Tiny Tina is back reprising her role as an overly energetic Bunker Master in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. With all new characters, classes, monsters, and weapons, this is not your typical Borderlands game. In fact, it would be better if you didn’t compare Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands to the Borderlands series. Sure, it’s still a shooter looter with some familiar faces and game mechanics, but sadly it doesn’t live up to the Borderland’s franchise. There are so many differences between the two games it’s better to view Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands as strictly a spin-off and not a continuation of the series.
The game opens with Tiny Tina in a dank and dark room playing Bunkers and Badasses with two new characters, Valentine, a suave space-pirate, and Frette, a sassy robot. We don’t know much about these newcomers besides that they crashed their ship nearby. Well, there are actually three new characters, because you play as another person at the table, but we don’t know anything about who the player is. In the bunkers and badasses game, you control the only player character with Valentine and Frette offering commentary and suggestions for how to proceed. The bunkers and badasses campaign is the epic battle between the forces of good and evil, specifically between Butt Stallion and the Dragon Lord.
You can fully customize your character’s appearance, from hair style and general build to tattoos, scars and makeup. As you journey through the campaign you can find additional customization options, and you can change nearly anything about your look at the customization station.
You also get to choose from six all new character classes: Brr-Zerker, Clawbringer, Graveborn, Spellshot, Spore Warden, and Stabbomancer. (See my February column Exploring Exciting New Classes in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands for an in-depth analysis of the new classes.) Unfortunately, each class only has one skill tree. Remember what I said about it being best not to compare the game to other Borderland’s titles? This is a prime example. It was a huge disappointment, especially coming from the options of three or four skill trees in Borderlands 3. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands sorta makes up for it by allowing you to choose a second class further on in the game, but you still have abysmally restricted choices compared to original Borderlands games.
The graphics are gorgeous, as always. The character designs are very detailed, and the landscapes are breathtaking at times. I can’t help but wonder if this comes at the expense of other aspects of the game. The music is alright, but the playable characters’ dialogue is grating. The same lame lines are repeated way too frequently. It’s almost worth turning the volume off, especially if you want to play for more than a few hours at a time. It also seems like the voice actor for Lorelie in Borderlands 3 voices almost all of the character and vending machine voices in addition to Paladin Mike. IMDB does list other actors for the character voices at least, but they all sound very similar.
Gameplay is a little buggy and glitchy, but about as much as other Borderlands titles, so nothing unexpected there. While playing co-op with my husband, the game completely froze, forcing us to manually restart the Play Station. Most of the bugs seemed to come out during co-op mode, so solo players shouldn’t have too many issues.
A major drawback for the gameplay is the equipment menu. You no longer have the option to sort weapons by type, which makes it a pain in the badass to compare weapons. Maybe other players aren’t as concerned about this, but I like to keep a small number of top-notch weapons of every type. Without the weapons type sort feature, I spend more than twice as long comparing weapons to see what to keep and what to pitch. The quick button to sell all junk at the vending machines is great, though. I feel like this feature has finally reached perfection in terms of usability and efficiency.
While co-op graphics are much better than Borderlands 3, as in I can actually read words on the screen, don’t expect to be able to compare weapons in co-op mode. The menu in co-op cuts the second half of the equipment specs, so you have to go into the item details screen to read all the stats. This wouldn’t be nearly as tedious if it weren’t for the fact that when you back out of this menu you start back at the top of the inventory list instead of where you previously were. It got so bad I would have to kick my husband off co-op just so I could re-optimize my equipment and clear out my inventory. The co-op feature is part of the reason I fell in love with the Borderlands franchise, but sadly this feature has gone downhill since Borderlands 2.
One of the other main disappointments with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is the writing. The campaign is meh. Part of the major appeal of the Borderlands series is the return of beloved characters who we meet way back in Borderlands 1. The other major appeal is the witty writing, from the character dialogue to the satire and pun littered quests, Borderlands is very entertaining. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands dialogue and campaign quests fall flat in comparison. Sure, there are jokes present, but nothing close to that of the main series games. The game is still fun, don’t get me wrong, but just not as fun as Borderlands 2 or 3. Even Tiny Tina seems like a shadow of her former self. I can’t really put my finger on it, but she just seems off.
The weapons also don’t seem to have the same punch as main series titles. Combine that with the fact that the monsters and bosses scale up according to your level in all locations, and you get yourself a recipe for constant high stakes shootouts and frequent trips to the new you stations. The addition of melee weapons is a high point, but the spells don’t live up to the hype. It’s infuriating when you shoot off a spell only to see your target literally move their heads to the side and completely dodge your attack. Between guns (4 equipment slots), melee weapons (1 equipment slot), spells, wards, armor, rings, and amulets (total of 6 equipment slots), there is just too much gear to keep track of.
The value is good. Not as great as main series titles, but good. There aren’t any additional vault hunter modes for after you beat the game. This isn’t too shocking given that vault hunting isn’t a thing in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, but it would have been nice to have kept the mechanic and gave it a new name. With being able to multi-class and with each class only having one skill tree, you really only need to play the game three times to get to experience everything. Also, because your character has the personality of a wet blanket, you may not even want to replay the game at all. With other Borderlands games, the higher rewards in the more difficult vault hunter modes and the back stories and personalities of the main characters creates a high level of replay ability. With Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, you don’t have any of that.
At $59.99 for the standard edition, I would wait to purchase until the game is on sale, which it is through several retailers at the moment. Personally, I purchased the chaotic great edition at $89.99, and I kinda regret it. The bonus packs don’t seem that great, and I wish I had waiting until the DLCs came out instead of pre-ordering them. There is also a middle tier with the next level edition at $69.99, which includes the bonus pack but not the season pass.
Overall, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands earns 4 out of 5 GiN Gems. The game is enjoyable, but don’t expect a hit nearly as great as Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep or the main series Borderlands games.