Tiny Tina's Wonderland Preview: Mage Against the Machine

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A player faces a mecha-enemy in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is the Borderlands spin-off game that I have been anticipating for as long as I can remember. Borderlands was once a rather important part of my life, and I spent much of my time at university playing through Borderlands and Borderlands 2 repeatedly. We won’t talk about Borderlands 3, though. Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is very much its own game, borrowing from the Borderlands series heavily, but everything feels that little more fantastical and heroic this time around. I won’t lie and say that it feels that much different to the time I spent with Borderlands 2, but with it having been eight years since Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was first released, I welcomed this new experience with open arms.

Characters entering the Mount Craw zone in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.
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Borderlands, but Fantasy?

2K kindly let me have access to a preview build of Tiny Tina’s Wonderland, which gave me full, unlimited access to the Mount Craw zone. This area is more of an optional area in the full-game, but still allowed me to play through a main plot quest, some side quests, and experiment with collectibles and puzzles. From the 5 or so hours I spent roaming around Mount Craw, I was witness to a few things; dragons, elemental weaponry, a goblin versus trolls political movement, and more. The environment itself wasn’t that much different from its spiritual predecessors, but it did feel a lot bigger. Considering the Mount Craw zone is more of an optional area, too, this has me anticipating what the main areas of the Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands map could look like.

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It was hard to let go of the fact that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is essentially not a Borderlands game, considering much of the menu’s and mechanics remain the same. However, given the new, fantastical enemies, and elemental powers with magic-infused weaponry, the preview felt as though everything I previously loved about Borderlands games had been reimagined on a grander scale. In fact, it somewhat felt as though Borderlands was fused with Skyrim. There’s that same, notoriously try-hard humour in Tiny Tina’s Wonderland that we all loved about Borderlands, but there are dragons, magic, and so many goblins. I am eager to see what other creatures lie in wait across the Wonderlands.

Jar the goblin in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.
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Viva La Revolution

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands preview build primarily involved me freeing a bunch of goblins from being oppressed workers while looting everything within arms reach, and dying a lot. Maybe it was the liberal political nature of it, how cute my companion - Jar the goblin - was, or the fact that their political movement was called G.T.F.O. which kept reminding me of the horror-survival title of the same name which entertained me so much. Either way, this quest was amusing and satisfying, and showed me that I’ve truly missed how fast-paced and fun these games are.

This quest in particular certainly had me looking forward to what revolutions I’d be taking part in next, or if there is a much larger one to come. The creators of the Borderlands series, Gearbox Software, have been no stranger to making light of generalised political hardship and employing it in their games, and it seems Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will be no different.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderland has stuck with a formula that it’s comfortable with, both in terms of gameplay, and it’s wacky narrative, but the introduction of new, fantastical elements has made a world of difference. While I don’t think the fantasy nature of the game or freeing goblins from oppression is going to suit every player expecting another Borderlands experience, I think Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is going to make a lot of players happy. Even if, at its core, it’s somewhat more of the same. Ultimately, it’s an improvement on Borderlands 3, anyway.

A building in the Mount Craw zone in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.
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Fun Without Frustration

After freeing my fellow goblins from their oppressors, I later got on to meet my first boss, Freezicles. The boss is a huge, icy skeleton that packs a punch. He nearly took me down with a single shot in most attempts, and ultimately, I had to resort to running up to him and dealing as much damage as possible, before running as far away as I could to avoid his hits.

Dealing with him took a while, but his imposing threat alongside his comical voice made it that bit less frustrating. Again, as a fantasy shoot-and-loot game, it’s the elements of comedy that the Borderlands’ creators still excel at, which make these games feel incredibly fun in spite of how you may be progressing. Freezicles was a challenge, but there’s no real sense of frustration even when you face death, because every fight simply feels fun to play out.

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That’s perhaps why I am so much more inclined to enjoy Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. I’m not good at games unless they’re Valorant or Wordle, and Tiny Tina’s doesn’t punish you for performing poorly. In fact, it’s one of those games that wants you to progress despite challenges. For example, as you try to clear an entire encampment of trolls and seemingly-fascist goblins, so you can free Jar’s friends, you’ll likely die a few times in the process. With goblins hiding in barrels trying to push you off the map, and others using magic at long-range, it’s bound to happen a few times. However, when you respawn and return to free the remaining goblins, your enemies do not reset, and you’ll continue where you left off. That is, until you die multiple times anyway; the enemies will respawn after so long, but if you’re determined, dying a few times is no major setback.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands provides a change of pace and doesn’t often become frustrating (except when a barrelled goblin flings you to your death), compared to that of RPG’s that have you crying over a single boss. Elden Ring, I am looking at you.

The snowy landscape of the Mount Craw zone in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.

Another Borderlands Experience, Albeit Upgraded

At the same time, I don’t think Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands tries to be more than what it is. It’s a Borderlands spin-off with more of the same unique art-style and dark humour… It’s a game that’s focusing on having a good time and lots of fun, and frankly, this is all that it does. Tiny Tina’s need not be anything more than that, because, respectfully, it’s mainly Borderlands fans picking up this game. It’s hard to determine my full impression of the game considering I was confined to one area, but that single area did provide a wealth of fun in a short period of time; so, I have faith the rest of the game may live up to the same standards.

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For fans of spiritual predecessors - Borderlands - I am hopeful that Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is going to go down a treat. Even for those stepping into the realm of the chaotic Tiny Tina for the first time, there’s undoubtedly some form of fun to be had for every shoot-and-loot fan as a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I just hope that the characters beyond the Mount Craw zone are just as fun to encounter as Jar the goblin and Freezicles were.