Before we dig into our review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, it’s important to remember where we got this game and the not-so-humble beginnings that it came from.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Got Its Start from Borderlands
In 2009, Gearbox Software and 2K Games unleashed Borderlands onto the gaming populace. This game was a first-of-its-kind, first-person looter shooter and action RPG all-in-one. It leveraged a procedurally generated equipment system to create 17 million different combinations of equipment and stats/buffs.
I remember downloading the initial reveal trailer to my PlayStation 3 and gawking at the brief intro to the world of Pandora. A mysterious woman speaks to the viewer, telling them that this planet is too dangerous to explore while flashes of Mad Max-style marauders and vertical-mouthed alien creatures strengthen that point.
“You won’t survive here”, she says, “Not without guns. A HELL of a lot of guns”, before turning to the camera to reveal that half of her face is badly burned. The serious tone, realistic graphics, and monsters on display were enough to get the 15-year-old version of me over the moon with hype.
The Tone of Borderlands Changed Significantly
By the time the game was finally released, it had undergone a change in art style to be more cartoony with cell-shaded graphics. The tone of the game also changed to reflect that change. It was now a more cheeky game injected with a ton of humor instead of a dour, serious game.
Ultimately, those changes probably saved the series. Instead of fading away like so many franchises from those early days of the PS3’s life cycle, Borderlands has continued to grow and evolve over the past 13 years.
In that time, multiple sequels and spinoffs of varying quality have been released, leading up to 2022’s entry to the franchise and our review today of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. This game manages to change significant portions of the Borderlands formula, play with a unique concept, and take aim at a completely different demographic while retaining the fun and charm that Borderlands is known for. Oh, and despite the magical fantasy setting, there are still guns. A whole HELL of a lot of guns.
About Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is surprisingly unique as far as Borderlands games go. In a typical Borderlands game, you would select one of four vault hunters and set out on a journey, completing missions across the planet of Pandora. Wonderlands set itself apart by not taking place on Pandora. Not exactly, at least.
You see, the fantasy world you explore and complete missions in is a fabrication of a young girl’s imagination. That young girl is Tiny Tina, a beloved character from the Borderlands games who first appeared in Borderlands 2.
In a DLC campaign for Borderlands 2, it is revealed that she enjoys a game called “Bunkers & Badasses”, a tabletop RPG analogous to Dungeons & Dragons. That DLC proved to be so successful that it was later offered as a standalone experience that would then be expanded upon in the full Wonderlands game we now have, a love letter to the tabletop RPG.
Tiny Tina Is the Game’s Dungeon Master and Helps Create the World
So, like the “Assault on Dragon Keep” one-shot, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands takes place in a Bunkers & Badasses campaign with Tiny Tina as the “Bunker Master”. This narrative device is used to great effect, even early on in the game. Tiny Tina speaks crazy events and environmental changes into existence, much like how you would imagine a real D&D session to go. This allows for several scenes of exciting on-the-spot creativity.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Draws on Excellent Voice Actors to Bring the World Alive in a Fun Way
We found in our review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands that part of what makes the real-time world-building so effective is the reliably great voice work from the main cast. Tiny Tina is voiced by the always amazing Ashly Burch, fresh off her turn as Aloy in Horizon: Forbidden West. Burch’s delivery sells Tiny Tina’s naivete, but also the many facets of such a complex person. Tina is at times childish, other times sympathetic, and occasionally even sinister in how she sets up events within the campaign.
Burch is the headliner, but Wonderlands’ cast is rounded out by a surprisingly fantastic collection of Hollywood actors. Will Arnett is hilarious and sadistic as the game’s main villain, the Dragon Lord. Andy Samberg and Wanda Sykes are also there to fill out the hero quota for the B&B campaign. Samberg’s Valentine isn’t very different from what you would expect from Andy Samberg, he’s mostly dumb and occasionally funny. Sykes’ Frette fairs a bit better, and we found while reviewing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands that she was one of the highlights of the cast.
Ultimately, the banter shared between Valentine, Frette, and Tina serves as great narration for the adventure, and some of the exchanges are truly funny and endearing from the goofy characters. This is expected of Ashly Burch, who is a veteran voice actor at this point, but this is both Andy Samberg’s and Wanda Sykes’ video game voice acting debut, which is quite impressive!
