Leading on from Tina’s last outing in the Assault on Dragon Keep that was released as DLC for Borderlands 2, way back when, and more recently as Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep: A Wonderlands One-Shot Adventure in the lead up to this release, comes Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. The question that must be asked though is whether there are enough legs in the premise on which to base an entire game, or does this suit the more short form adventures that came before? Well, there’s only one way to find out, grab some dice and character sheets…
The story of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is interesting, in an Inception kind of way. We are the Newbie, and have joined Tiny Tina, Captain Valentine and Frette, a robot, for a game session of Bunkers and Badasses, the popular role playing game that bears no resemblance to the other popular role playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. Now, the setup for the story is that the Dragon Lord has arisen, and so we have to do what any self respecting group of heroes would do – go on an epic quest to kick his evil butt and send him back to wherever bad guys go between stories.
However, as we play the game, it appears that the Dragon Lord has other ideas, and he begins to change the story to try and tilt the scales in his favour. Can Tina pull it all back together, or will the Dragon Lord triumph? Well, what do you think?
The first thing to talk about just has to be the presentation as everything here is absolutely fine. Borderlands games have always been good looking, with a very nice hand drawn kind of vibe, and this game is no exception. Playing on a Xbox Series X has been a real treat, and the way the characters and monsters are drawn and animated is all top notch. The real star of the show however is that of the voice overs from the cast, with particular praise going to Ashley Burch, who voices Tina. I thought that I recognised her from other games (I don’t have a Playstation, so Horizon was meaningless to me) and finally found out she also voiced Parvati in The Outer Worlds. Anyway, her performance as Tina is as great as always, and with other returning cast members from the franchise popping up, it’s like a reunion of Borderlands characters. Even Mr Torgue makes an appearance, which is always entertaining, especially as he is a bard in this game.
With everything being rosy in the presentation garden, it’s time to move on to the more subjective part of the review, that of the gameplay. This is very much a game of two halves, with the Wonderlands being split into two segments: an Overworld and a “dungeon” setting.
We’ll deal with the Overworld section first and in true RPG style, this is used to travel between zones in the story, and also has some side missions to pick up. It is a representation of the game board that is in the real world, complete with bottle cap bridges to smack to create shortcuts and even cheese puffs that must be defeated to clear the path. There are main quest zones, little side areas to explore, shrines to unlock and much more, including some combat encounters. If you go through long grass on the map screen, much like in Pokemon, you are likely to meet an enemy. Melee them and you can forestall the encounter, but if they get to you first and hit you, then it is time for a ruck. Going into any of the dungeons on the Overworld will also lead to the same result, that of a combat encounter.
This leads neatly onto the other half of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, which will be much more familiar to returning players of previous Borderlands titles. This is a first person shooter, albeit with some differences this time around. Gone are the grenades and turrets of the previous games, and in their place are spells and action skills that more accurately channel the spirit of the game. For instance, my first character was a Clawbringer class (because, you know, pet dragon and all!) and her action skill is a massive flame-imbued hammer that damages all nearby enemies. As you progress through the game, more classes become open to you, and even a second class can be selected.
The classes are a weird bunch, like Brr-Zerker, that uses ice powers and up to four others to pick from, you should certainly be able to find something that tickles your fancy. Luckily, this is Tina’s game, and as such our weapons are still noticeably guns, even if in the descriptions they are described as bows, and our melee weapon can be anything from a Morning Star to a Broadsword; there’s always that to fall back on. The levelling up mechanic is pure Borderlands. Unlocking points in a tree allows you to choose from more options, so choosing your build is quite flexible.
The actual gunplay and combat is as fun as ever, with the enemies being a varied bunch ranging from zombies and skeletons to dragons, via sentient mushrooms and even things that look a lot like Smurfs. There is no shortage of things to shoot. The spells have a deal of strategy attached to them as well, with some slowing enemies, some healing you, some being homing and others requiring you to concrete before launching them. Picking the right spell can make a big difference to your success as well.
The inevitable bosses, when they appear, are real bullet (or arrow) sponges and will require concentrated fire to take down, so it is fortunate that the multiplayer aspects are all present and correct, as per usual. It is possible to team up with friends, either online or via split screen on the same console, or you can roll the dice (see what I did there) and try and join a random party and take your chances. This also highlights another new chance, to the loot system this time, and you can choose whether to have the loot instanced or common. Having a common loot pool was one of my biggest irritations with previous Borderlands games, as there’s always that one person who runs off, opens all the chests and takes the best gear. You know who you are. Well, that’s no longer an issue, and the multiplayer works very well indeed. You should be aware though, that playing on an Xbox One does seemingly bring about a longer load time; something to bear in mind.
So, any actual problems with Tiny Tiina’s Wonderlands? Well, on a purely technical level, no. Everything has run very smoothly indeed on the gameplay front and my only slight concern is that it feels like it gets a bit samey, even, dare I say it, predictable. The way the game plays, it seems to be get a mission, go through the Overworld and fight everything that comes your way (you will need to do this, following only the story missions saw me reach a point where I was five levels too low to go to the next area), get to the destination, run through and fight everything again. Then it’s a case of heading back to the Overworld to rinse and repeat. The story is great, don’t get me wrong, but the set up for every mission is a bit deja vu after a while. Honestly though, this is pretty much my only complaint, however.
In all, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a great addition to the Borderlands universe. The characters and story are great, the presentation is bang on, and the combat is as good as ever. The only slight quibble is the lack of variation in the game, but if you liked Assault on Dragon Keep, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is that turned up to 11.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is available at the Xbox Store