When Gearbox Studios introduced Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a fantasy-themed Borderlands spinoff, throughout this week’s Summer season Sport Fest, it anticipated followers’ comparisons to the Borderlands 2 DLC Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Hold. However Gearbox clarified that whereas Wonderlands would hold the identical conceit – Tiny Tina is the dungeon grasp of a sport of “Bunkers and Badasses” and is consistently altering the sport across the gamers — Wonderlands takes place in a wholly new world with new characters (apart from Tiny Tina) and incorporates new battle mechanics, like spellcasting.
With Wonderlands so clearly taking cues from Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Hold, among the best and most impactful DLCs of all time, I’m apprehensive that Gearbox is doomed to repeat the identical errors it made with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Borderlands 3.
Gearbox tends to reuse and recycle the identical Borderlands ideas and characters that beforehand resonated with gamers. Good-looking Jack, the baddie within the extraordinarily well-received Borderlands 2, is taken into account to be one of many biggest online game villains; understanding this, Gearbox constructed the less-well-received Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel round Jack’s origin story.
Although The Pre-Sequel arrived after Borderlands 2, it wasn’t the third main-series sport that followers had been searching for. That arrived in 2019 below the (apt) title Borderlands 3, which confronted the titanic activity of dwelling as much as the narrative and gameplay heights of Borderlands 2, to not point out virtually seven years of participant anticipation. Positive, the sport was effective, however that was the issue — it was simply effective, not superb.
Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Hold was a unique story, although; there’s nothing fairly prefer it within the franchise. For many of Borderlands 2, gamers are caught on Pandora, which has very similar-looking landscapes and enemies. By the point you end the bottom sport and all the opposite DLCs – Assault on Dragon Hold is designed to be performed final – you’re searching for one thing new. The Dragon Hold DLC not solely supplies all-new enemies, areas, and weapons (spells as an alternative of grenades!), it presents one thing that the Borderlands sequence doesn’t have loads of: Real emotion.
In addition to giving gamers extra of the humor and loopy antics that they’ve turn into accustomed to over the course of the sport, Assault on Dragon Hold explores Tina’s grief over the demise of Roland, a playable character within the first Borderlands and a central nonplayable character in Borderlands 2. Tina, refusing to imagine that Roland is admittedly gone, makes him a personality within the DLC’s universe. The opposite NPCs, who’re taking part in the sport as Tina DMs, are searching for a approach to inform her that Roland isn’t coming again … however in fact, that is Borderlands, and what ought to be easy simply isn’t.
The storytelling is foolish and inane, however there’s one thing way more highly effective and profound lurking simply beneath the floor. In contrast to virtually all the pieces else within the franchise, this facet of the story isn’t overdone – it’s quiet and understated, a meditation quite than an explosion.
Although it takes place in a brand new world with new characters, Wonderlands seems to be to take robust cues from the extremely constructive participant response to Assault on Dragon Hold. Although I used to be initially excited on the alternative to return to a fantasy Borderlands setting, the extra I considered it, the extra involved I turned. One of many causes Assault on Dragon Hold works is as a result of it’s actually two totally different tales merged collectively – the story of a gaggle of mates taking part in a tabletop sport collectively and the story of a younger lady processing grief. When you take away Tina’s story, the DLC would merely be one other reskinned Borderlands journey – albeit a particularly inventive and enjoyable one. What gave the story energy was its emotional resonance and the tough actuality it forces Tina to face.
Gearbox probably selected to spin Assault on Dragon Hold into its personal sport due to its essential reception and acclaim from gamers. If Wonderlands desires to rise to the extent of its DLC predecessor, it has to recollect what made the unique nice within the first place – and it’s not dragons and weapons.