The Player’s Character Voice-Over is Less Endearing
What is less funny and endearing are the voice lines delivered by the player’s character. Outside of specific character interactions, you’re going to hear a bunch of recycled voice lines fairly frequently. That might have been ok if those lines were tolerable, but some of them aren’t.
I lost count of how many times I heard the line “Spell yea!” (as in, hell yea), but every time it was uttered, it made me want to play without sound. Other lines are equally as cringe, but the quality of the rest of the voice acting makes up for it.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Gameplay Review
The gameplay in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands isn’t terribly different from other games in the Borderlands series. You’ll explore a series of large maps, collect thousands of procedurally-generated guns and equipment, and kill waves of enemies to gain experience points and level up your character. Not a bad premise at all!
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Changes it Up from the Start
What is different about Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, is the manner in which these things are presented. When you first start the game you will be introduced to the game’s setting and characters. After the intro, you will be thrown into the first massive deviation from the Borderlands games: a character creator.
There are 6 different classes to pick from, each with its own unique abilities and gameplay styles. Moreover, there are a swath of different face and body options and even pronoun choices. We found during our review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands that the entire character creator is very inclusive and fun. It lets you get really wild with the proportions of features. Moreover, it allows for an incredible degree of asymmetry. You could make a really grotesque creature if you were so inclined. I’m sure Monster Factory will have a ball with it at some point.
The class you select will determine your initial point allocation, and the final step in the character creation is finishing your character sheet with a pool of points. It’s a nice touch and further solidifies the tabletop RPG proceedings, but I didn’t ever feel like adding points to the sheet helped in any meaningful way. It only ever gives you a small percentage boost to whatever aspect you upgrade.
The Game Begins
From that point, you are literally dropped into Tiny Tina’s make-believe world. The opening hours of the game are an interesting deviation from previous games, as they take place across several linear levels as opposed to Borderlands’ signature huge open maps. One cool new addition is the tabletop-style overworld that you explore to get to different regions and complete side quests.
The big-headed characters on the map are fun, and you can get sucked into random encounters that break up those overworld sections for the better. Outside of the overworld, we found in our review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands that the opening was slightly boring. It helps to get players acquainted with the main story and the world. Yet, you don’t get to the Borderlands signature open maps until 3-4 hours into a game that you can wrap up in 15 hours if you mainline the story.
It’s a pretty big chunk of time, and I just wish the intro was brisker because everything after that point is so much more fun. The early part of Wonderlands reminded me of the kind of game I would play on the PS2, and we have come so far from that point in gaming history.
Once you’re in the game, you’ll obviously be doing quite a bit of combat. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands makes a few attempts at maintaining the guise of its fantasy setting with melee weapons and spells (which have replaced grenades in this game), but it doesn’t take long for players to be presented with a gun.
There are the typical weapon types on display, including pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, and assault rifles. However, many of the gun types have a unique fantasy flair that changes how they look and operate. You, like the characters in the game, might ask, “there are guns in fantasy?”, to which the Bunker Master replies, “You’re in TINA’s fantasy, BAYBAAAAY!”
Wonderlands makes use of the previous games’ procedural generation system that makes millions of different possibilities for different guns. The issue is, like in the most recent Borderlands game, this creates more of a chore than excitement for new gear.
For the majority of the game, you only have 2 weapon slots to switch between. There is also a single melee weapon slot and limited inventory space to carry anything extra. Each gun has an equipment score on the top right of its card; I found myself just using that and throwing everything else away.
The procedural generation system works when you get a really overpowered weapon for your level. Yet, that doesn’t happen very often. But, once you’ve settled into a few guns you like and you’ve gotten used to your class powers, the game gets crazy fun.
Classes in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
Speaking of class powers, there are plenty that applies to just about any play style. Each class fills the role of a standard RPG archetype while being imbued with Borderlands charm. For instance, the Spore Warden is a ranger-type class that uses a bow and speed to take down enemies in addition to all of your guns and a handy, flatulent mushroom companion.
