Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, as you’ve already seen in our first hands-on preview, is a mash-up of Borderland’s unique shooter-looter setting and the world of fantasy as filtered through the mind of a 13-year old explosives expert. Taking meta to the next level, we return to the Bunkers and Badassery of Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dungeon Keep for an entirely new adventure through the cracked lens of fantasy as it exists in Tiny Tina’s mind. With the world of Borderlands existing under a fantasy veneer, we’re introduced to characters we’ve never seen before, both “real” and imagined, including one of the most important NPCs in Wonderlands, Izzy, owner and tavern keeper of Izzy’s Fizzies, the “strictly non-alcoholic” soda bar.
Izzy has a warm and inviting personality, punctuated by her soft quasi-Minnesotan accent. It’s meant to evoke friendliness, but also serves as an in-game gag. According to Senior Writer Sam Winkler, “Tina is just running out of accents” for the non-playable characters in her B&B campaign.
The Gearbox team is tasked with an interesting approach to creating the world of Wonderlands, as everything you see and do within the game conforms to the rules and personality of Tiny Tina. In other words, everything you see is the creation of a team of people tasked with creating a world as it would be created inside the mind of an established, and extremely well-known, character. Because of these rules governing the rules, the tavern setting was chosen specifically because it’s a TTRPG trope. Anyone who’s played D&D knows all too well how many adventures begin in the noisy, smokey confines of a tavern at a crossroads. Adventures often end there, as the fantasy tavern is often where adventurers return to divvy up the spoils of their conquests. Izzy’s Fizzies is just such a location, conforming to the rules of Tiny Tina’s own imagination as well as providing a familiar central location for returning Borderlands players.
“It’s basically Sanctuary,” Winkler said, referencing the central hubs of Borderlands 2 and 3. Similar to your room onboard Borderlands 3’s Sanctuary III, things inside the chamber grow and change as you progress through Tiny Tina’s campaign. Perhaps the most noticeable of these changes come in the form of prose recited by a poet who apparently has some sort of residency program in place with Izzy. As you find hidden poems within the campaign, the poet recites them upon your return to the tavern, growing his repertoire with each newly acquired page of prose. While I didn’t get a chance to hear any of this poetry, it’s Borderlands, so it’s a pretty safe bet it will be ridiculous or over-the-top, or even more likely a combination of the two.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Official Screens
In addition to soothing sonnets, Izzy’s Fizzies takes care of other in-game activities like Quick Change Stations, as well as offering quests for you to undertake. There are three levels of quests in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands: plot quests, major quests and sidequests. The plot quests are pretty obvious–they advance the plot. Major quests are substantial but exist outside the plotline and sidequests are sidequests, triggered when you find wanted posters within the world of Wonderlands.
In addition to the quests, there’s an “ancient obelisk” in the tavern, because why not? This is Gearbox’s creative team filtering its ideas through the brain of a fictional 13-year old chaotic ballistics expert, so within that framework an ancient obelisk inside a strictly non-alcoholic tavern is par for the course. The obelisk unlocks challenges for you to undertake, strictly outside the quest structure.
Winkler said one of the objectives the creative team put forth when designing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands was to give players a sense of ownership of the adventure, a feeling of “expression and connection,” much as you might feel while playing a real tabletop campaign. This guiding principle manifests in Izzy’s tavern. As you progress the game, the tavern changes. For example, when you best a fearsome beasty, you might find its head mounted on the wall. There are also banners to create and customize. Each player’s version of Izzy’s Fizzies will be different, so when you party up with some friends you can bring them into the tavern and flex on them. Winkler said by the end of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands “the tavern will be totally different” from the start.
I asked if, beyond the customizations, the tavern changes at all during the course of the game and got a very intriguing non-answer from Winkler, as well as laughter from Senior Producer Kayla Belmore and Creative Director Matt Cox. “No,” he said with a smile. “But there are changes” to other parts of the game. What those changes are remains to be seen, but I’m sure the broader Borderlands community will have them all tracked and recorded within the first day after Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands releases March 25.