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Not So MMO: Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Review

Don't have a good day, have a Chaotic Great day!

Garrick Durham-Raley Updated: Posted:
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Reviews Not So MMO 0

Imagine what the mind of a thirteen-year-old girl, whose parents were killed by bandits and who survived alone in a hellish landscape with only bombs and stuffed rabbits to keep her company, would dream up if they were the creator of their fantasy world. It’d probably be pretty chaotic, wouldn’t it? That’s exactly what Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is, from Gearbox Studios, the masterminds behind the Borderlands franchise. The titular Tiny Tina had her debut in Borderlands 2, and the D&D-esque Bunkers and Badasses TTRPG from the Assault on Dragon’s Keep DLC has spun off into its own full-fledged game. Here is our review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.

Who's Ready to Riggidy-Roleplay?

The world of Wonderlands is one where fantasy’s swords and sorcery meet bullets and guns. After all, this is Tina’s fantasy and what she says, as the Bunkermaster, goes. This feeling of a traditional tabletop experience permeates in almost every facet of the campaign, as Tina loves to take liberties with some of the rules of the world in order to tell her story. This often kept me on my toes as things aren’t always as they seem. That cheeto puff that fell onto the table? Nope; now it’s a meteor that fell and is blocking your path, leading to a new quest to clear it.

The Overworld is a sprawling top-down map of Wonderlands that Tina built where you can move your Fatemaker’s miniature across the table. There are even patches of tall grass - much like in Pokemon - where random battles can occur as you move your miniature through them. What I love most is that you can clearly see the influence from creative director Matt Cox and his love for adventure and Metroidvania style games. Certain places are inaccessible until you find a special key later, or gain a new ability that will let you traverse to places previously cut off from the rest of the map. It prompted me to go back to the beginning areas in order to unlock Lucky Dice or find shortcuts that I didn’t catch earlier.

Areas in the world cover the spectrum of biomes, from the classic desert cliffs, snowy mountains, and medieval castles to the more outlandish like mushroom swamps and coral reefs. Like the one I covered in my preview of Wonderlands, some side areas are entirely optional places that you could completely miss if you primarily follow along the main story missions, like I did. I didn’t explore some areas until after I beat the campaign, which took me just under 15 hours to complete. This is a tad less than Borderlands 3, which took me about 20, and overall the story in Wonderlands had really good pacing. I didn’t feel like any act dragged on for too long, and there was always a new twist or turn to keep me engaged. By the time I defeated the final boss I was already level 32, but I had plenty of sidequests and other areas that I hadn’t fully explored yet to get me to the level cap of 40.

Unlike prior Borderlands entries, Wonderlands lets the player create their own character - or Fatemaker - like most other RPGs. Tiny Tina’s robust character design lets you choose your skin color, facial characteristics, hair style and color, voice, armor color scheme, and more. It’s quite an offering of choices that had me spend too much time in my initial moments to make my Fatemaker look like a badass. Don’t be distracted by all the customization choices though as you can go and adjust every single option whenever you want for free at any Quick-Change station. Even cooler, there are additional options you can unlock from just playing through and collecting cosmetics as loot.

With over 30 hours spent on my Clawbringer, I am still finding new cosmetic unlockables from revisiting old locations as I scour to seek out all of the Lucky Dice, scrolls, shrines, and other discoverables scattered across each map. The Lucky Dice in particular has almost become a part of my endgame, as each one increases the overall loot luck for finding more powerful and higher rarity gear. There are also shrines in the overworld, which when completed unlock a passive bonus like +10% experience gained or +10% gold earned. There’s plenty to get distracted by in the Wonderlands, and I feel like I need to collect 'em all.

Roll for Initiative, Suckers!

Combat is as fast and frenetic as in any Borderlands entry, with most of the guns feeling very similar to their counterparts in Borderlands 3. A lot of weapons still have alternative firing modes - like changing from burst-fire to semi-automatic, or some guns having an under barrel shotgun, etc - and some gun types also have different “magical” firing modes. Some shotguns, for example, will fire a wave of magical energy that will hit enemies across a horizontal line. SMGs also come in different flavors, with some shooting out orbs that deal splash damage or others that will spew lightning bolts.