Whichever class you pick will get stronger as you apply points to their skill tree, unlocking new abilities while strengthening others. Later in the game, you’re even able to apply a second class to your one character! That means multiple skill trees, two sets of powers, and even more than one AI companion based on what classes you choose.
The creativity you can showcase at that point in the game is orders of magnitude over what other games in the Borderlands series offer, but it does take quite a while to unlock the best powers and abilities for each class. This is another thing we felt during our review that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands could’ve made briefer.
For a game series that prides itself on being quirky and fun, it definitely drags some of the best parts of the game out, only letting you have fun with all of your powers for a fraction of the game.
Playing with Friends
Another holdover from the main series is the ability to play through the game with friends. On PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, you can do two-player split-screen. On the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles, you can do four-player split-screen.
I wasn’t able to test the co-op during this review, unfortunately, but I can imagine any group of friends enjoying the game and having an absolute blast taking on imaginative bosses. There were several times during a side quest where I wish I had other players to draw fire away from me and share the burden of more difficult encounters.
Tiny Tina’s Endgame – The Chaos Chamber
Once you’ve completed the main campaign and taken down the dragon lord, there is even an interesting endgame, something that other games in the series don’t even have. Instead of playing through the entire story again in a new game+ mode, Wonderlands has a feature called Chaos Chamber.
Each Chaos Chamber has an increasingly difficult series of challenges and bosses to fight as well as new, more powerful loot for you to equip your powered-up hero. As you complete these dungeons, you’ll also gain Myth Ranks, which will unlock even more powers and abilities.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Performance Review
I played Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands on PC via the Epic Games store since it, unfortunately, isn’t available on Steam. It is also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S. Laslty you can play it on PlayStation 4 and 5. This review will only cover PC performance.
Like all Borderlands games, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands uses the same signature cel-shaded art style. This allows the game to be visually interesting while getting away with quite a bit in terms of framerate and textures. My modest PC used for this review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands consists of 16GBs of RAM, an RTX 2070 Super, and a Ryzen 5 3600. The game didn’t struggle much at all with a resolution of 1440p and settings on high.
We didn’t count frames or do any Digital Foundry style analysis during our review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Yet, the game ran quite well with only a few points where the framerate noticeably tanked. Each time that happened it was in the midst of a boss battle, where weapon, spells, and magical effects get really out of control, to the point where your view is basically obscured with flashing lights and colors.
I don’t imagine the current-gen PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X will have any issue with the game overall, but I would be wary about the previous-gen PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Both have been showing their age for a while and the level of effects on display in Wonderlands gives me concern for the kind of experience they would provide.
The Verdict – Our Review of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
Despite all of its flaws, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a reliably fun, over-the-top looter shooter/ Action RPG, and it is worthy of being an entry to the Borderlands series. The interesting additions and deviations from the set formula provide for a fresh experience while remaining familiar, and the things it brings over from traditional Borderlands continue to work and be fun.
There was only one thing I found to be weird in my Wonderlands playthrough. There is a surprising lack of violence despite using fantastic weapons and powerful spells to pummel bad guys and creatures into the ground.
Most of the enemies you fight are skeletons or some kind of fantastical being (yes, including the dragon on the cover), and none of them bleed very much. This is a pretty significant diversion from the hyper-violence and bloody chunks your enemies explode into in other games in the series.
This realization made me look up the rating for Wonderlands, and it turns out that it’s rated T! This is when the whole project began to click in my mind. The slow, linear, hours-long intro before turning you loose on bigger maps, the comparatively lame humor, and even the fantasy setting and young Tiny Tina herself make sense now.
Tiny Tina Is a Great Game, but It’s Not for Everyone
If you had time in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, do you agree with our review? What stood out to you about the game. Let us know your thought on this game using the comments section below. For more great game reviews, check out our review of Ready or Not, a realist, SWAT style shooter.
Wonderlands isn't aimed at die-hard Borderlands fans who have been there since the original reveal trailer, it's more for the younger generation, or for the children of those die-hard fans so that they have an entry point to the series. When I drew this conclusion, the game became a much more rewarding adventure.
This is something I could play with my young nephews and bond over, something that was all at once familiar and completely new. This is now a game-changing entry to an existing series, and I think Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, for all of its faults, is an amazing game for a specific, younger audience.
Fun and Engaging10