Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Review

Gearbox rolls a nat 20 with this Borderlands spinoff.

by Diego Perez
Tiny Tinas Wonderlands

Borderlands wasn’t the first game to heavily focus on loot as one of its main features, but it was definitely a series that propelled so-called “looter shooters” into the mainstream. The first game saw a decent amount of success, but it was really its sequel that perfected the formula and stole the hearts of fans. Borderlands 2 remains of the best shooters of the last decade, but sadly, the highly-anticipated Borderlands 3 (and the oft-forgotten Pre-Sequel) failed to come anywhere close to the heights of the second game. Now, it’s clear that Gearbox is taking a step back and looking at what made Borderlands 2 work, going so far as to give fan-favorite character Tiny Tina her own fully-fledged game.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a fantasy-focused spinoff of the Borderlands series, and while it may appear to be taking a drastically different direction on the surface, it’s clear that this spinoff has more Borderlands DNA in it than the marketing would lead you to believe. Wonderlands is absolutely its own thing, but it takes what Borderlands does best and makes several meaningful changes to the formula to give the game its own identity. It does enough to satisfy diehard fans of the mainline series, but it also appeals to newcomers as well.

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If you’re a Borderlands veteran, then you most likely remember the series’ greatest DLC expansion of all: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep (which has been re-released under new “A Wonderlands One-Shot” branding). This DLC pack let people play through a tabletop RPG campaign with guns and explosions, spearheaded by the titular Tiny Tina.

Not only was it a hilarious romp that poked fun at RPGs and the fantasy genre, but it was also a heartfelt story about Tina’s grief following the events of Borderlands 2. It may seem like Wonderlands is pandering to fans by revisiting this concept, but Wonderlands manages to feel fresh even if you’ve played the existing expansion in the past.

Despite its fantasy coat of paint, Wonderlands is still very much a Borderlands game. There are a few new weapon types that fit the setting, but for the most part, you’re still looting assault rifles and shotguns and engaging in fast-paced firefights. The gunplay was one of the best parts of Borderlands 3, and Wonderlands retains the same excellent weapon feel. Guns are punchy and satisfying, and there are a ton of them to collect.

Wonderlands does make a pretty significant change to the formula by adding a world map, however, and it’s a much-appreciated difference. Instead of driving around empty open-world maps to reach the interesting areas, Wonderlands presents players with a ton of linear combat arenas with an overworld map connecting them similar to an old-fashioned JRPG.

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There are side quests and optional areas to discover on the world map, but you won’t do any fighting until you reach a designated area. There are random encounters with enemies though, and getting jumped by an enemy will force you into a combat arena to take them down.

The world map may sound like a small addition on paper, but it’s arguably the smartest decision that Gearbox has made with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. It trims the fat from previous Borderlands games and gets you to the fun parts much faster. There’s also so much to discover on the world map, from optional areas to full side quest chains, and it really does a lot to make Wonderlands feel like a fully-fledged RPG. The areas that you do get to shoot through are also much better designed as a result as well, so it feels like the best of both worlds.

If you felt like you had to play Borderlands 3 with muted dialogue, then you’ll thankfully have a much better time with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. The performances are fantastic, largely due to the game’s star-studded cast. Will Arnett stars as the Dragon Lord, the game’s overarching antagonist, and it’s clear that the Bojack Horseman star is having a blast in the role. Wanda Sykes and Andy Samberg play your main party members at the table, and their commentary is engaging from start to finish.

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Ashly Burch reprises her role as Tiny Tina, and she’s great as always. Just like in previous games, she still manages to steal the show, which is impressive given the talent she’s working alongside in this game. Many people, myself included, were worried that Tina’s boisterous over-the-top personality would become grating over a fully-fledged game where she serves as the primary narrator, but she works well as the game’s main character.

Of course, performances are nothing without a decent script, and I’m pleased to report that Wonderlands is actually funny. Not all of the jokes land of course, but with the series’ staple million-jokes-a-minute pace, enough of them elicit a smile to stop the dialogue from getting annoying. The majority of the jokes are focused on Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop tropes, so you may feel a bit underwhelmed if you’re not a huge RPG fan. If you’ve ever played through a tabletop campaign with friends, however, you’ll very quickly realize which types of players the game is poking fun at.

While your party is talking in your ear, you’ll be mowing down mobs of fantasy-themed enemies as expected. To better fit with the fantasy setting, players have been granted a few new abilities in Wonderlands. You can cast spells now, which are equippable items that can be used on cooldown like a grenade. While you can create builds that center around magic, you unfortunately won’t be able to drop your firearms and become a total wizard.

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The same goes for the new melee weapons, which allow you to slightly customize your standard melee attack. This is still a shooter first and foremost, but you have a bit more flexibility with your playstyle thanks to these new additions.

Speaking of flexibility, Wonderlands lets you create your own custom character from scratch in true tabletop RPG fashion. Since there are no predefined characters to choose from, you can choose any of the six available classes for your custom character and even multiclass later in the game to further set yourself apart from the crowd. Builds are a huge part of the Borderlands experience, especially once you start farming for legendary weapons, so Wonderlands will definitely please the crowd that keeps playing after the credits roll.

The game’s endgame system, called the Chaos Chamber, also gives grinders a lot to work with. It’s an endlessly replayable randomized dungeon that features multiple enemy types, locations, and bosses, and it’s where you’ll spend all of your time after finishing the main story. It’s not enough to keep most people playing after wrapping up the main story, but again, if you’re one of those people that loves to farm for rare drops to perfect your build in Borderlands games, you’ll have a great time with it.

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Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands may appear to be a simple spinoff on its surface, but it’s actually capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with the mainline series. This is a bonafide Borderlands game despite the name change, and it makes multiple meaningful improvements to the foundation laid out by the mainline series.

To use a tabletop metaphor, Borderlands is a pre-written Dungeons and Dragons campaign; Wonderlands is an improved version of the established text with its own personal flair. Just like Tina goes with the flow as Bunker Master of the group, Gearbox deviates from the established formula to make the game much more fun for everyone at the table. Wonderlands is a funnier and more focused version of its predecessors, and it’s an all-around great shooter.

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

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Tiny Tina's Wonderlands

  • Score: 4 / 5
  • Available On: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Published By: 2K Games
  • Developed By: Gearbox Software
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • US Release Date: March 25, 2022
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Wonderlands is a funnier and more focused version of its predecessors."
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