Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is a looter shooter set in a fantasy tabletop RPG setting. You'll kill lots of monsters, loot lots of treasure, and finish lots of whacky quests as Tiny Tina guides you through her imaginative Wonderlands. Is this Borderlands spin-off game filled with fun, or is it a mimic?
Do you like Borderlands? Do you like Dungeons and Dragons? If you do, you may be interested in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a Borderlands spin-off title that takes place in the world of Bunkers & Bad Asses, the table-top RPG of the Borderlands universe. It has all of the fantasy tropes and jokes you would expect as the bunker master, Tiny Tina, guides you through her demented fantasy world filled with unicorns, rainbows, Cheetohs, and guns… Yes, lots and lots of guns.
If you are unaware of the borderlands series, it is a decade long franchise. The main-line Borderlands games are first person shooters with RPG style loot, similar to Diablo, where prefixes and creative attributes make each gun unique. Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is no different – every piece of equipment you find in this game, whether it be an automatic crossbow, a magic spell that shoots fireballs, or giant war-axe, each piece of loot is unique.
However, Borderlands initially released 13 years ago and the formula has not evolved much since. After the lukewarm reception of Borderlands 3 in 2019, does Tiny Tina’s Wonderland stand out enough to warrant a purchase?
Classes & Gameplay
I suppose the most important part of any Borderlands game is the gunplay, and Gearbox has many years of experience in fine tuning the genre it helped pioneer. Tiny Tina’s Wonderland improves on the formula just as past entries have done. This time around you’ll be able to pick between six classes – these are the Brrr-zerker, Clawbringer, Graveborn, Spellshot, Spore Warden, and the Stabbomancer. I played as the Clawbringer, a tanky build with a mighty hammer. I also had a little dragon companion that would follow me around and attack enemies with electric or fire breath.
Just as you can in D&D, you eventually get the ability to pick a second class – this busts the character build levy wide open. You’ll have access to two skill trees and 4 special class abilities to build your character. The unique class options coupled with the responsive and fun movement make the moment-to-moment gameplay fun and exciting.
This time around, there are melee weapons you can equip as well as spells, armor, and wards. The melee system is much more useful this time around. It is possible to have your entire build centered around smacking your enemies with swords, hammers, or whatever you have equipped. Most of the melee weapons you find, whether they are great axes or swords or big sticks, feel similar. I tended to favor the slower weapons for the damage, and the impact felt a little heavier. It felt good smashing goblins or mushroom men.
The spells are the fantasy version of grenades – they are on a cool down and sometimes will have multiple charges or effects. Some spells will sap the life out of your opponents, while others will summon little grounded dragon heads to fire projectiles at nearby enemies. The armor is functionally the same as previous titles and usually provides a bonus your skills, and the wards are rechargeable shields.
There is a lot of loot that you’ll be picking up. It can be overwhelming, for sure. I was running out of room in my inventory constantly until I said “Screw it” and stopped picking up most items. There are inventory upgrades you can purchase, but they quickly get expensive. If you’re the type of person who wants to pick up and compare every gun, you will spend hours in the menus comparing trivial stat differences.
The menus are lifted from Borderlands 3 and, well, they’re still clunky. I played with keyboard and mouse and it was annoying to navigate my inventory – it may or may not be easier with a controller. You have the ability to mark things as junk to sell them all at once, but that is also time consuming! The worst part is this would be so simple to fix – I would love to see the ability to pick up items from the ground and simultaneously mark them as junk. That would leave more time for shooting, and less inventory management.
Story & Characters
Maps & Enemies
The areas in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands are much smaller than previous games, but this is for the better. Rather than having vehicles to roam around gigantic, mostly empty maps, levels are located on the overworld. Using your miniature, you can walk around the overworld in a tilt-shifted perspective.
The overworld is fun to explore, and it’s quick to go from one destination to another. You also have town portals, another name for fast travel. At one point you’ll find a cheetoh blocking your path, and a new dungeon is improvised to remove it. There are dungeons, but to be honest they’re really just a series of 2 or 3 smaller arenas – a killing field for you to obliterate enemies. Completing these smaller dungeons usually yields an item called a shrine piece – if you collect all of the pieces to a shrine, you’ll unlock a permanent, passive buff such as additional Crit Rate, Movement Speed, or Experience.
