It didn’t take long for players of Gearbox’s new loot-shooter Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands to determine a “best gun.” About a week after launch, fans settled on Liquid Cooling, a legendary-tiered pistol that can technically fire forever without reloading, provided you can reliably land critical hits. That, plus its staggering damage output, put it head and shoulders above other weapons in its strata. Then Gearbox nerfed it.
Liquid Cooling is still a tremendously effective gun. (Any gun that fires forever is pretty damn good.) But it’s no longer the boss-melting machine it was previously, with some players reporting damage reductions of up to two-thirds. It all begs one question: What the hell? Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a cooperative game. Why make the fun weapons less fun?
“Even though it’s not PvP, we want to make sure that the harder you make the game, [the harder it] gets for you, that we want to preserve the choice between a wide variety of weapons,” Matt Cox, creative director on Wonderlands, told Kotaku in a recent video interview. “And so when we find certain weapons that might get a little out of control, we want to make sure that we rein it in so that the choice between a variety of different play styles becomes viable.”
Like Borderlands, the loot-shooting series it spun off from, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands features a setting that allows you to significantly ramp up the difficulty level. By running through Chaos Chamber, the roguelite endgame mode, you can unlock various tiers of “chaos,” each one boosting the health and damage output of enemies in exchange for increasing your chances of finding top-flight loot.
Once upon a time, Liquid Cooling cut through those higher tiers like butter. As did other legendary pistols, like Queen’s Cry and Masterwork Handbow, which were notably weakened in the same update that cooled down Liquid Cooling.
As part of yesterday’s big Wonderlands patch, