Following the return of the Borderlands franchise with Borderlands 3 back in 2019, the series is now getting a spin-off with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, and we had an opportunity to check it out in a hands-on preview recently.
Tiny Tina was first introduced back in Borderlands 2 and quickly became a fan-favorite, which led to her being the focus of a DLC known as Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep.
This DLC put Tiny Tina in the role of Bunker Master for a game known as Bunkers & Badasses, which is a take on Dungeon Master in the real life Dungeons & Dragons. Now Gearbox Software has taken things to the next level by following up on that DLC years later with its own game in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
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For this preview demo of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, we were able to try out two of the six total classes that will be available in the full release. Our first run through was with what is known as the Graveborn, who is described on the game’s official site as “death-touched acolytes who sacrifice health to unleash devastating Dark Magic attacks and become the phantasmal Reaper of Bones, accompanied by their manic Demi-Lich companion.”
This character was very interesting to use, as you had the typical Borderlands combat you know and love on the surface and then added layers to that with its special abilities. The Graveborn is definitely a case of risk vs. reward too, as using the powerful Dark Magic could wreck nearby enemies, but also could leave you very vulnerable with your shield dropping completely and draining your life.
The other character option was the Stabbomancer, which is described as “sneaky, critical-hit-focused assassins who summon magic whirling blades to the battlefield and disappear into the shadows at will.” While the Graveborn felt like you needed to hold back at times, Stabbomancer is much more in enemy’s faces with using its abilities and quickly taking down foes.
A key different in this preview build also was that the Graveborn already had its Skills set for level 10, though we were able to earn a number of skill points to level it up further. On the other side, Stabbomancer came with zero Skills equipped and let us play around with our build. Each class has a skill tree that you can work your way down by spending Skill Points that you earn, with you at first only having a few options that will begin to brand out as you spend more points.
Perhaps the more intriguing aspect that was really enjoyable was what are known as Hero Stats and Points. This really takes the idea of a D&D character sheet by letting you spend Hero Points to set in the six categories of Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, and Attunement. Considering that the majority of the gameplay feels like an altered Borderlands game, which is far from a bad thing, having something directly lifted from the game’s other inspiration is a cool touch.
One of the signature staples of the Borderlands series is its humor, even if it can sometimes be a little cringy. The good news is that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands sort of hones in on the genre it is based upon with a D&D type setting realized in the Borderlands world, which makes the dialogue work even better.
This is also helped by the very enjoyable voice cast that we were able to experience for a bit during a preview, including actors like Andy Samberg and Wanda Sykes on top of the veteran titular Tiny Tina’s voice actor Ashly Burch. Writing banter between characters is often one of the most difficult things to pull of well in video games, especially one with a lot of fairly repetitive gameplay, but what we experienced in our time with the demo was consistently funny and hopefully is a good sign for the full game as a whole.
As for the story itself in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, the preview really did not give us much overall other than the whole D&D outline with the characters. This is because we were thrust right into an area of the game at level 10 with a story mission known as “Goblins Tired of Forced Oppression,” where we were introduced to a goblin named Jar. In typical Borderlands fashion, Jar is quite comedic and takes the lead for this story mission that also leads into a second story quest known as “The Slayer of Vorcanar” which definitely upped the difficulty quite a bit.
Only being able to do a few missions, it was hard to see how the overall difficulty of the game is and whether it gets unfair on purpose at times too due to Tina’s role as the Bunker Master. This was a unique aspect of the DLC, so it’ll be interesting to see if that’s carried over here too.
Of course, it could not be a Borderlands-related game without Claptrap either, who shows up as part of the Forgery sidequest that was available in our preview demo. This sidequest did a good job at showing multiple elements that will be found in different sidequests, such as going on fetch quests for specific items or materials and even culminating with a difficult boss battle at the end.
One feature that has been part of the series in the past under the name Second Wind is also back, though it’s now known as Death Save. When you are killed, you get a second chance at life by killing another enemy before the death meter empties completely. There is a lot of strategy here when there are many enemies on screen together, as you may want to leave weaker ones around to use to save yourself if needed. This may not seem that important, but it really was when being surrounded by hordes of goblins.
Considering that we only got to play as only two of the six classes and through two story missions and two sidequests in our preview, we only were able to experience but a fraction of what we can expect to find in the full release of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
From what we were able to play, there is no question that this is a Borderlands spin-off in the gameplay style and just overall tone. Adding in the fantasy setting adds a lot to the experience so far though and we are excited to play more of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands when it releases on March 25 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.