With the mainline Borderlands games being established as one of the most beloved series of the modern era, developer Gearbox Software is looking to take that proven formula in new directions. Enter Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a standalone adventure game set in a fantasy world heavily influenced by Dungeons & Dragon as well as other genre staples. Ahead of its late March launch, I got to play an early demo of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands to see just how it’s going to shake up that universe.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands instantly separates itself from the Borderlands series with its high fantasy setting. In the short demo I played, I saw castles, wyverns, orcs, and plenty of other characters and creatures that feel unique to this adventure. Speaking of adventure, the game emulates a D&D campaign, with the iconic Tiny Tina serving as the Dungeon Master. She’s an omnipresent force, narrating key moments, describing events as they happen, and making quippy remarks. It’s a fun commentary on how D&D campaigns are often run on the fly, with DMs having to make quick adjustments and improvisations.
The gameplay itself is where players will feel those Borderlands vibes coming through the hardest. The game is a first-person shooter RPG hybrid, and it more or less plays the same way as other titles from the franchise. That said, Gearbox Software injects that fantasy element with the addition of magical powers and abilities that players can outfit their character with. I particularly liked the “Death Save” feature, where players have a brief window to resurrect themselves when they initially get downed by killing an enemy.
Another cool implementation of D&D tropes I stumbled upon while playing the demo came with the Golden Dice collectible. These shining D20s can be found around the map and will roll when collected. The number that the die lands on will determine the quality of loot that it drops.
During the demo, I had access to two of the six classes in the game. The Graveborn, an acolyte who wields dark magic at the sacrifice of health. This class is accompanied by a Demi-Lich that helps take down foes. There was also the Stabbomancer, a rogue-like class that prioritizes stealth in favor of landing critical hits. Both classes feel like a practical implementation of classic D&D archetypes into the Borderlands universe.
The full game allows players to create their own character from scratch and select their class from there. I didn’t have that option in the demo as both available characters were pre-built and the chunk I played was from somewhere in the middle of the game.
It should be known that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is still quite heavily a looter-shooter in its core design. There are chests and containers everywhere, with more gear and items than you’ll probably know what to do with. In true Borderlands fashion, players can expect to find a seemingly endless array of unique weapons that come with their own stats and traits. It actually plays into the fantasy element quite well, as seeking out loot and valuable items is a staple of D&D and other classic RPGs.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is shaping up to be an interesting new direction for the Borderlands franchise. We already know that the action-heavy looter-shooter formula works, and the drastic shift in setting and characters feels like a necessary change of pace. We’ll have a better idea of just how well this new approach works when Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands drops on March 25, 2022.