A long time ago, during the days when Borderlands 2 was considered the king of the looter shooter genre, Gearbox had the brilliant idea to develop a Dungeons and Dragons-themed DLC called Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep. It was a fantastic addition to the franchise, and one can argue that its unexpectedly deep story was just as integral to its popularity as its high fantasy setting. Fast forward to today where Gearbox seeks to replicate the success of Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep with a new spinoff game called Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, another high fantasy Dungeons and Dragons-themed adventure in the Borderlands universe.
What is Tiny Tina's Wonderlands?
As a spin-off game, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is mechanically identical to Borderlands 3. Everything from character movement to weapon handling to the way that the game handles AI companions is going to feel the same. Consequently, if you loved Borderlands 3's gameplay mechanics, then you'll find Tiny Tina's Wonderlands to be a natural extension of the series. Conversely, if you hated Borderlands 3's mechanics, or are tired of looter shooters in general, then Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is not going to be for you. The game simply doesn't offer anything new to the looter shooter formula, or at least nothing that will change anyone's mind about the fundamental flaws of the genre.
That being said, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands does add some new mechanics and features that help set it apart from other Borderlands games. The ability to create a custom character is definitely the crown jewel of Tiny Tina's Wonderlands' new additions. There are aesthetic benefits of course, but the real draw comes from being able to pick one of several classes and then multiclassing with any of the other classes to create your own truly unique character.
For example, you might decide to start the game as a Spellshot, a mage class that revolves around casting spells to receive buffs. At a certain point in the story, you can select a second class to buff up your original Spellshot abilities and perks, so you might opt to add the Clawbringer's pets and elemental damage focus for extra killing power or throw in the Stabbomancer's invisibility to have some utility and a way to counteract the Spellshot's relative squishiness. The possibilities aren't quite endless, yet it's more than enough to enable some very unique playstyles that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Loot, Glorious Loot
Since Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is set in a high fantasy world, it only makes sense for the loot to follow suit. As far as firearms are concerned, this just means that some of your guns have crossbow parts glued onto them and thus fire bolts rather than bullets. Not exactly the most creative approach, but it's good enough considering how the game revolves around guns. The real change comes with melee weapons and spells. The melee weapons themselves are self-explanatory, and their effectiveness depends entirely on the classes you pick. Melee classes obviously rely on having good melee weapons while other classes might use them simply for their stats, appearances, knockback abilities, etc.
By comparison, the addition of spells is a lot more impactful as spells have completely replaced grenades. For starters, spell usage is governed by cooldowns. As a result, their practical effectiveness is impacted by your character build to some degree. The aforementioned Spellshot characters will be able to cast certain spells like they're a pinata spewing out candy while other classes might use spells only during critical situations due to their cooldowns. This distinction serves more than a thematic role as some spell effects can be very powerful. Early game spells might be little more than simple explosions and magic missiles, virtually identical in effect to regular grenades. As you level up and get better loot, you might find spells that create directional earthquakes or drop comets on people or summon some very temporary pets. All in all, spells are a very nice addition to your arsenal, if a bit restrictive due to their cooldowns.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Story
Alas, a game such as Tiny Tina's Wonderlands can only go so far with fun spells and guns. A decent narrative is also needed, something to motivate the player to chase the big bad evil guy or provide a narrative carrot on a stick so that the audience is invested in the story. Unfortunately, anyone expecting a compelling main story is going to be disappointed. In all fairness, the writers and voice actors did what they could given that the game literally revolves around playing as someone who is playing Dungeons and Dragons with Tiny Tina and two other characters who kind of exist just to exist.
Such an excuse only goes so far though as Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep literally inspired the concept and yet it managed to address some serious themes and provide character development. Tiny Tina's Wonderlands almost touches on some deeper themes in the same way but they are never really given sufficient time to develop. The first act is especially dry in this regard, proving to be mostly forgettable save for one or two major plot points, offering a chuckle or two at best and not much else. The last act and finale, brief as they may be, are a little better in that they show a small glimpse of Tiny Tina's backstory and thus provide some much needed character development.
By comparison, some of the larger side quest story arcs are well written with decent scripted events and relatively interesting characters. One of the pirate storylines is a particularly good example of how Gearbox clearly has the talent to bring an interesting story to the forefront, tropes and all, without dragging the plot along too much or bogging it down with an unusual excess of mediocre jokes.
Regrettably, the same praise can't be said of all the sidequests, leading to a somewhat inconsistent feel when it comes to the overall writing quality. It doesn't help that some of the side and main quest objectives do boil down to just going somewhere, killing some stuff, pressing a button, and then repeating this loop three or four times. Hardly the most exciting laundry list of tasks in a genre that is already notoriously repetitive.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Environments are Full of Color
On the bright side, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands' vast number of sidequests do bring you to some very creative and colorful environments that almost certainly won't appear in a typical high fantasy-themed game. Even if you only do the main quest, there's no shortage of environmental diversity given that there's at least four or five different areas that you have to travel through for the main quest alone. Your enemies are almost as diverse, consisting of everything from fantasy staples like skeletons and wyverns to more exotic races like snake people and land sharks.
Speaking of world design, it should probably be noted that Tiny Tina's Wonderlands does not have any usable vehicles whatsoever. The playable areas are seemingly more compact to compensate for this and there's a bit of verticality to most levels. There's also a new Overworld which has plenty of side quests, collectibles, and miscellaneous dungeons for you to explore. Whether this is worth the removal of vehicles is up to you, though it's hard to complain about the Overworld itself as it is a convenient way to convey a sense of distance without making levels feel empty.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Endgame
Of course, it should be noted that once you beat the main quest, there's more content to play. Tiny Tina's Wonderlands' endgame can simply be described as convenient. There are no raids or static arenas where you have to beat 100 waves of enemies or anything like that. Instead, you can participate in the Chaos Chamber, a mode that's similar to Diablo 3's Rifts. The way that the Chaos Chamber works is that it puts you into an encounter on a random map with random enemies. You must clear these enemies to earn an endgame currency which can be spent at a loot altar for random items in a specific gear slot. At the end of each encounter, you can also choose to advance onto another encounter, but doing so requires you to choose a new effect for the rest of the Chamber run. Each run also contains a miniboss and an end boss to keep things interesting.
As an example, your first encounter might take place in the otherwise safe hub world, and you might have to fight wyverns, snake people, and goblins, enemies that definitely don't appear together otherwise. Beat the encounter and you'll have to choose a new condition such as giving enemies buffs if they are closeby to other enemies or making it so that you just die instead of entering Fight For Your Life, among other effects. This continues until you reach the Chaos Chamber reward room which is where you'll find the aforementioned loot altars. Best of all, if you get an item but you don't like the stats on it, you can reroll it with another endgame currency.
A full Chaos Chamber run takes around 20 minutes to complete and it can be done solo. Sure, winning a Chaos Chamber run is not as exciting as beating a good raid, but it's far less frustrating than failing a raid and it's unquestionably easier to set up, hence why the Chaos Chamber can be summed up as convenient. You might end up loving it, or you might end up hating it, but Tiny Tina's Wonderlands' Chaos Chamber and the reroll mechanic are definitely endgame features that should carry onto future Borderlands games for the purposes of endgame accessibility and variety.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Review | Final Thoughts
Ultimately, it's hard to say that Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is anything other than a typical Borderlands game. Most of its faults are also innate weaknesses of the genre, and its strengths aren't so groundbreaking that the game is considered a must-play. Indeed, Tiny Tina's Wonderlands feels like a game for people who are already fans of the franchise and want to see more of it. In that regard, it's a perfectly fine game and a good indicator of where the franchise can still innovate.
TechRaptor's Tiny Tina's Wonderlands review was conducted on PC with a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.
- Create your own custom character and class
- Spells can be very fun
- Colorful environments and enemy designs
- Decent side quest story arcs on average
- Very convenient postgame activities and features
- Fundamentally the same as its predecessors
- Dialogue and writing ranges from hilarious and thoughtful to flat and cringy
- Early game is a bit of a slog to get through
- Quest objectives become rather repetitive