Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands takes Gearbox’s loot shooter series out for a Dungeons & Dragons-inspired spin. Does it work? Critics are split. The consensus appears to be that, for better and for worse, it’s more Borderlands. Shocking, I know! But it sounds like there are also enough new tricks to make Wonderlands a fun co-op romp in a world where there are surprisingly few of them left.
Out March 25 on PS4, PS5, Xbox, and PC, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a spin-off born from the Assault on Dragon Keep DLC that was added to Borderlands 2 almost a decade ago. Like that expansion, Wonderlands features the same titular bomb-obssessed teenager playing as a D&D-style dungeon master guiding players through surrealist shootouts filled with shiny guns, big swords, and wacky, ocassionally off-putting banter.
Fortunately, it sounds like the infusion of new magic-based classes gives it a leg up on its somewhat disappointing predecessor, Borderlands 3. The writing is also apparently less cringe-y. We’ll see. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is also the first game in the series to feature a character creator and full cross-play between platforms.
Reviews went up yesterday (our impressions will be of the console version which wasn’t available until today) and so far the game has an 80 on Metacritic, significantly lower than series high-water mark Borderlands 2 but still decent for such a well-trod formula. Diablo was a clear inspiration for the looter series back when it debuted. Does this overt homage to fantasy role-playing games do that inspiration justice? Here’s what critics are saying so far.
I don’t want to oversell how much Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands revitalizes the Borderlands formula because it’s not transformative. But I’ve found it’s been more than enough to make me really enjoy it. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I enjoyed Borderlands 3, and I actually liked Borderlands 3.
My general sense is that Wonderlands will be appreciated by existing fans who have grinded as much Borderlands 3 as they can stomach at this point, and are looking for something, anything new. But if you’re not already into this series, I don’t think the switch to a fantasy setting is going to change much of anything for you.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a fantastic fantasy take on Borderlands’ tried-and-true looter shooter formula. As spin-offs go, it sticks dangerously close to its past successes which at times felt a bit unoriginal and some of the new stuff it tries, like procedurally generated combat encounters, didn’t pan out terribly well. Luckily, the excellent writing, hilarious performances from an all-star cast, and ridiculous combat continue to shine brightly and make this tabletop-inspired explosion-fest absolutely worth your time.
As a spin-off, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands doesn’t reinvent the Borderlands wheel with its shift towards fantasy that bears a chaotic-neutral alignment. Instead, it explores familiar territory that repeats the best and worst of the Borderlands formula and it doesn’t venture out of its comfort zone. That makes for a game that is packed with solid first-person shooter action and a competent multiclass system for creating an interesting Fatemaker. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands retreads the same mechanical and narrative ground as Borderlands 3, ultimately creating a chapter in the franchise that’s fun but forgettable.
While Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands looks like a bouncy fantasy-comedy, it plays like a Borderlands game. Specifically, Borderlands 3. Some of the guns shoot crossbow bolts and the grenades have been replaced by spells, but in the moment-to-moment it’s a typical Borderlands game — you shoot hordes of bad guys who repeat pithy one-liners, then compare loot to see if the new guns and shields are better than the old ones, then do it again.
From a gameplay perspective, the additions of spells and a revamped melee system work great with the six available classes. It gave me the feeling of looking at a character sheet alongside the D&D “Player’s Handbook,” wondering what kind of builds I could make. The Brr-Zerker — a class focused on frost damage and spinning like a Canadian Beyblade into enemies — was a default build that I still enjoyed. Trying out the Graveborn class and getting a Demi-Lich familiar in-game who both helped me attack and healed me in combat was super useful in boss fights.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is Gearbox Software’s best game. Built upon the studio’s successful Borderlands formula, this experience adds a whimsical element to the familiar looter-shooter thrills and delivers so much firepower to your fingertips you’d think you were wearing the Infinity Gauntlet. Caked in silliness and always trying to make you laugh, Wonderlands hits with distinct charm and handles its characters and world with care, making you engage with both on a journey I didn’t want to end.
There’s a cool moment very early on that keys you into the type of game Wonderlands is going to be. I ran into a shipyard full of skeletons, with Tina describing a scene of calamity, with subsequent flourishes happening on screen after her rundown. It’s a fun vibe that the original Tiny Tina DLC nailed, and it’s still pretty unique to this day. The writing is just silly enough to work, and its lowest moments never approach the lows of Borderlands‘ cringe.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a Borderlands game. It’s not a spin-off, it’s not inspired by, and it’s not a mix of Borderlands and D&D – it’s just Borderlands. It’s a waste of a great concept, and comes with the typical Borderlands drawbacks of potentially grating humour, way too many guns, way too small storage space, and a lot of always-on characters who aren’t given enough room to breathe. It’s fun, but it’s nothing special. The worst part is it could have been.
The main issue is the structure. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands takes place on a number of local maps, which are within bigger regional maps, which are within a big overworld map that also has another map depicting that. The overworld seems totally unnecessary, an extra layer that just seems to be there to make room for more, often limp meta-jokes about Tina making it up on the fly, plus a few very basic environmental puzzles and numerous, generic-feeling dungeon horde encounters. Combine that with the main story and longer sidequests, and the sheer number of times you’ll need to follow a waypoint through several encounters at explosive barrel-strewn clearings to larger clearings with more encounters, and things can get really quite boggy.
It’s a lot of fun. Elsewhere in the Borderlands series, if an enemy made it within melee or point-blank range, I felt like I’d failed in my ambition of being a marksman or an assault trooper. In Wonderlands, they get to meet the broadsword, kama, or morningstar I looted two levels ago. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands ramps up the mobs’ rush attacks to encourage melee combat, which keeps encounters from breaking down into the kind of improvised cover-shooter stalemates I’ve seen in the first three games.