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This will be the easiest review I have ever written for any game in my life. If you are familiar with the Borderlands franchise, you know exactly what to expect with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands: traditional Borderland’s formula and Tabletop RPGs (TTRPGs). Together, these genres create a velvety smooth experience that places Wonderlands as my favorite entry in the franchise. Wonderlands is the adrenaline shot that the franchise needed to bring lost players back!
After Borderlands 3 let me down in terms of story and played-out humor, I didn’t expect Wonderlands to grab me as effectively as it did. On a surface level, Wonderlands is more Borderlands, but it is more than a reskinned fantasy adventure. Wonderlands is a full 20+ hour campaign filled with a literal ton of weapons, interesting enemies, and vibrant environments that look and feel great.
Most mechanics are lifted from Borderlands’ history, keeping the foundation that kept the franchise successful. New additions are enough to make Wonderlands truly stand out amongst its peers. Wonderlands goes deep with character creation, gear optimization, as well as delivering an emotional story.
Rolling a Fatemaker
Wonderlands puts you in the mind of Tiny Tina’s imagination once again. You are playing an unnamed Fatemaker who is a part of Tiny Tina’s Bunkers and Badasses’ Campaign, meaning you will succumb to all the cliché moments found within traditional tabletop tropes. Tiny Tina acts as the Game Master and will retcon destroyed tools so you can progress at the request of players, forget the next step in a quest because she forgot to finish it, and have minor temper tantrums over rules.
You take the role of an unnamed new player, enabling you to utilize Wonderlands’ new character creation tool to craft truly unique Fatemaker. You have a wide range of customizable options from colorization, face type, voice type, clothing design to the much-appreciated approach to gender (complete with pronoun choice). Wonderlands allows you to make you, openly accepting members of marginalized communities with open arms. I really think it deserves a highlight as future games could learn from this. As you play the game, you can unlock and add additional styles, colors, makeup, and more to your character. You also have a customizable banner that is hung around various environments, displaying your achievements in Brighthoof and the world map. These options remain unlocked when you create additional characters.
Staying within the lane of traditional TTRPG concepts, you get to select one out of six classes. Each class has two special abilities that recharge quickly but are not as grand as previous Borderlands’ special abilities. These are each more subtle but fit into the mix well. Instead of waiting a long time for the abilities to recharge, they are available more often which is great when it comes to taking out hordes of enemies. Each class also gets a special passive ability that compliments the playstyle in a way. Several classes have sidekicks while others have passive bonuses that active when certain battle conditions are met.
Each class has a well-defined identity of its own that becomes modified by your background, adjusting your core stats and changing how your character performs in battle. Upgradable attributes like Strength and Dexterity offer combat bonuses when you level up, adding another layer to the traditional Borderlands experience. It becomes even more fleshed out when you gain the ability to multiclass, merging two classes together, turning you into a hybrid murder hobo. You get extra active skills, passive bonuses, and talents to play around with. If you want double pets, you can also do that. There is no wrong way to mix and match and the game goes with the flow.
When it comes to itemization, there are guns, so many guns. They are also updated with the fantasy theme and feel the best the series has ever delivered! A handful of weapons having dual firing types make a return from Borderlands 3. Grenades are gone in favor of spells and if you play as the Spellshot, you can have two equipped as a class ability. Rings add to stats as well as armor which also changes your character’s appearance. Melee weapons also make a neat addition to the game with tons of options! You can really optimize your build in so many ways and gets better the deeper you dive into Wonderlands.
Into the Wonderlands
Wonderlands strays further away from the traditional experience by offering an overworld map. This allows you to walk from one area to another, encountering shrines, shady characters, and even random battles. While there are still the huge open areas, random battles and “dungeons” occur in arenas where you only goal is to destroy enemies and get loot. A couple of areas have shrine pieces that offer permanent bonuses to your character when all four are found.
After grinding through the story, you can take part in the endgame content called “Chaos Dungeons.” It builds off the arena style combat that permeates through the game but offers a more challenging experience with a bit of roguelite elements. The more challenging the experience is, the bigger the reward, and there are tons to earn here.
When you hit max level of 40, you open an array of additional tuning to help make your character more powerful. While I prefer the Badass Rank system from Borderlands 2, this system becomes more akin to concepts found within games like The Division and Diablo III. Get additional ranks and you can invest those points in various trees that provide additional passive bonuses.
While the gameplay is utterly perfect to me, I will also say that the story elements are top notch. While past games took you out of the action with a litany of cutscenes, Wonderlands puts you right in the middle of it all. It rarely takes the camera out of your hands to show you something necessary to the plot development. You are in control 95% of the time while that last 5% makes up the opening cutscene, ending cutscene, and character introductions and one moment that kicks the game off into act 2. Every major event happens from your perspective, keeping you immersed in this world.
Wonderlands wouldn’t be complete without Ashly Burch reprising her role as Tiny Tina, and she doesn’t miss a single beat. Will Arnett, Andy Samberg, and Wanda Sykes each deliver hilarious performances that feel lively. They play off each other awesomely as they act as your advisors. Jokes land very well for the most part and don’t rely on the early 2000’s toilet humor that Borderlands 3 seemed to use as a crutch. Several enemy barks had me in stiches, like hearing “I’m a talking skeleton!” in a “spooky” voice which never gets boring to me. There is also a quest line called “The Ditcher” and you should play through it because it is the perfect parody of one of the best video games out there.
A Critical Success
I quickly want to add that most of what Wonderlands presents is somewhat family friendly. Not exactly for young children, but it doesn’t have any cursing or blood; perhaps some cheeky humor. One could say that this is because the game exists within the mind of Tiny Tina herself and she doesn’t want to push this type of material on her players, after all Tina does make note that the game is rated T for Teen. Wonderlands could very well be fun for the whole family.
I’ll be honest here; there is not much for me to really criticize. The game looks, feels, and sounds like Borderlands but with a fantasy twist that just works. Wonderlands is fun, deep, enjoyable, and makes me want to keep on playing additional characters even though I have played through everything twice over. If I were to leave a negative remark on it, I would say that sometimes the environment doesn’t load right (which does fix itself after a couple of seconds) and enemies could be more versatile in design.
Borderlands has always been the Godfather of looter-shooters, Wonderlands is the “Goodfellas.” It rebuilt my faith in the genre. Gearbox created a wonderful masterpiece of a game that I hope influences future iterations of the franchise. It would be a shame to see all this work put into something so unique only to take a huge side-step back to the basics. If you are also a long-time Borderlands fan, you do not want to miss this masterpiece and my current Game of the Year.
Final Verdict : 9
Fun Factor : 10
Technical Prowess : 8
Time Investment : 50+ hours
Replayability : 10
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands was played on two different PCs and Steam Deck:
1 – 3.7 GHz Intel Core i5 12600K, 16GB 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM, 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
2 – 3.8 GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5700G, 16GB 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM, 2TB M.2 NVMe SSD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
3 – Valve’s Steam Deck with modified Epic Game Store installation (Install at your own risk)