Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Preview – Putting the D&D back into Borderlands

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Header

It’s safe to say that Tiny Tina was one of, if not the most popular character that Gearbox cooked up for Borderlands 2. The breakout voice acting role for the now ubiquitous Ashly Burch, this thirteen-year-old rocked up with a hyperactive attitude, slotting into the over-the-top franchise perfectly. It was no surprise when she got to take centre stage in the fourth DLC, Assault on Dragon Keep, dropping players into a Dungeons & Dragons style adventure narrated and DM’d by Tiny Tina.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands pulls off pretty much the exact same trick, but this time it’s a full standalone spin-off game.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

The slice of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands that we got to play saw us diving headlong into Goblin rights activism. Helping Jar kickstart his burgeoning Goblins Tired of Forced Oppression (GTFO, geddit?) campaign, you have to liberate the masses, put up posters to grow the cause, free captives, seize the means of production and eventually battle the totally a dragon (but not really) Vorcanar.

It plays into plenty of D&D tropes along the way, but there’s a childlike attitude to how it’s presented, as you find posters that are just under a rock, and putting up a poster instantly sways the nearby Goblins to down tools. Every once in a while, one of the narrative walls is lifted, as Tiny Tina chats to the players Valentine and Frette, neither of which seems to have played before. It’s their interactions that set a lot of the tone, and the kinds of things you can expect from the overarching adventure.

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Goblin

Battling through the main plot quest was pretty straightforward, but it was really the ‘Non-Violent Offender’ side-quest that I found most amusing. There’s certainly an inclination in video games to lean into violence always being the only solution, but D&D often gives non-violent solutions to problems… so long as your stats are high enough and you get a good roll. I listen to a few D&D podcasts, and always love the nonsensical shenanigans that ensue when the players decide to reason, charm, or simply seduce their way through problems, and that’s exactly what Non-Violent Offender has you do, as you confront a malevolent nearby mage. Why would you not choose to try to awkwardly seduce them? And then the goblin guard at a mysterious cave? And then the immortal guardian protecting a powerful weapon?

Let’s just say it doesn’t quite go as you might expect.

Even though Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a standalone game, disconnected game from the main Borderlands franchise, you can immediately see its heritage. It might be a fantasy action RPG, but you’re rocking up to the fight with sensational weaponry that’s very much in the vein of Borderlands. It’s all part of a procedurally generated loot system that randomly rolls rarity, base stats and perks, and that could certainly apply to fantasy weapons, but Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands still features an array of pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles. Most of them have scopes, many have secondary fire modes, and pretty much all of them could have been lifted right out of Borderlands 3, heck there’s even weapons where you throw them as explosives when reloading.

There is one significant addition here, and that’s with melee weapons, which players can wield for the first time. These again fall from the procedurally generated loot tree, whether they’re axes, swords, great sword, sickles, or anything else that you can think of that’s point, sharp, big or heavy. They’re great for adding a little final smack to an attack when you get a bit close to an enemy, perhaps a nice interjection to having just emptied the clip and running away while you reload.

Your character’s inventory is then rounded out by a smattering of extra rings and artifacts, all adding varying buffs. The most important is probably your SHIELD RING, which absorbs damage before incoming fire actually starts to chip away at your health.

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands "Dragon"

We got to choose from two classes, picking the Graveborn over the Stabbomancer, and so running into battle with a Demi-Lich companion, who floats around and casts spells to accent your own damage and spell-casting output. The Demi-Lich also spouts of a few lines here and there, a bit like every Ratchet & Clank fan’s favourite Mr. Zurkon. It’s a great companion to have and ties into the Graveborn’s risk-reward play mechanics. You see, the Graveborn is all about life steal, and its main ability is Dire Sacrifice, an area of effect attack that sacrifices from your own health pool to deal damage to nearby enemies, and aim to steal life back with interest. It’s great for diving into the action, but needs to be timed right considering the way that you chip damage on tougher enemies. It can be boosted through levelling up perks and abilities, and one in particular uses the Demi-Lich as a safety net for when things go sideways, letting you steal its life to save your own skin.

Of course, there’s plenty more to explore here, thanks to there being six different character classes, a multiclass system that lets you hybridise these classes, and a separate set of stats that you fee Hero Points into and can buff your class strengths even further.

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Seduce Wizard

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands looks to strike fantasy gold for a second time, wrapping up the familiar action RPG looter-shooter of the Borderlands series in the ever-popular clothing of Dungeons & Dragons. A lot of the gameplay will be the same, albeit with additions that will increase the character building possibilities, but the game will hinge on its layered pastiche of Tiny Tina’s hyperactive dungeon mastering, and the D&D jokes and humours that’s built around. We’ll see how well they pull it off when Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands launches next month on 25th March.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –
Written by
I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!