After what many would consider one of the best pieces of DLC to be released for a game, many people clamored for a taste of what Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep had to offer once again. A piece of content jam packed with easter eggs, funny references, amazing voice acting, and a stellar character arc; the DLC was about as close to perfect as you could get. With the release of Borderlands 3, fans were remiss to see a game that not only fell short of expectations, but was only ever held up by post-release DLC that had nothing to do with the game’s main story. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is more than a step in the right direction, turning back the dial to give fans an experience that lives up to the Borderlands name. A star studded voice cast and story that doesn’t disappoint for the scope it presents itself in, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands feels like a return to form while maintaining the snappy gunplay presented in Borderlands 3 and other gameplay advancements that change the game for the better.
One of the main gripes fans had with Borderlands 3 was the subpar story it had for being a numbered sequel. With the writing off of major characters and loss of Handsome Jack, Borderlands 2 is a hard act to follow. DLC remedied this a bit with the refocusing on side characters from Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel, but this didn’t fix the issues with the main narrative as a whole. Otherwise, there were significant improvements in gameplay, ranging from elements from The Pre-Sequel returning, like ground pounding, to general improvements like snappier gunplay with better feedback and sliding to improve player mobility and make the game less stationary. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands retains these changes, and creates levels with a focus on environmental damage as well as verticality. A lot of the maps in the Wonderlands have vertical vantage points, and some levels are entirely centered on vertical movement. This creates unique situations for the player to traverse and forces some tactical thinking on higher difficulties. The level variety for world maps is very refreshing, considering the setting in a fantasy world. The ability to step away from the very bleak world of Pandora and journey through a magical world sets this game apart on its own, but the Borderlands touch of influence on the world not only makes things just familiar enough, but keeps a certain type of fun from past games preserved here.
The story of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands takes place in two parts; Tina’s out of game story and the Bunkers & Badasses game. Outside of the game, the player is with Tina, Captain Valentine, and Frette (voiced by Andy Samberg and Wanda Sykes respectively) playing Bunkers & Badasses. Being the Borderlands universe’s analogue to Dungeons & Dragons, the campaign is imagined and managed by Tiny Tina, who sets the players on their adventure. You play as the Newbie, having never played Bunkers & Badasses before. The plot of the game is to help Queen Butt Stallion defeat the Dragon Lord in his lair before he takes over the world with the Sword of Souls. While the premise is simple, the plot can be (and is) regularly altered by Tina whenever she so chooses. What makes the story of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands so endearing is that, much like Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, this is a commentary on Tina and her friends. To her, it’s not just a game, but a way to make and maintain new friends and socialize. The game does a very good job in fleshing out Tina’s character post Borderlands 2, and looks to establish Tina as more than a cool side character in the Borderlands universe.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a refreshing looter shooter after not only Borderlands 3, but other games like Outriders looking to fill a void left by Borderlands 2 and Destiny. There is some repetition in the endgame with level layouts for Chaos runs, but overall there’s the staple Borderlands grind and replayability here that’s only going to be further established by DLC. With interesting content and new classes already in the pipeline for the game, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is an incredibly fun title alone or with friends, and will certainly scratch the itch for both casual players and hyper-grinders alike.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 5