiative, sucka!
Visually, this game switches over from the franchise’s abandoned outposts and deserted planets to a fantasy setting. Almost every location could be pulled out of a D&D rule book–aside from possibly two locations, which are fun takes on the genre. These aren’t the exact names, but there’s Troll Mountain, Mushroom Forest, Hub Castle City, and they run a little stereotypical to the genre. The same can be said with the enemy character designs. I like the variation of certain enemies, due to what happens in the story, but you’re dealing with a lot of typical baddies like skeletons, trolls, goblins. There isn’t much of the original Borderlands flavor here, so everything comes off as kinda generic.
The gameplay is still set up as a looter-shooter but with a coat of D&D paint on it. You have your setup of four weapons: shields, gear, class mods, as well as having new melee weapons (and not just generic punching). The grenades have been replaced by magic spells, but the effect is pretty much the same. The one thing that is a little annoying is how they changed the names of all gear pieces to sound more magical and charged with lore. So, instead of a shield being called the Impaler or the Re-Charger, it’s things like the Ranger’s Smart Armor of Dread Clarity. It still works, even if it’s a lot of extra information. They also bring in character classes, up to two per character, each with two action skills and their own skill tree. You can even swap out the second class whenever you want. It’s a good idea, but it takes away from the concept of making multiple characters. If I can just switch my powers to whoever I have played the least, there’s no reason to make a new game.
Traversing also is a bit of a shift for what the series is known for. Instead of moving seamlessly from area to area, the game separates the main explorable worlds with a giant over-world map. Your character becomes a mini version of themselves, walking through this over-world, where cans of soda form the rivers, popcorn and cheese puffs litter the fields, and prop bridges put together by matchsticks. This is a very entertaining aspect that I wish they did more in the levels themselves. I like the idea of the over-world, because this whole section has its own challenges and missions to complete, which is usually buffs to certain things, critical hits, loot luck, drops, things of that nature. While these missions are fun, it makes the gameplay feel a little chunky. They literally have random battles in tall grass, or just tiny little bandit camps that you can enter. Think of these areas as more mini maps to clear out than a new giant area. Nothing wrong with it–it’s just different.
The shrugging shoulders emoji would best describe how I feel about the game length. The game’s main story is only ten chapters, which is short for a Borderlands title. The level cap is currently level 40, which is a lot shorter for these games, even at launch. There are a lot of side missions to complete, but for the most part, the main story will get you strong enough to get through everything with relative ease. But what I think is the keeper is the post-game Chaos Chamber, which scratches an itch for me. It’s a run through of random maps, with random enemies, earning moonstones, getting gear, buffs, curses–it’s like a mini rouge-lite mode in my first person shooter, and it’s worth going through. Not only is this probably the easiest way to get some legendary gear, but this also acts as the difficulty multiplier, similar to the Mayhem mode from Borderlands 3. Each run you beat on that difficulty, you unlock the rest of the world on that level. It feels a lot better than just turning it on and maxing it out like you could in Borderlands 3. This mode is really rewarding after a story run-through.
Now, is the game fun? To be honest, this was a slight letdown compared to other Borderlands games. Don’t get me wrong, they have the formula down, and the gameplay still works; however, the fantasy setting doesn’t quite do it for me. It comes off as generic and flavorless, and there isn’t anything that made it special. You get a few character cameos from previous games in entertaining roles, but not a whole lot. Most of the humor comes from Tina herself, but it ends up being the same joke over and over. Without a lot of the characters from Borderlands crossing over and injecting their personalities into the story, you’re really getting kind of a muted experience that doesn’t quite get to the same peaks and valleys as previous games have.
Overall, the best way to describe Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is to think of it along the lines of a Saint’s Row: Gat Out of Hell. It’s more of the gameplay you fell in love with, but the changes in story setting and subject feel like a flaw and not an enhancement. These games tend to focus on making multiple characters to see how the different classes play out, but I just don’t think I’m going to do that this time around. There’s some good writing and humor throughout, but with a very generic premise, and a full game price tag that doesn’t feel quite right, this is probably not the best game to get into the franchise.
What did you think of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands? Is there something I’m missing out on? Let us know in the comments below or on the Boss Rush Discord.
Featured Image: 2K Games