Borderlands Spin-Off Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Is A Fun Time Sink

Borderlands Spin-Off Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Is A Fun Time Sink

Tiny Tina hovers over a Knight in Wonderland on Xbox Series X.

Screenshot: Gearbox

The best thing I can say about Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is that I regret starting it.

Not because it’s bad or unpleasant, but because I started it quite late last night and am now more tired today than I would like. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands crosses out the “numbers go up and enemy health bars go down” that itchy video games have instilled in so many of us. It’s compelling on a primal level and easily digestible. It’s a blast. It’s hard to walk away from it.

During four main line entries and around 400 additional campaign expansions, the Borderlands series has earned a reputation as stereotypical loot shooters, and rightly so. You use a variety of randomly generated weapons, organized by color-coded rarity, to kill enemies to earn even better randomly generated weapons. You traverse cel-shaded sci-fi environments while suffering from crude, performative dialogue. You know what to expect, though to its credit the series felt really fresh when it was first introduced. There’s been so many more Borderlands since, you know?

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, out today on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, is a Borderlands fantasy-inspired spin-off that goes against (some of) those expectations. Reviews describe a game it’s basically “Borderlands but do it D&D.” (Why don’t we have a full review of our own today? Kotaku didn’t receive copies of the game until last night.) However, several hours later, I found that consensus to be fair, although it was a bit short. the full picture. A simple extension of Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon KeepThis fan-favorite Borderlands 2 expansion – in which you and your teammates shoot and loot your way through a game within a game, rendered as typical Borderlands with a fantastic reskin – it’s not.

The game plays out similarly in a tabletop role-playing game orchestrated by Tiny Tina (voiced by Ashly Burch), which means the plot, as far as I can tell, has no effect on the overall narrative of Borderlands found in the main games. You and your party members (voiced by Wanda Sykes and Andy Samberg) are tasked with bringing down the Dragon Lord (Will Arnett, in a perfect cast for an absurd villain). A fantasy-inspired setting allows for visually lush locations that are more imaginative than the sci-fi landscapes that, after four main games, began to look like well-trodden terrain.

Of course, the starting weapon, a crossbow, is for all intents and purposes a Borderlands pistol with medieval respray, which really reinforces the whole “Borderlands but make it D&D” thing. But Wonderlands quickly comes up with a bunch of features that weren’t present in any previous Borderlands game.

A can of beer and a dice clutter the outside world in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.

The outside world is full of the stuff you’d expect to see on an IRL tabletop game night. Screenshot: Gearbox

A sturdy character builder presents you with points to allocate, ala SPECIAL points in Fallout 4. There’s an overworld full of random encounters (although no sign of an airship). Melee attacks, which see you wielding swords, axes, and other fantastic weapons, are actually viable for the first time in Borderlands history. These changes don’t drastically shake up Borderlands’ plan, but they do make it feel different from its ancestors.

In another break from form, Wonderlands gives you the choice of six classes. (Borderlands games historically start with four, though they’ve offered two additional classes via purchasable DLC.) I picked the one that gives me a little baby dragon friend who breathes fire at anything in sight. My co-op partner, meanwhile, is followed by a mini-Lich that siphons health from enemies. We are a small army of four tearing through the starting areas of Wonderland. I’m excited to see how various other classes match up through the playthroughs.

I will of course have more thoughts as I play (and replay) the game and discover the rest of its quirks. (I understand, for example, that you can mix and match classes later.) But for now, I’m happy to report that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is solid, insane fun, the kind of thing that will devour every second of my free time in the coming weeks. It’s the dream, right?


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