Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a spin-off of the lukewarmly received Borderlands 3. Tina makes great strides in the “villain that isn’t incredibly annoying” department which plagued the previous title for me, and if you either enjoy or aren’t too put off by her humor there is great fun to have here. That fun mainly comes of course through the up to 4 player co-op in this Dungeons & Dragons (“DnD”) inspired looter shooter. It is $10 more than its mainline predecessor on the new generation of consoles. Let’s take a journey through the mind of Tiny Tina and see if it’s worth your hard-earned cash.
For the Queen!
You are the newbie and playing your first game of Bunkers & Badasses (aka DnD) hosted by Tiny Tina, who is very lonely. A ship has recently crashed near her thanks to the terrible piloting of Valentine (voiced by Andy Samberg), who is joined by his robot companion Frette (voiced by Wanda Sykes). After using an exhaustive and impressive character creation toolset you begin your quest against Will Arnett’s Dragon Lord. I’ll do my best to keep it spoiler-free, but things don’t go Tina’s way, despite her being in control of the game board.
Over 30 or so hours you’ll journey through the Wonderlands, a series of huge zones interconnected by a real-life DnD inspired overworld game board. Various dungeons, side quests, and random encounters abound as you work for Queen Butt Stallion and her people. I found the characters, writing, story, and especially the protagonist better than Borderlands 3. The Dragon Lord is a far less obtrusive and annoying foe than the twins were.
You’ll see DnD style takes on many of the Borderland’s series regulars. This could have felt over the top-fanservice-y, but it was handled well and fit thematically. That DnD inspiration is everywhere, from class setups to how your gear works. Instead of grenades you now get spell books that offer up a far greater variety and are damned fun to use. Randomization/procedural gear generation is here as well, and you’ll slowly unlock more item slots to further customize your classes. There is a great mechanic that opens up a few hours into your playthrough that helps mix things up rather nicely as well. I do recommend experimenting with the classes as they can play quite differently, and I found the Spellshot far more fun solo but the Brr-Zerker great in groups.
Enemy variety is classic Borderlands with a high fantasy twist to match the rest of the game. If you enjoyed Borderlands 3 and were looking for something only a little different overall, then you’ll have a great time. If that title did not hit for you though and/or you simply do not like Tiny Tina and the writing in the series, then know this is a $70 (US) off-shoot of the same thing. That price is a bit of a sticking point for me as this is obviously a smaller game in most ways in comparison to what Borderlands 3 tried to do. Costing $10 more for the Series X|S version feels like they did it simply because they can. For review purposes, they gave me the $90 version with a few extra weapons/skins and the season pass. It all feels like classic Borderlands so if you know you’re in then there probably isn’t much reason to not go for the everything included edition.
The gameplay looks and feels as good as ever. On the Series X, the default graphical mode is Resolution which targets 60fps, and how I recorded most of my footage for this review. Performance mode aims higher and felt fantastic with my variable refresh rate enabled monitor and how I have played the game when not recording footage. You will see a noticeable resolution drop when going to performance, but the smooth feeling aim made it worth it.
The biggest change gameplay-wise is losing grenades and gaining spellbooks. I loved the system and my time as a Spellshot where I could equip two spells at once was an absolute blast. There are a wide variety of spells on hand and customizing my preferred playstyle around them was a lot of fun. This is a title made to be played repeatedly as you push harder and harder content with randomly dropped items that you attempt to make a dream build out of. This is 100% a medieval’ish Borderlands and I enjoyed the hell out of it. There really isn’t much “new” here for fans of the series, but it’s well polished and plays great. You will want to focus on side content occasionally though, as I found my progression halted multiple times by high-level enemies that stomped me if I tried to only run main quests.
The music is quite different from past titles and fits the theme well. I particularly enjoyed the somber stringed overworld music as I moved from area to area, punches rocks, avoiding random enemies, and clearing out dungeon after dungeon. The voice acting is a mixed bag with Tina being her usual self, which can be quite divisive among players. Wanda Sykes and Andy Samberg’s characters talk a lot and they’re both well done. Will Arnett’s Dragon Lord isn’t great, but it’s far better than recent villains and I grew to like the character a lot as the game went along.
Co-op play worked well once the Shift servers were up and feature full crossplay between Xbox, Playstation, and PC. It should be the standard for games like this moving forward and I was really happy to see it. I ran into no major bugs while playing, though the long voice dialogue sections would frequently get cut off as I crossed an event trigger, which led to me missing out on conversations I was enjoying. Those conversations can go on for far too long though. Often you have to stand around and wait for a few minutes as discussions play out before you can advance, with no way of skipping ahead. It has been one of the series’ biggest weaknesses in the past and it’s in full effect here.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands does not try to reinvent the Borderlands wheel. Instead, it molds it into something fresh enough to satisfy fans of the series that are looking for more. Just know that if you do not like the titular character then this is not the game for you, as there is a whole bonkload of Tina. If the $70 price tag on Series consoles doesn’t scare you off, and you have a few friends to play with then you will enjoy this expertly crafted Schlooter.