Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands looks to encapsulate everything that makes the Borderlands games special, with its own unique flavour and flair. If there’s one thing that I took away from my interview with the game’s creative director, Matt Cox, and its Senior Producer, Kayla Belmore, it’s that Wonderlands is its own experience, and should be treated as such. While the trailer shown at PlayStation’s recent showcase doesn’t share much of the narrative, there’s lots of shooting, magic, loot, and mythical creatures to gawk at. Here’s what they had to say.
I think that Tiny Tina is one of the most beloved characters of the recent games. How is Tina different in this spin off? Obviously, she’s closer to her Borderlands 2 portrayal. Does she serve as a narrator and creator to the world and the setting or is she more of a full-fledged character and almost protagonist to this game?
Matt Cox – Like you pointed out this in the timeline takes place after Assault on Dragon Keep so it’s the younger 13-year-old Tina and she is the bunker master of the entire world of the Wonderland. Everything that’s crazy in the entire world comes from her reign. She is the bunker master serving as the one who guides us through the story at the table, alongside Fred and Valentine. So her main role is the bunker master in the real world.
You guys have a stacked voice class as well. You’ve got heaps of talent in Wonderlands. How does working with the likes of Andy Samberg and Will Arnett bring the world and these new characters to life?
Kayla Belmore – We are absolutely stoked about our all-star cast, what they’re bringing to the game and really bringing Fred Valentine and the Dragon Lord to life in such a cool way. And of course, we’re always happy to have Ashly Burch back reprising the role of Tina.
Is the Dragon Lord on the same level as your previous villains? In terms of how charismatic they are and in the way that you capture players hearts, with Handsome Jack and the Calypso Twins.
M.C – We’d have to compare like to compare but I will say that the performance of the Dragon Lord has plenty of charisma, and comedy and heart. I find myself attached to the Dragon Lords performance. I think it’s excellent. With regard to the other characters at the table, it’s a wonderful feeling. You know, feeling like you’re playing a game with friends and voices that you’re very familiar with.
Assault On Dragon Keep is one of the most well received DLCs for Borderlands 2. Is this spin off taking that concept further? Or do you think it’s been repurposed to create a new and unique experience?
K.B – When Assault On Dragon Keep came out, there was a lot of thinking about, wow, it’s really fun to put guns in fantasy, folks seem to like the theme of Tina running this game and the craziness of it. What other stories can we tell there’s a lot more to do here, it could be a whole game. And so it is. We took elements of that as a jumping off point, but then also added more robust gameplay features like the overworld, the character creator, and then made spells and melee more robust as well. It truly is a standalone title, but absolutely, we had some inspiration from the jumping off point of Assault On Dragon Keep.
One thing that I wanted to touch on with custom characters, it’s very clear that Wonderlands is inspired by tabletop RPGs like D&D, and such. It’s been mentioned previously that our own created characters can be multi-classed similar to these tabletop RPGs. Do you pick a class and then build within that framework? Or is there more freedom to it than that?
M.C – You pick your primary class at the very beginning of the game. We have six classes and each of the classes has two skills each. Once you pick your primary class, you’ll get skill points you’ll be able to spend in a more streamlined skill tree. And then during the main campaign, you will be granted the ability for a secondary class. You will then be able to start spending skill points in two different skill trees and gain the abilities of both classes as well. Like a tabletop RPG in addition to skill points, you will be spending Hero Points on more classic RPG stats like strength, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, and attunement. Those traditional sounding attributes hero points actually speak to things like skill cooldowns, and spell cooldowns and whatnot. Also, the new types of gear that you collect, also speak to your build. So, you have multiclassing and a lot of ways to chain your build through here.
Do these Hero Points, replace the Badass system with the tokens?
M.C – They do not. We do have endgame to talk about that. We’re not talking about that today. The Hero Points are something that you get right off right off the bat alongside Badass Tokens.
I saw the melee weapons in the trailer, it’s a big first for Borderlands for sure. How do they function in comparison to ranged weapons? How do you make them like viable in the more difficult content?
K.B – Melee now has a slot as its own loot. Melee weapons have different manufacturers, different types. You can choose your melee weapon, regardless of your class, which is much different than what we had before. It will have all the stat boost attributes that a traditional piece of loot would have. You can also use it to complement some of the gameplay abilities for example there are ways to use the crossbow bolts, like while it’s in an enemy, it increases your melee damage. You can stack and work things synergistically together. There are also elemental effects on some of the melee weapons, and other things that will work well with other pieces of gear or other classes. It’s still a secondary combat system, but it is more in depth than previous titles.
You mentioned that they have their own slot. Does that mean that you have a new slot for a melee piece?
M.C – You still have four slots for guns, and then a different entirely different slot just for the melee weapons that you find in in your loot.
Am I correct in thinking that you can collect armor as well as weapons? Is that a purely cosmetic thing? Or does it impact your character stats and builds?
