Big mushrooms twist about one another, rising like bushes as they block out the daylight. Corrupted crystals bleed from the earth, glinting with malice. Mist circles your toes as you stand within the Banshee’s lair. Captain Valentine’s voice rings out: ‘Be careful, she’s going for a complete occasion kill!’ What do you do subsequent?
Effectively, you seize your shotgun, after all, and run head first right into a chaotic battle of inexperienced slime, loot bins, and unicorns! That is Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands… Dungeons & Dragons if it by chance obtained into all the blue Smarties, combined that with a barrel load of vitality drinks, and led you thru a fever dream marketing campaign. And it leaves you sort of trying ahead to subsequent week’s session.
I got here to Wonderlands as somebody who loves Dungeons & Dragons, however has by no means accomplished a Borderlands sport. I’m in a number of weekly campaigns – each DMing and enjoying – I’ve extra cube than any cheap individual wants, and my cabinets are lined with Beholder statues and Wizkid minis. So once I noticed Borderlands was taking its well-liked Assault on Dragon Preserve DLC and turning it right into a full blown sport, full with TTRPG on the aspect, I knew I needed to seize some fellow nerds and leap in.
Like beginning any RPG, tabletop or in any other case, step one is making a personality. The lessons in Wonderlands are apparent hints to these in 5e: Brr-zerker is your barbarian who can turn into ‘enraged’; Stabomancer is your rogue; Spellshot is a wizard who even has a capability referred to as ‘polymorph’. There’s additionally a Spore Warden which very a lot appears like a reference to the Circle of Spores druid. Principally, you received’t really feel out of your depth selecting a category right here.
Even the character sheets you glimpse within the background are principally carbon copies. Energy, dexterity, knowledge, intelligence – the one stat distinction is swapping charisma for attunement. Which is the primary glimpse of Wonderlands main distinction to the TTRPG. This can be a sport about fight, and fight solely. Overlook Faerie Hearth and Leomunds Tiny Hut – hell, even Treatment Wounds – Wonderlands is about preventing evil head on by bashing it within the face with an axe.
Nevertheless, that’s dashing previous the following most vital step: character design. Dungeons & Dragons is close to infinite within the vibrant and artistic methods you possibly can put collectively a personality, mechanically, but in addition aesthetically. Wonderlands understands that to an extent: you don’t choose from fantasy races however combine components of them similar to orcish and elven faces, feline pupils, reptilian eyebrows. So you possibly can completely create a celebration of gamers that look completely different from one another, however I spent a superb hour enjoying round in menus and by no means actually felt glad. Possibly it’s the everlasting curse of wanting princess tresses in a digital medium that doesn’t discover them straightforward to make, or maybe it was the one fundamental set of armour and restricted hair color choices that made the entire thing simply really feel missing.
Although, by the point you get out into the sport, the character you make finally ends up not mattering. Wonderlands appears to get the will to make a customized character from D&D followers, however this openness means you can make actually anybody and it’s principally meaningless. And in one thing that’s meant to reference a role-playing sport that feels sort of disappointing.
It might most likely be higher in the event that they created a set of distinct heroes to select from (like in common Borderlands titles) so you can actually embody somebody and their place on this planet, as an alternative of being a random personality-less entity. Sure, you have got varied snappy voice traces, however that’s not sufficient while you play D&D. From that angle, it’s onerous to even name Wonderlands a role-playing sport while you’re used to the tabletop form.
Dungeons & Dragons additionally very a lot lives and dies on who you play with – mates are a necessary a part of the expertise. In Wonderlands there are NPCs enjoying as different characters in your occasion, however they’re solely ever voices; you don’t see their minis on the map or their characters in fights. They throw in quips each every now and then, however largely you’re feeling sort of alone in your journey. Even when a pal jumps in for co-op play, it doesn’t make a lot distinction to your sport. They too are a imprecise character that might actually be anybody or no-one. You solely ever really feel like a part of a staff while you in the reduction of to the desk and see different folks sitting with you, the eponymous Tiny Tina main you.
However regardless of feeling all of this, Wonderlands nonetheless managed to attraction me. That is Borderlands. This can be a online game. This isn’t Dungeons & Dragons. Wonderlands doesn’t attempt to really feel like enjoying D&D as a result of it is aware of it by no means can be, nevertheless it completely will get the sport all of us love.
It’s bursting with references. It’s a full blown, soppy love letter to D&D pages and pages with a ton of put up scripts. Gearbox clearly adores D&D. It has an exquisite mixture of enjoying within the fantasy world, with the meta stuff of sitting round a desk with your folks pretending to be one thing you’re not. A part of the sport is performed on an overworld that’s meant to be the bodily map in your desk, the place you progress your minis, full with cube scattered in random locations and bottle tops dropped in the course of a path.
Then there’s the start of boss fights the place your imaginative and prescient swirls again to ‘actual life’ and Tina pulls out a terrifying mini, slamming it on the board. It’s precisely the sensation of enjoying with mates as you mix creativeness with the enjoyment of figuring out you’re enjoying a sport with mates. None of it’s actual, it’s a bizarre magical journey you all conform to take collectively.
Plus, the world is gorgeous. The cel-shaded Borderlands fashion has translated into a powerful imaginative and prescient of towering rainbow castles in medieval cities to glistening lakes on the coronary heart of a forest. A variety of care has been put into making the world not less than really feel like operating round in a D&D sport. Sure, it has merchandising machines (and clearly many, many weapons), however none of them ever really really feel misplaced.
The neon tavern indicators and metallic lanterns are designed to completely match inside their environment. It’s additionally the sort of meta stuff you add in with mates when enjoying. I’ve by chance referenced a vacuum in a sport that grew to become canon tech with a magic twist. These sorts of actual world hints are a few of my favorite components of getting meta with mates. Plus, it’s very a lot a Terry Pratchet science/fantasy really feel, the place magic glimmers from inside the lights that counsel a wonderfully cheap fantasy rationalization.
And sure, there are weapons. However as somebody who performs a rifle-wielding artificer with a steel Chow Chow in tow, I can very simply forgive them. They arrive with steampunk stylings and shoot sheets of ice or streams of acid extra typically than any sort of bullet. They principally make you a really environment friendly wizard or sorcerer with magic distilled into the proper killing machine.
All of that is to say that I don’t assume Gearbox got down to make a sport that appears like enjoying Dungeons & Dragons, however they did go searching at their mates one evening, the shouts of pleasure as a pure 20 rolls, the well-used minis crafted from Lego or plastic dinosaurs, the DM glancing up from behind their display screen, and so they wished to make one thing for these folks.
And I feel they did.
Maddie Cullen is a eager tabletop gamer with reams of expertise in Dungeons & Dragons who has even labored on the official Dungeons & Dragons Youtube channel! You may take a look at her work on VG247 companion web site Dicebreaker on the hyperlink, and take a look at her D&D protection in full over here.
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