The larger areas, such as Craw Mountain, are much bigger and delicately crafted. This mountain has many sub-quests to complete and characters to meet. You’ll even find Claptrap here, brandishing a wooden chassis. He’s vying to become a master blacksmith and has you gathering ore to make a magical item. There’s also a legendary weapon guarded by some sort of machination who just rambles on and on for 5 minutes. Then again, a 5 minute monologue is exactly the kind of humor you would find in a game from Gearbox.
Of course there are many more wild stories like this throughout the game. Some of the quests you’ll encounter include taking King Arthur hand to pull out Excalibur, a pirate who needs you to reassemble their robot bird, saving a town from an evil beanstalk with the Fairy Punchfather, defeating a water goddess with a monster hunter named Gerrit, and many more.
And while it feels so good to jump all over the well designed maps and levels, it’s a shame the AI doesn’t hold up. I think this is partially to blame on the enemy design too. See, since it is a fantasy world, a lot of enemies are melee oriented and will simply charge at you. Big bad skeletons will stomp towards you, crabs will run straight into you, dagger wielding bandits will charge you. While there are plenty of enemies with ranged weapons or magic attacks, they are mostly stationary or ignoring cover.
Speaking of which, I was hoping the enemy designs were more inspired. There are no Skagg’s thankfully, but there are way too many skeletons. Most of the skeletons are not really interesting or unique, and the same goes with most of the other enemy types. All you really need to do for most enemies is hold down the trigger of your gun and point at their head and they will drop.
It would have been nice to see more D&D inspired enemies – imagine seeing Minotaurs, Basilisks that can paralyze you, Beholders, Gelatinous Cubes, or my personal favorite: the Gibbering Mouther! Seriously, there’s so much potential for creative enemies here and the buck stops with skeletons, pirates, serpents, a mimic or two, and crabs. The enemy variety opens up more as you get closer to the end. but it’s still disappointing. For example, I entered a town that was attacked by a giant beanstalk. This is a completely optional area that I didn’t unlock until the end of the game, and I was excited because I thought there might be other types of enemies. Turns out its just more skeletons and dragons. Queue the disappointment.
Humor and Post-Game
The humor can always be controversial in these types of games. On one hand, if there are too many jokes, the game feels like it is trying too hard. If there’s not enough, the game loses the accessibility and charm from previous Borderlands games. In terms of Tiny Tina’s Wonderland, I’d say it lands most of it’s jokes.
Other reviewers have said it doesn’t let up and that brings down the experience. I’m not sure if I agree or not, I think the humor is well-suited to this parody style game. It comes hard and fast, pretty much throughout the entire game. I was never terribly annoyed by the jokes, or even the ones that didn’t stick the landing. There were actually many moments that really put a smile on my face, such as when your ship is being blessed by a bard.
My PC is going on 6 years right now, and I’ve been using a GTX 1070 FE since I built the machine. My processor is a 6600k overclocked to 4.3GHz. Surprisingly, the game ran beautifully on a mix of high, medium, and a few low settings. I never saw any frame drops below 60fps at 1080p.
The multiplayer, however, proved problematic. I’ve encountered numerous bugs, ranging from mostly inconsequential to requiring a restart of the game. The worst of which is losing a precious inventory slot to an item that I can neither drop nor sell. I can’t even put it in my bank! It’s permanently stuck in my inventory, mocking me next to all of my guns.
Other issues from multiplayer include extreme and unpredictable latency, guns not firing (fixed by reconnecting to the game), and item preview icons disappearing from the inventory.
Pros & Cons
- Great controls and Gunplay
- Lots of character build options
- Writing lands more than it misses
- Voice acting is great
- Character customization
- Good performance on my mediocre PC
- Inventory management
- Lack of enemy variety
- Enemy AI
- Buggy Multiplayer
In the end, I feel like Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is a step up from Borderlands 3. If you like the previous games in the series, you’ll really like this one as well. Even if you’re just a fan of shooters, looters, or fantasy games, this is a good choice. It’s not perfect, but I did have a lot of fun with it. If you still have hesitations after watching this, I’d say listen to your gut and wait for a sale. For others, roll a d20.