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Borderlands Spin-Off Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a fun sink

Borderlands Spin-Off Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is a fun sink

Tiny Tina hovers over a Knight in Wonderland on Xbox Series X.

Screenshot: Gearbox

The best thing I can say about The wonders of Tiny Tina I regret having started it.

Not because it’s bad or unpleasant, but because I started it quite late last night and am now more tired today than I would like. The wonders of Tiny Tina scratches the “numbers go up and enemy health bars go down” the itch video games have instilled in so many of us. It’s compelling on a primal level and easily digestible. It’s a blast. It’s hard to walk away from it.

During four main line entries and approximately 400 additional campaign extensions, the Borderlands The series has earned a reputation as stereotypical loot shooters, and rightfully so. You use a variety of randomly generated weapons, organized by color-coded rarity, to kill enemies to win even better randomly generated weapons. You traverse cel-shaded sci-fi environments while suffering from crude, performative dialogue. You know what to expect, although to its credit the series felt really fresh when it was first introduced. There’s just been so much more Borderlands since, you know?

The wonders of Tiny Tinaavailable today on Xbox, PlayStation and PC, is a fantastic spin-off from Borderlands it’s worth (some of) these expectations. Reviews describe a game it’s basically “Borderlands but do it J&D.” (Why don’t we have a full review of ours today? Kotaku I only received copies of the game last night.) Several hours later, however, I found that consensus to be fair, if a bit short of the full picture. A simple extension of Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keepthis fan favorite Borderlands 2 expansion – in which you and your teammates shoot and loot your way through a game within a game, rendered as typical Borderlands with a fantastic reskin, this is not the case.

The game plays out similarly in a tabletop role-playing game orchestrated by Tiny Tina (voiced by Ashley Burch), which means that the plot, as far as I know, has no effect on the whole Borderlands narrative found in the main games. You and your party members (voiced by Wanda Sykes and Andy Samberg) are tasked with overthrowing the Dragon Lord (Arnett, in an absolutely perfect cast for an absurd villain). A fantasy-inspired setting allows for visually lush locations that are more imaginative than the sci-fi landscapes that, after four main games, began to look like well-trodden terrain.

Of course, the starter weapon, a crossbow, is for all intents and purposes a Borderlands pistol with a medieval respray, which really reinforces the whole “Borderlands but do it J&D” thing. But Wonderland quickly implements a bunch of features that weren’t present in any previous ones Borderlands Game.

A can of beer and a dice clutter the outside world in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.

The outside world is full of things you’d expect to see on an IRL tabletop game night.
Screenshot: Gearbox

A robust character creator presents you with points to allocate, ala SPECIAL points in Fallout 4. There is an overworld full of random encounters (although no sign of an airship). Melee attacks, which see you wielding swords, axes, and other fantasy weapons, are actually viable for the first time in Borderlands the story. These changes do not radically change Borderlands blueprint, but they make him feel different from his ancestors.

In another form break, Wonderland starts you off with the choice of six classes. (Historically, Borderlands games start with four, though they offered two additional classes via purchasable DLC.) I chose the one that gives me a little baby dragon friend who breathes fire at anything in sight. My co-op partner, meanwhile, is followed by a mini lich that siphons health from enemies. We are a small army of four tearingh Wonderlands starting areas. I’m excited to see how various other classes match up through the playthroughs.

I will of course have more thoughts as I play (and replay) the game and discover the rest of its quirks. (I understand, for example, that you can mix and match classes later.) But for now, I’m happy to report that The wonders of Tiny Tina is solid, insane fun, the kind of thing that will devour every second of my free time for weeks to come. It’s the dream, right?