Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Hands-on Preview: A D&D Twist in Borderlands Style

Who's up for a game of Bunkers & Badasses?

Everyone’s favorite crass blabbermouth is back with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, and we got a quick preview of what is to come. Ever since Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC for Borderlands 2 launched in 2013, it has felt like Borderlands’ looter shooter RPG style mixed with the high fantasy style of a D&D RPG would be a perfect marriage. Now with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, we’re ready to go all-in on the world of Bunkers & Badasses. 

As a long-time fan of the Borderlands series, I felt like Borderlands 3 was where I had enough of the series. However, my time with a preview build of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has me interested and excited about where Gearbox is taking their longstanding looter shooter.

Wonderlands plopped us down on a snowy slice of the Wonderlands overworld. The vistas looked like a cell-shaded Borderlands take on Skyrim’s Nordic art style, which was nice to see. Soon after taking in the scenery, I stumble upon a cave where I meet a friendly goblin named Jar, who I would soon be helping on her crusade to liberate her enslaved goblin worker kin by doing what I do best. And that would be shooting everything that moves, picking up everything that isn’t nailed down, and propping up pro-worker propaganda throughout exploitative workplaces. 

The classic “shoot your way out” style of gameplay is alive as ever, and, as always, Gearbox is at the forefront of culture with its own satiric twist on it. I always thought they were like Rockstar, but with more fart jokes. Although I will say that the typical sophomoric humor present in these Borderlands games was slightly more muted in this demo. I’m eager to see how the dialogue and humor in the full release pan out. Honestly, I found more humor in seeing the absurdity of a mythical goblin wielding a machine gun like he’s Rambo instead of any pop culture reference that will date the game in due time.

What struck me as a significant departure from the series was the lack of emphasis on guns in Wonderlands. Borderlands has always been a series that prides itself on having “one bazillion guns,” and guns with legs, guns with puns, guns that talk, you get the point. Wonderlands scale back the focus on guns in favor of other mechanics, which so far is looking like a good move thanks to two significant additions and improvements to the formula. Class building and magic.

Our preview demo was limited to two classes to choose from, the Graveborn or the Stabbomancer. Character building might be the most exciting aspect of this title so far. Classic point stacking character building is present, with stats such as dexterity, strength, and intelligence fleshing out your playstyle. Skill trees have tons of variations, and there seems to be a lot of room to tailor a build for the exact way you would like to play. Borderlands always had a solid RPG base, and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands feels like an excellent progression of their existing systems. There is a lot of promise in these new systems.

The other significant new feature are spells that replace the function of grenades. While I’ll miss the more absurd grenade effects from Borderlands games of the past, spells are better in every way. They are delightfully flashy and feel impactful. There is no way that ripping a hole in the sky and dropping a meteor on someone was ever going to be anything but extraordinary. New spells are picked up as spoils of your carnage the same way guns and shields are, so there is a clear push towards having you try lots of spells and always trying something new with your build.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands releases soon, and I was thoroughly impressed in my short time with it. The new setting looks promising and varied. It’s a nice break from the barren wastes of Borderlands. Guns have been scaled back to emphasize what you do in combat, with spells, melee, and combat arts taking a more prominent role in how you fight; an excellent way to keep things fresh while still retaining the classic looter shooter gameplay loop. Everything is shaping up to be an entertaining D&D twist on the Borderlands formula.

Keep an eye out for Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, as it might be a sleeper hit in a season overrun with outstanding games.