M.C – It definitely will impact your character build and stats. It does have cosmetic implications as well.
There was a little bit of magic in the trailer. I know that you guys previously mentioned that it’s sort of your replacement for grenades in in Wonderlands. Is that a straight change over? Or do you think the effects are deeper than that? And do they have additional effects that add new layers on to character builds and your core combat loop?
M.C – We don’t have grenades in Wonderlands. But I would say spells are more like mini skills rather than grenades because there is a lot of different delivery systems; fire and forget, repeating spells, channeling spells, self-casting spells, and a variety of different types from fireballs, hawks, hydras, meteors, and circles of protection and a lot so we are having a lot of fun with different types of spells for sure.
As I mentioned previously, it’s clear that you guys are taking a lot of inspiration from tabletop RPGs and such. Are there any aspects you have pulled from these hardcore, old school RPGs that you’ve sort of translated into the game at all?
K.B – One of my favorite ways that we’ve directly translated the idea of a tabletop RPG outside of you know, the character sheet style stats is the overworld itself, which functions as the game board. It is the entire world of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. As her vision, as the bunker master has it, and you can traverse that world and move through it, explore it, that’s the way that you get from one map to another. There are some many quests to do on the map. You can also do a random encounter which is very old school JRPG where little characters and enemy will pop up on the menu it will put you into a first-person combat space and in that space there’s all this opportunity to get loot, and then it pops you right back out once you’ve completed it into the overworld itself. If you do a little bit of extra exploration, you might even find some of our side maps that are semi related to the main story, but also carry their own independent major quest stories, almost like a whole separate module.
Can you guys talk on the narrative premise and sort of the story set up for the game?
M.C – We’re having a whole story set up later this year. We can’t really tell too much. But what I can tell you is that, were taking inspiration on how Assault On Dragon Keep is, we do have the dynamic of the characters at the table, and then the story that is happening in in the world, and I am excited to see everybody’s reaction on like how we’re building that story.
There seem to be a lot more unique environments in comparison to what was on show in Assault On Dragon Keep. What else can players expect besides what was showcased in the trailer?
M.C – Our art team is phenomenal. Like there are a lot of classic environments like with castles and green spaces, and just some weird environments that you wouldn’t expect like that you saw a little bit of our Weep Wild, which is kind of a mushroom forest. Players can expect a blend of both classic and crazy.
Typically, the Borderlands games are quite sizable content wise, obviously you’ve got the main campaign. Then you’ve got new game plus runs. Borderlands 3 had the Mayhem Levels, which added quite a bit on to on to the experience. How would you say Wonderlands sort of stacks up to previous entries in the way of replayability, and content scope of the project.
K.B – There’s a lot of experience in the Wonderlands, we have the entire main campaign that you can go through and each one of those main maps has side missions in it. There’s the overworld to explore lots of activities to do within the overworld. And of course, major quest missions in those different maps, you can actually see a little bit of that in the trailer where you’re approaching as those little bobble head characters in the overworld, that big goblin head cave, and then you see it in the first-person mode. All of that is a standalone story map, which also has its own side missions in it, in addition to replayable endgame content that we’ll be talking a little bit more about in a later beat. There’s lots to do in the Wonderlands.
How did you guys find a way to fit Claptrap in this time?
M.C – Safe to say that there might be some nods there to people who have played Borderlands before. And I mean, in the trailer, you saw that torque makes a very distinct appearance. We wouldn’t want to spoil anything, though.
I think magic is like is a really exciting aspect that you guys are adding into the universe and the world. Are you intertwining this with the guns as well like guns that are more rooted in fantasy? I noticed there’s one in the trailer where sprinkle something into the top is that like a reload animation or something?
K.B – That is a reload on one of our new magical barrels. Commonly they’ll have elemental effects but there are other types of magical barrels out there that I’m sure we’ll showcase a little bit later. We definitely have those very fantasy-rooted guns being that they’re actually magic. We also have crossbow, crossbow barrels so you can shoot crossbow bolts out of your guns, which for me is an intensely satisfying experience.
Do you guys have anything else that you that you can talk about that you didn’t really get to fit in the trailer? Is there anything that you want players to know about the game that they might not know?
K.B – One important thing; while there are nods to existing Borderlands games, and some things that some fans might notice, which is fun easter egg stuff, the story is completely standalone. Anybody can play it. You don’t have to be familiar with a franchise or any other Borderlands titles. You can just jump right in and enjoy.
M.C – For me, answering the question of what if we put guns into a magical fantasy world, adding spell gameplay, melee gameplay and skill gameplay. We’re creating combat loops that that will make players want to use everything. So even though guns are the star of the show in this in this fantasy world, we want to make sure that people have fun experimenting with lots of different types of types of combat.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands launches on March 25th, 2022, for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series Consoles, and PC.