Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is the latest entry in the Borderlands saga, this time expanding on the critical hit of a DLC for the second game. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep saw the Vault Hunters take part in a D’n’D style roleplaying campaign that changed according to Tina’s mercurial nature. There was more to it than met the eye, though. It told the story of Tina’s personal trauma, and her refusal to accept Roland’s death.
So Wonderlands had a lot going for it as a concept. I personally had some doubts about it – it worked really well as a DLC but I wasn’t sure if the theme would have the same potency across an entire campaign. Unfortunately, I think I was probably right. Wonderlands is short, inconsistent, and mostly underwhelming.
Unless you get sucked into completing a list of mostly identical sidequests, you’ll easily clear the main campaign in under ten hours. In the Metro review, they said it was on par with Borderlands 3, and that’s on the money. It’s still one of the more entertaining co-op shooters you can buy; but the “Haha, fantasy but with guns!” shtick only goes so far.
So what is it exactly that goes wrong? The voice cast is excellent – obviously spearheaded by ANOTHER phenomenal Ashly Burch performance as Tina. She’s supported by Andy Samberg in his first role in a game, Wanda Sykes, and the inimitable Will Arnett (well, inimitable by almost everyone except Nick Kroll voicing the Hormone Monster). Sadly, the amount of VO talent on display is held back by a script that has become the new standard for Borderlands now. Everybody always talks. All of the time. If they’re funny at first, you’ll be sick of them eventually.
Samberg and Sykes voice series newcomers Valentino and Frette, a pair of space pirates we never really get much more context on. Valentino is a classic Samberg character – essentially just Jake Peralta in space – and Frette is a typically murderous robot.
The problem is that Wonderlands doesn’t know when to end a joke. In the last sequence, Samberg bellows “FOR YOU… ARE THE FATEMAKER” at least three times, and it’s unclear whether it’s a running joke falling incredibly flat or just an audio error. They’re basically just there to make snarky comments and infuriate/upset Tina from time to time, which can cause unexpected ripple effects in the fantasy world.
When all was said and done, I actually didn’t mind Valentino or Frette at all. It’s just the comedy they’re delivering is so often half-baked and lazy. Part of me wonders if we’re likely to see these guys again in a future mainline installment, but with such big names attached to them, that may be unlikely.
Borderlands’ problem these days is that all of its characters are one-note. Many of them even share the same note, so you’re basically just hearing the same thing over and over again. This really compounds Wonderlands‘ core problem of having so many repetitive side quests. It’s really just a copy-pasted BL3 in a fancy wizard robe.
Is Tina Tina’s Wonderlands a wonder of a game?
All this leaves Wonderlands in a really odd place for me. Both as a critic and as a player. The story lacks a lot of the comedy and emotional punch that made Borderlands 2 the classic it is. The fantasy theme is really, really thin. You might pick up melee weapons and the occasional crossbow every now and then, and grenades have been replaced by spells, but that’s really as deep as it goes. This is Borderlands 3 with a few words changed to sound more fantasy than sci-fi.
And yet, it’s still a fairly enjoyable co-op shooter. If you’re purely here for the gameplay you know and love it certainly delivers more of that, but if you want a little more out of it you might be disappointed. Fingers crossed the inevitable swathes of DLC will add a bit more variety, because I probably won’t be playing this much more as it is. Tales From The Borderlands still holds the crown of best spin-off – I’ll take finger guns over Wonderlands’ fantasy shotguns any day.
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