For someone who rarely has time to play games, my selectiveness seems to be paying dividends. I typically don’t invest in titles unless they’re truly worth investing in, so when a game demands my undivided attention, it’s a big deal. That’s the case with “Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands,” a “Borderlands” spin off that manages to be more “Borderlands” than any game in the franchise. It also has as a strong D&D element, adding a whole new layer of self-aware comedy that is a staple of the franchise.
I’m not going to do an extensive analysis of the game like I did “Yakuza: Like a Dragon.” Not that the game doesn’t warrant such a loo- it totally does- and isn’t any less vast or imaginative. But I went over “Yakuza” with a fine comb. While I stand by everything I said about it, I don’t think this one warrants as strong of a defense. Frankly, the lure of “Borderlands” is stronger than “Yakuza,” and the merits of each game are not the same.
Also, “Wonderlands” isn’t a revamp of the franchise from the ground up, but rather a direct spinoff intent on keeping the tried and true formula of the series intact.
That means “Wonderlands” is all about guns, jokes, and mayhem! The only thing different is the added D&D element, which fits so well in the weird world of “Borderlands” it’s kind of shocking they didn’t do it sooner. It allows the game to pretty much do whatever it wants with its story, because Tina is a dungeon master who is often times making the game up as she goes along. So yeah, bridges can magically appear, undeveloped areas can instantly be filled with random things like a previous underwater graveyard (yes really), and the self referential jokes are relentless and prevalent. The stellar voice cast only helps to highlight the charm and silliness of the game, making it a fun, FPS romp through a D&D world.
“Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands” is set directly after the events of “Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep,” in which we see Tina in her lair hosting a makeshift table top game with a stranded space crew. The crew is made up of Captain Valentine, his android crew member Frette, and the Newbie, who ends up being the player you control that plays Tina’s game while the others support the journey via voiceovers and jokes. The Newbie plays the game called Bunkers and Badasses (get it?) as The Fatemaker, a warrior charged with defeating the Dragon Lord who has raised the undead to ravage the world. After Queen Butt Stallion, a rainbow-farting diamond unicorn (who is “the most beautifulest perfectist ruler in all the land”) is killed by the Dragon Lord after saving the city of Brighthoof, the Fatemaker must make their way across the dangerous lands to defeat the Dragon Lord once and for all.
There is a lot to enjoy in “Wonderlands.” The worlds are vast and open, the characters and side quests are fun, gameplay is rather seamless and varied, and the action is some of the most fun FPS can be. There are a number of different character types you can play, each with their own unique set of skills, companions, and powers so you can play the game in any kind of style you choose. Want to be a bullish, melee heavy warrior? Or a spell wielding sorcerer? or a sniper with head shots their targets? No problem, “Wonderlands” has a character type for everyone. Even with a lot of repetition, the game is fun and unique enough to never really feel like the grind it is actually is when you strip away all the frills.
While the gameplay has a little something for everyone and the combination of FPS with D&D makes the game incredibly addicting, it’s the voice cast that really sells the absurdity. Prolific gaming voiceover icon Ashly Burch (“Mythic Quest“) reprises her role as Tiny Tina, and is clearly having a blast playing the dungeon master of Bunkers and Badasses. Andy Samberg as Valentine and Wanda Sykes as Frette are heavy hitters that get the assignment. The constant voiceover interjections as you play through the game between the three of them are always welcomed instead of distracting, and add yet another layer of comedy while you shoot your way through missions. The last piece of the stellar voice cast is Will Arnett as the Dragon Lord, who perfectly fits the kind of villain you’d expect from a “Borderlands” game.
There’s a lot to explore, as each new world has a ton of side quests and secrets to uncover, and the Overworld that acts as the makeshift table top design (complete with bottle caps, trash, and ya even cheese puffs that block your path) provides the player with random encounters, new dungeons to unlock, shrine pieces, and 20 sided die for lucky reward rolls. Admittedly, the rewards aren’t all that great and it can be a challenge to find the gear needed to really be effective. But it has more to do with character type you decide to choose than the games mechanics. Whatever misgivings you may have about gear grind the game makes up for by just being really fun to play. Sometimes, the best games are the simplest. “Wonderlands” strips away all of the complexity and unfinished concepts that have plagued recent releases and leaves players with a lean, fun and funny FPS game with a simple story and exciting experience.
The Not Bad, But Not Great
The only major deficiency for “Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands” is with its multiplayer. I don’t know what it’s going to take for developers to figure out to properly execute a multiplayer, but they still seem to not have it down yet despite insisting that every game needs it. Luckily, “Wonderlands” doesn’t rely on the multiplayer as its primary game function, but the game is tailored to be enjoyed with friends as much as it can be soloed. So lacking functioning multiplayer is knock on that aspect of capabilities. It’s not nearly as bad as some other attempts at multiplayer only, but bad enough to make playing with friends more challenging than it should be.
The last thing that sets “Wonderlands” apart in a good way is the lack of microtransactions and obvious cash grabs. Of course you buy DLCs and packs, but nothing about the game requires purchases to be enjoyed. This is a departure from the current state of gameplay that really shouldn’t be that original, but it is and that’s certainly for the best. You can simply buy the game, play it to your hearts content and never purchase anything else. This also makes “Wonderlands” feel complete, yet another thing most current games seem lack. Everything you need is already in game, and while the multiplayer has its challenges, the game functions as intended from the start.
Worth Buying? YES!
I was on the fence about starting a new game as my personal life doesn’t really have enough time in a given day to actually play as often as I’d like. Games are increasingly expensive, so dropping hard earned cash on something you may not get to experience often is a difficult decision. But “Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands” is worth the price of admission, and worth making time to play even if that time is limited. “Wonderlands” doesn’t require hours and hours of investment in single sittings, and allows you to come and go as you please. I made the right decision, and highly recommend picking up “Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to facility a love match between a polkadot poetry reading goblin and a human farmer. Side quests, BAYBEE!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
“Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands” is available on all consoles and PC. Watch the trailer below.