First things first, I don't care about the precise legal definition of Pringles. But there was a fiasco a few years back about whether they could be described as crisps rather than processed starch snacks or whatever. The point is: Pringles are blatantly crisps. Or at the very least a kind of crisp. And so to Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, revealed last night at the Summer Game Fest with the following trailer, and a chat between Geoff "the ref" Keighley and voice actor Ashly Burch, in which it was claimed that it was not going to be a Borderlands game. Only, it completely is going to be one.
Wonderlands, a word just two letters away from being "Borderlands", had its genesis in Assault On Dragon Keep, a Borderlands 2 DLC in which you play out a gun-heavy D&D adventure GMed by Tiny Tina, the pyromaniac teenager who Burch voices. Since Tina appears at the end of the Wonderlands trailer, dressed as some sort of bin witch and shrieking "roll for initiative, suckers" in a voice like a masonry drill, a reprise of this bit seems a safe bet. Indeed, Burch said that Tina is "guiding the narrative".
Beyond that, we don't know a huge amount - the trailer mostly involved someone shooting a dragon with a gun in slow motion. Nevertheless, it's clear that Gearbox's messaging for Wonderlands focuses on the idea that the game represents something new and exciting for the Borderverse.
I'd love that to be the case! I've always had a soft spot for the Burgerlungs games, but after 12 years of studiously comparing machinegun stats and having fart lols bellowed at me by mutants, I'm feeling a bit fatigued by the formula. Something out of left field, then, in the manner of Tales From The Borderlands, would have been mega welcome.
Alas, unless something crucial is being held back, Wonderlands won't be that. After stressing it would be something new, Burch immediately called it a "looter-shooter", with the game's website going on to promise "a rich, story-driven co-op campaign for up to four players, as well as repeatable end-game content". It will be a world where "bullets, magic, and broadswords collide". So... quite a lot like Borderlands?
I'm being a bit pedantic and mean about this, I know. But without any sort of new, differentiating feature to announce (aside from a more trad-fantasy setting), it seems odd for Gearbox to hang the announcement on the vague suggestion of one. And yes, in fairness, we were teased with the promise of character customisation and spellcasting. But then, Borderlands kind of always had spellcasting with the Siren class. And what are guns, after all, if not nature's spells?
If the next trailer shows characters having to trace elaborate runes with trails of bullet holes in order to summon massive ants, or something equally inventive, I'll feast on my words. I will be less surprised, let's say, if the active abilities turn out to have been rebranded as spells for Wonderlands' skill trees.
"What are guns, after all, if not nature's spells?"
All gripes aside, there's still every possibility that Wonderlands will be a really good Borderlands game. The game taking place inside an in-universe D&D sesh offers loads of room for creativity, after all, and Burch mentioning that her character will be inclined to change the narrative "on a dime" was a good sign. I maintain that when Borderlands border-lands its jokes, they're great. And with Burch joined on the cast by Will Arnett, Wanda Sykes and Andy Samberg, the script will surely be in good hands.
But no matter who's telling them, when Borderlands' jokes fall flat, they can be really fucking tiresome, even without the studio's tendency to grasp their favourite lols in a choking death grip. The fact that the trailer pulled the classic "epic opening, subverted by a sudden moment of bathos" move by introducing, wait for it, Butt Stallion, didn't exactly ram me full of hope. Still, at least there was no record scratch noise. Fingers crossed.
E3 2021 may be over but our memories live on - see everything on our E3 hub. Many more big game showcases and streams are still to come this summer, leading up to Gamescom, so see our summer games stream schedule to stay up to date.