Gearbox has knocked the ball out of the park every time it has made a new Borderlands game, and while it’s obviously not time for Borderlands 4 just yet, given that the third instalment is not even three years old yet, series fans still have something to look forward to in the near future. In 2013, Gearbox released an experimental DLC for Borderlands 2 called Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, taking players on a unique experience that took the series’ characters, aesthetic, humour, and loot-driven gameplay, and applied it all to a chaotic, Dungeons and Dragons-inspired fantasy setting. It was weird, it was different, and people loved it.
Soon, Gearbox will be doubling down on that with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, which essentially takes that concept and turns it into a whole, full-fledged, standalone game. There’s reason enough to be excited for that based purely on the fact that it’s happening- because the Borderlands 2 DLC was great, and more of that, but even better refined and more expansive, sounds like an excellent idea. On top of that, experimentation and uniqueness are rare enough (and growing rarer by the day) in games, so it’s great to see a major AAA franchise doing something like this.
But of course, there’s plenty about Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands as a game that’s got us paying attention to it as well. As you might expect, a lot of that is carried over from what we liked about the Borderlands 2 DLC- such as the fact that it’s so heavily focused on Dungeons and Dragons. Seeing a high fantasy world inspired by that, but with a unique Borderlands spin that brings that style, identity, and humour the series has always been known for, promises to be a one-of-a-kind experience, especially if it’s properly pulled off. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that Borderlands’ humour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so unless Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands approaches that differently, we might hear familiar criticisms from many on that front. It seems like we will, because this looks like Borderlands through and through, especially with plenty of returning characters who’re obviously going to behave the way they always have- which, of course, is great news for Borderlands fans.
Another potentially huge detail that can be a big point in this game’s favour is the role that Tiny Tina herself players. She’s the dungeon master in this fantasy D&D adventure we’re going to embark on- but Tiny Tina is Tiny Tina, so you can expect her to cause all sorts of chaos. Gearbox says she’s going to be erratic, unpredictable, switch things up on a whim, and change things in the world just because she feels like it. That does admittedly have the potential to get annoying, if it’s done too much, or not done in moderation- but if it does get properly implemented, it could be another thing that sets the game apart from everything else and add a unique layer to the experience, especially if it’s something that happens dynamically rather than at scripted moments.
And sure enough, there are other ways Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is leveraging its D&D theme as well. For starters, rather than adopting the structure of the mainline Borderlands games, Wonderlands is going to use a D&D campaign as its main framework. Outside of the game’s locations and dungeons, players will traverse a game board using chibi-esque figures representing their characters, which will essentially function as the game’s overworld, and here, you can more from location to location, engage in random battles, and dabble in some exploration. Whether you look at it from a visual perspective, a conceptual one, or from a pure gameplay point of view, it sounds like an interesting idea.
No, it’s not wholly unique, in that there are plenty of other games that have done similar things- but again, it’s all about the execution. And it is unique for a Borderlands game. Hopefully the overworld will be large and varied enough in its design that traversing and exploring it will feel like a valuable part of the experience. Apparently there’s going to be plenty of scope for the latter at least, with Gearbox saying that you might miss entire areas of the world if you don’t thoroughly explore the game board. Speaking of which, the areas, too, have caught our eye- from medieval fantasy cities and imposing castles to deserts, dungeons, and towns in the clouds, it looks like Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is going to have plenty of ideas up its sleeve and will be leveraging its fantasy setting in some interesting ways. We’re more than a little excited to dig into and explore these locations and see what they have on offer.
And yes, above all of that, there will be the combat and the loot. This is still a Borderlands game, after all- and that, other than the art style and the humour, is where Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is going to stick most closely to the series that has spawned it. Combat will still focus on killing large numbers of enemies to gather new loot, power up, kill larger enemies, and do it all over and over- you know, like any looter shooter. There’s going to be plenty of guns, plenty of customizations and perks, and all that stuff- but there’s going to be some interesting twists as well.
Each of the playable classes will offer something unique, from spellcasting simultaneously with both hands to ranged combat, from specializing in stealth to wielding a massive hammer, to focusing on ice-based melee attacks, and more. True to the game’s D&D trappings, players are also going to create their own character, which is something else that’s new for the series, and even be able to have multiclass builds. Digging into those classes and seeing how expansive they are, which combos work best together, and which ones are best used in different situations- that sounds like something that might provide a very compelling gameplay loop.
On top of that, mixing things up, in addition to guns, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is also going to let players use spells and magic attacks, which can spice things up in combat in potentially exciting ways, especially if it’s something that remains central to combat, progression, and customization throughout the entire experience. Melee attacks with different weapons are also new, and though they will likely remain an ancillary mechanic, they do sound promising. If nothing else, they’re adding variety.
Above all else, what’s clear is that with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, Gearbox is doing something new. Whether or not Borderlands is to your liking, whether or not looter shooters are to your liking, it’s always good to see a major developer and a major franchise choosing to go all-in like this on what’s obviously a very experimental game. Hopefully, it’ll turn out to be a successful experiment- it certainly looks promising so far, and thankfully, we’re not going to have to wait too long to get our hands on it and play it ourselves.
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