Xbox Xbox Series X

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Continues Its TRPG Inspirations

Courtesy of Gearbox

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands

Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: March 25, 2022
Available as: Digital and Physical

Rolling For Initiative

It's amazing how time flies when it comes to games that set the bar for future titles that would build upon their success. The year 2022 will mark the tenth anniversary of Borderlands 2, which is regarded as the best in the series by many of its players. While the first game was a runaway hit, it's arguably the second game's success that birthed the "looter shooter" sub-genre of FPS titles. In 2013, the game's final DLC, Tina Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep was released. Due to the DLC's success, it was re-released as a standalone product in 2021. This, of course, was to complement the impending release of Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, its direct sequel.

The original Assault on Dragon Keep gave players the chance to look inside the mind of a deranged teenager who has a penchant for blowing things up. The environment and sporadic pacing served as a way to define Tiny Tina's quirks. This also gave players a new way to explore Borderlands 2. It wasn't confirmed what made Gearbox develop Tiny Tina's Wonderlands but I'd guess it's due to Borderlands 2's success over its sequel. The second game had a larger positive reaction as did Assault on Dragon Keep. Why not turn a standalone experience into a fully blown spin-off?

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands - Xbox Series X Direct Capture

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Is Gearbox's Persuasion Check

Before playing Wonderlands, it's recommended to play Assault on Dragon Keep to appreciate what Gearbox was going for with this title. This is not a Borderlands title and the narrator during the introduction mentions this by saying this goes beyond the "borderlands." The player is strapped into the world of Tiny Tina's Wonderlands and will not be let go until the Dragon Lord is defeated. As such, it's difficult to explain the plot as everything is kept faithfully in-universe.

This also extends to the game's combat as there's a healthy mix of magic and modern weapons as potential loot. The first gun the player picks up is a crossbow hand pistol hybrid that has two rates of fire, two arrows and four hours. Shortly after, the player will come across assault rifles, sub-machine guns, and hand cannons. These aren't ordinary weapons, however, as each is imbued with old-fantasy elements. An assault rifle that shoots cold bullets will have runes and glyphs hovering above the chamber, for example. If Borderlands was futuristic punk, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is a country fair of carnage.


Character Sheets, An Important Part Of Any Campaign

Unique to a Borderlands franchise game is the ability to create a character rather than a designated preset. This opens Wonderlands to many possibilities that weren't accessible in other Borderlands titles. When you create your character, you are actually creating your character, customizing them as if it was a figure on a playing board. This preserves the series' cel-shaded appearance while also encouraging intriguing designs. Dedicated players can create 1:1 copies of existing Borderlands characters or make their own.

There are many classes to choose from in the game, ranging from a Cold-powered ax-wielding warrior known as the Brr-zerker, to a thief with phantom blades. My choice of class was the Graveborn as it was the closest thing Wonderlands had to a "Blood Mage." Sacrificing HP to deal insane damage to everyone sounded cool. Its access to necromancy was a bonus, however, there was a weapon I'd obtain that would make the early game even better.


Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Takes It To The 'Next Level' If You're Willing

Despite being released for current and previous-gen consoles, there's an incentive for owning the current-gen version of Wonderlands. The physical copies of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 versions are the "Next Level Editions" by default. This nets the player an exclusive Day One Golden Armor set as well as the Dragon Lord set. The former is a golden-plated cosmetic, but the latter offers goodies including a spell and a weapon. The spell, Skullantir, summons a floating sass-talking skull that circles around the player. It will target the closest enemy and collide with it, dealing quite a bit of damage.

The best weapon from the set, the Apex, is a crossbow gun with good states for the early game. Its best feature is that it heals the player as enemies take damage. That seems just perfect for a blood mage that uses their health to obliterate their foes, does it? Needless to say, I was able to rip the first boss into shreds all the while skirting with death. Would I replenish my health by unloading a clip before I succumbed to my self-inflicted wounds? It was exciting although, with this build, a high Constitution is definitely needed. The more health the better.


So Far, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Looks Like A Critical Success

Being that the story of Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is all in the girl's mind, there's less at stake than a usual Borderlands title. There are no "Handsome Jacks" or fears of betrayal to deal with. There are no annoying Claptraps, at least in the beginning, to endure either.

It's just an insane teenager with a crazy imagination as a DM. Wonderlands is essentially "Game Night with the homies" and that removal of urgency is what makes this game fun. It's a looter shooter that doesn't attempt to make itself awkward by taking itself seriously. Grab a few friends and embark on a tabletop RPG adventure.

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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