Stretching before you is an imaginary forest of forgotten worlds, this breathtaking spectacle only breaks … a huge inverted soda can? This is it Wonders of Tiny Tina, where Gearbox is trying to sell part of a game within a game – the idea that players in Borderlands play a role-playing game, sitting around a table and inhabiting the imagined secondary world of Tiny Tina. It’s almost like being in Animus from Assassin’s Creed (although hopefully less of a drag).
To that end, Gearbox has included some leftovers from the Borderlands class of fantasy “real world” characters as obstacles in your fantasy world, including the aforementioned soda can waterfall, as well as dice and imposing cheese hurdles. This idea intrigued me: a small world of shrink ray reminiscent of de_rats from Counter-Strike or The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.
Gearbox’s upcoming follow up to Borderlands 3, a separate slate based on one of Best Borderlands DLCsShe takes her RPG and tabletop inspiration to heart. I had the opportunity to sit down with Project Creative Director Matt Cox, Artistic Director Adam May, and Chief Designer Gabriel Rubitail to talk about those inspirations and their impact on the game.
All three made clear their desire to translate the Borderlands shooter’s looting game episode into a nostalgic-like structure, with shooter sections spread across an explorable global map reminiscent of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. They wanted to put a real contrast between the more common gunfight levels and the other world. Getting the look right was of great importance to Gearbox: The studio experimented with multiple artistic approaches, including a watercolor approach and rad sound perspective which unfortunately led to some usability issues, according to Cox.
“Very early on, I tried to do tilt photography as a way to make the 3D world look like miniatures,” he said, “but since we wanted the player to still have the ability to flip the camera, I learned really hard if I tried to rotate the camera around the tilt photography, that’s It makes you so sick! I got sick for four to five hours the day I tried it. “
Gearbox has finally settled on the version we can expect to see in the final game, one reminiscent of a sophisticated war game board with exaggerated style (including game-like bobble-headed character models) from pseudo-cel-shaded shooter levels.
Besides just having a nice aesthetic, the travel sections of the map will also shake up the rhythm of the vehicle-based open world of Borderlands. Cox was shy about details, but seemed to suggest that actions within the levels would change the outside world, adding an element of interaction to it.
Robitaille and May also describe JRPG-style random encounters on a world map in the form of one-off battlegrounds, but they seem to be familiar with the reputation random encounters have. They were quick to qualify for these matches, which will have attractive rewards and be highly effective whether players interact with them or avoid them.
It also provided one of the most interesting things about the gameplay side of things, at least from my point of view. He said, “There are giant gigantic first-person direct maps that you can only unlock if you do missions in the outside world.” “It’s some of the best we’ve had, so I really hope people do side quests!”
This definitely piqued my interest. Being a fan of RPGs and Soulsbornes, I get pissed when so much work goes into something players may never see. This, along with other Gearbox-described add-ons, suggests to me that the Borderlands’ well-established shooter formula might be about to receive a refreshing makeover.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is scheduled for release on March 25, 2022.