It’s been almost a decade now since the release of Borderlands 2’s Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC, which reframed the looter shooter as a Dungeons and Dragons-style tabletop campaign DM’d by the titular Tiny Tina. Acclaimed as that mini-campaign was, it’s a little unusual to see Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands take shape as late as 2022; we’re post-Pre-Sequel, post-Borderlands 3, why do this now?
See, regardless of the effort that’s gone into the visuals here, Wonderlands is very much Borderlands 3, re-skinned. That was to be expected and is not any kind of surprise, really, but it’s so close to its predecessor that it all feels a touch redundant.
Also, we found that the high fantasy makeover doesn’t really do much to capture the imagination; it all looks a little bit dull, initially. That said, we only explored one area – Mount Craw – and have no doubt that other locations will offer more diversity and colour to the game. It works, though – once you start throwing out the magic you'll light the place up like a Christmas tree. The contrast is a thoughtful one and we were ultimately impressed by the game, visually. Keeping the environments muted makes your offence pop and the enemies stand out.
Two of the six character classes were available: The Graveborn and The Stabbomancer. The former is the kind of being who'll sacrifice their own health to damage enemies, the latter able to summon and recall a magical blade. Of the two, we most enjoyed playing Graveborn, but the critical-hit focused Stabbomancer was enjoyable to mess around with, too. Levelling up offers a skill point (as is tradition), but you also get to funnel points into your character's stats ala Dungeons and Dragons – a more traditional "levelling up" that adds another dimension of choice to the proceedings.
We found ourselves allied with the GTFO ("Goblins Tired of Forced Oppression", ho ho), a cluster of rebels fighting back against their widespread enslavement with typical Borderlands-style verve and occasionally deeply irritating voice acting. Like a fleshy, bipedal Claptrap – who shows up, except in an amusing wooden form. First we had to take down a magical barrier by destroying two generators; both heavily guarded, of course, but we had the option to play it safe, hang back and pick off the enemies or simply charge in and make a beeline.
Thankfully both approaches were enjoyable, resulting in the barrier going down and our goblin companion "Jar" to charge into the caves where his goblin brethren were being put to work by the ruthless Taskmaster monsters. We retrieved propaganda posters advertising the GTFO and stuck them up around the cavern, resulting in an onslaught of monsters attempting to stop our progress. Once overcome, we had a powerful mini-boss known as an Oracle to kill, who handed us our first defeat – naturally this was resolved with a quick resurrection for a little of our hard-earned money. But we prevailed, defeated the Oracle and flew the GTFO flag, making the ultimately quite likeable Jar leader of the goblin resistance. Experience earned. On to the next mission.
You know this loop. It's Borderlands, but with spells. Absolute chaotic carnage, magic slung all over the place as myriad critters propel themselves towards you, not to mention the enormous and terrifying Taskmasters. Enemy variety is strong even in the small area we were able to explore, and after some initial disappointment at just how similar to Borderlands 3 it is, we got into the groove and would be lying if we told you it wasn't enormous fun. There seems to be more enemies than ever, and they're less like bullet sponges than we recall from the other games. Naturally there are level disparities between you and your opponents, but we found it breezier than the rest of the franchise and frankly that's a good thing.
It's promising stuff: the framing device of Tiny Tina's Dungeon Master has yet to wear thin, it's fun to see familiar characters in a different setting like this, and most importantly this feels like the tightest, most polished instalment of Borderlands yet. Replacing grenades with magic spells is a bit of a genius move as it means you're constantly refreshing your arsenal in a way beyond just picking up more and more guns. Though, of course, you can do that too. Come on, it's Borderlands.
Do you find the fantasy backdrop of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands appealing at all, or is this a game that’s sitting low on your radar? Cast a spell in the comments section below.