After three main installments, numerous spin-offs, and numerous DLC launches (not to mention an upcoming movie starring Kevin Hart and Cate Blanchett), the Borderlands franchise is very well established at this point. But now the developers at Gearbox are trying something different with Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
As the hype mounts for this fantasy-themed spin-off of the popular looter shooter series, RadioTimes.com received access to a demo segment of an early PC version of the game. After choosing between two predefined characters (more on that below), we were able to visit Mount Craw, an area of mountains and caves infested with goblins which will be an optional extra to explore in the finished game.
Running the demo on an NVIDIA 3070Ti graphics card, the visuals were gorgeous right off the bat, blending that Borderlands comic book style with luscious fantasy landscapes. The music sounded great in our headphones as well, and the snippets we heard of Ashly Burch’s Tina conversing with Andy Samberg’s new character really made us laugh.
Shortly after loading into the Mount Craw locations, we encounter a goblin named Jar who considers himself a freedom fighter. This kicks off the first major quest for this map, titled “Goblins Tired of Forced Oppression”. As we begin this mission, it doesn’t take long before familiar elements and fresh new ideas begin to appear.
In some ways (the gunplay, the generously placed loot, chests and vending machines that can provide you with ammo and more), it feels like another game in the well-established Borderlands mould. But in other ways (the magic attacks, the comical goblins, the fact that you’re playing a Dungeons & Dragons type game in a game in a pretty meta way) it feels totally different.
The closest comparison, of course, would be Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, a Borderlands 2 DLC from 2013 that introduced us to Tina’s manic spin on tabletop role-playing games for the first time. Here, the ideas for this DLC are remixed and written big, and the result feels like it could be something really fun and silly (for returning fans and new players alike).
The two classes we got to choose from in this demo were The Graveborn (who sacrifices hit points to unleash powerful magic attacks) and The Stabbomancer (a stealthy assassin who can summon magic blades and send them flying towards their enemies) . We chose The Graveborn, and from our very first combat encounter, it was clear that these magical powers can be very useful.
Before we could help Jar the Goblin overcome the oppression in the mines of Mount Craw, we had to find a way to disable a magical barrier that was blocking the way. After a brief discussion between Tina and her comrades (which was conducted over audio), players were encouraged to follow the “ley lines” to find a solution.
Sure enough, lines on the ground led us to two prominent power sources which were surrounded by less friendly goblins and several other fantastic enemies. This was our first combat encounter, and it gave us the opportunity to test out all the weapons and spells our Graveborn came preloaded with.
We had a heavy submachine gun that launched fireballs and a nice shotgun that delivered powerful energy blasts (its ammo seemed like some kind of dusting of magic dust), and both looked suitably epic and enjoyable, just like you would expect from a franchise famous for its shooter.
On the magic side of things, we had a spell that charred to send waves of electrical energy, and another attack that drained our health to send a ripple of dark magic across the room. Both felt great too, really adding to the power fantasy at play.
Once we opened the magic barrier and entered the caves, the difficulty escalated. As we died a handful of times against bigger, bulkier Goblins (some of which had their own fiery attacks), we lamented that this demo was designed as a purely single-player experience. When you’re in a dungeon-like area surrounded by magical enemies, you really want your group of buddies around you to create that proper tabletop feel.
That said, while it sounds like cooperative multiplayer would be a really fun way to play this game, there was something particularly rewarding about pushing this demo forward as a single-player operator. If you keep an eye on your shield bar (and hide in the shadows when it needs a recharge), it’s entirely possible to play Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands as a single-player experience.
As we helped Jar on his quest to free his friends from tyranny (a rather short mission that included putting up a few propaganda posters, raising a flag, and freeing a handful of prisoners), we familiar with the mix of magic, bullets and melee weapons. It’s a fun and fresh combo, as well as manic, and it’ll be interesting to see how your stats and abilities can increase when you have some skill points to spend (there certainly seemed to be a lot of options in the menus) .
And if you were worried that high fantasy would mean less humor, you can put those fears aside. The tongue-in-cheek comedy of Borderlands is still present and correct, with jokes coming from Tina and her companions, the characters you meet, and your own character (which you can customize in the final game).
We didn’t get much idea of the overall story from this little taste of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands (although we did appreciate an appearance from a very familiar face during a side mission which we won’t spoil here ), but one thing is for sure as we wait to play more – seeing how it all pans out should be a hoot.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will launch on March 25, 2022 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
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