My new favorite weapons though are the crossbows, which can come from any of the manufacturers. These do take some practice to master, since the bolts will arc down and the velocity isn’t as fast as bullets. But these weapons often come with additional effects, like enemies taking increased damage for every bolt stuck in them or magic missiles firing in tandem. The new melee weapons don’t feel as good to swing around on the flipside. It is nice that you can hold down the melee button to continuously swing, but the damage from melee is inconsequential compared to guns. Unless you are building your character around melee specifically, it doesn’t feel nearly as good as spellcasting does.And boy does spellcasting feel good. Out of all of the combat changes in Wonderlands, the spells are what I’ve enjoyed the most. From calling down a giant meteor to smash into enemies, or summoning a hydra to spew fireballs, to shooting off a barrage of magic missiles or zapping foes with a thunderbolt - the spells are flashy and fantastical. One of my favorites is talons, which summons a wyvern that homes in and attacks enemies, much like how FL4K’s Rakk Attack skill worked in Borderlands 3. Some rarer varieties of the talons spell can summon multiple wyverns at once and have multiple charges, so you can just keep firing off magical wyverns to do your bidding. It feels so good, it makes me wish I had chosen the Spellshot class to start with which can equip a second spell as one of its action skills.

You See A Locked Door... What do you do?

As I touched on earlier, Wonderland’s story has excellent pacing and actively kept me engaged in the world and its characters, which is an improvement in Gearbox’s narrative. This is largely due to the wonderful performances by Ashly Burch as the nominal Tiny Tina, Wanda Sykes as the robotic Frette, Andy Samberg as the loveable rogue Valentine, and Will Arnett as the antagonistic Dragon Lord. For anyone who wanted more out of Burch’s Tiny Tina, Wonderland delivers in spades. But it’s surprisingly the playfulness between Sykes’ and Samberg’s performances that were the most captivating to listen to.

The writing in Wonderlands feels better as well, with less jokes relying on current events and memes that will just go out of style, and more on puns and game-related comedy. There’s even a stab at Disney that made me giggle out loud during the bit, which feels like it would be as funny 20 years ago as it would be 20 years from now. There’s not as much “frat” style comedy, which is a marked improvement over prior entries, and elevates the dialogue to contain more wit.

Unfortunately, Wonderlands’ story doesn’t hit as hard as it did in Assault on Dragon’s Keep where the whole DLC’s campaign revolved around Tina coming to terms with the death of Roland. There is an emotional moment towards the end of Wonderlands as some of Tina’s past gets revealed that I won’t spoil here, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t explored further. The mystery as to Valentine’s and Frette’s past, and how they wind up with Tina also never truly gets explained, but their characters are used to facilitate character growth in Tina and to explore the more emotional side of the chaotic thirteen year-old. There’s the story that unfolds in Wonderlands and then there’s the story that unfolds in Tina’s life, and I wish we could have gotten to see more of the latter.

There are also side stories, almost like short campaigns unto themselves, with many seeing reprise roles from previous Borderlands entries. Mister Torgue makes a return as part of the main story, but it was surprising to see Brick also make a return in one of the side areas of Wonderlands. Lorelai makes a return too as Paladin Mike, which is apparently her Bunkers and Badasses character that Tina is using as part of her own campaign. It’s fun to see that there was this connection between Tina and Lorelai before the events of Borderlands 3, as it also fleshes out Lorelai’s character too by providing a brief glimpse into her life before she met Rhys.

Playing with Chaos

The true endgame starts when the journey is completed, the Dragon Lord has been vanquished, and peace is returned to the realm. That’s when you unlock several new features that are designed to perfect your build and get the biggest, baddest weapons possible. First off, the aptly named Enchantment Re-Roller is a device that takes Moon Orbs, a new currency to obtain post-campaign, in order to re-roll the enchantments on your gear. The cost goes up each time you re-roll, but it’s a new way to customize your equipment without having to farm the same boss 200 times in hopes that you’ll get a godly roll on a piece of gear. It can even be used to add enchantments onto gear that don’t have any, so if you’ve already found your favorite gun you can just make it better.

Second, you’ll be able to reset your Fatemaker’s skill and stat points through the Quick-Change station. Not only is this a great way to reset everything and try new builds, but this also lets you change your secondary class that gets unlocked half-way through the main story. That way you’re not locked into a certain build before you’ve even hit max level cap. This also lets you change things up and experiment with builds designed around legendary pieces of gear that you acquire throughout your journeys. The only downside is that this does cost about a tenth of your total gold, although it’s a small price to pay in relation.

I think it’s also a great way to have the chance to play with other classes on your main Fatemaker before making a new one and experimenting with even more combinations. In total, there are about 15 different class and subclass combinations you can make between all 6 classes. With the recently announced 7th class coming in the season pass, eventually this will open up to a total of 21 different combinations. This makes Wonderlands the most diverse in terms of builds and optimizations, allowing for a lot of min-maxers to flatout break the meta with crazy combinations. I can’t wait to see what the community will come up with.

Third and final of the post-campaign unlocks is access to the Chaos Chamber, the primary end-game content in Wonderlands. The chamber itself houses all the modern conveniences for the Fatemaker-on-the-go including the Quick-Change station, Enchantment Re-Roller, Player Bank, Lost Loot Machine, and vending machines. This lets you hop into a randomized Chaos run, get out, and take care of business quickly and conveniently so you’re ready to go again. This is where I’ve spent well over 10 hours already, and I imagine that it’s where most players will spend the majority of their time so it’s no surprise that everything is centralized. It's a vast improvement over Borderlands 3’s Sanctuary ship where everything was spread out across different decks.

The Chaos runs are multi-level dungeons that are split between a featured run, a normal randomized run, an extended run, and a chaos trial. Featured runs are curated “artisanal” runs that will have the same levels, enemies, and challenges for everyone to have access to whereas normal and extended runs are entirely randomly generated but yield greater crystals per run. These crystals are used at the end of each run to feed statues and get a specific gear type, like pistols or spellbooks. There’s a rogue-like element to Chaos runs that make each trip feel unique. At the end of each floor, you are given a choice between two different portals. This could either lead to getting increased crystals, receiving a skill bonus from Butt Stallion, or getting a Curse that will make fights more difficult but with increased crystals as a reward.

Chaos Runs increase the available Chaos Level, Wonderlands’ version of Mayhem Mode. As the Chaos levels increase, so do enemies’ health and damage as well as XP, gold, and loot luck. Additionally, when playing on a Chaos difficulty, weapons will have a chance to spawn as chaotic – a more powerful version compared to its normal counterpart. Ultimately, this loot grind is what will keep most players coming back for more.

The Final Word

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands isn’t a masterclass in game design or storytelling, but it is a notable improvement over Gearbox Studio’s previous entries. Multiple quality of life additions, like holding down the melee button to just keep swinging as well as changing the Mayhem Mode difficulties to the new and less confusing Chaos Levels, are a great step forward. The weapons feel more inventive than before, and the addition of spells make combat more fun and engaging. It’s unfortunate that the story fails to live up to the events in Assault on Dragon’s Keep but it’s still more memorable than what Gearbox has recently done. The fact that Chaos Runs are randomized and offer a rogue-like mix already makes it one of the strongest launches for endgame play.

Better still, Wonderlands offers cross-play across PlayStation, Xbox, and PC when it launches on March 25 so you’ll be able to play with your friends no matter what system they prefer. Additionally, Wonderlands also supports split-screen on consoles so you’ll be able to play locally if that’s your jam too. Gearbox really listened to fan feedback from its launch of Borderlands 3 and is making sure that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is launching as feature-complete as possible. If you’re a fan of looter-shooter mayhem, or are looking for a new co-op adventure set in swords and sorcery (and guns) then I would strongly recommend playing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Now, who’s ready to riggidy-roleplay? ROLE FOR INITIATIVE, SUCKERS!

8.5Great
Pros
  • Great Gunplay and Spells
  • Endgame is Enjoyable
  • Amazing VO Performances
  • Cross-Play and Split-Screen Support
Cons
  • Melee is Underwhelming
  • Story is Only Surface-Level


GarrickDR

Garrick Durham-Raley

Garrick is a doting father of two and devoted husband. When he's not busy playing Final Fantasy XIV, he can usually be found drifting between a dozen different MMOs. His favorite game of all time is Diablo II and he is unironically excited for Diablo Immortal.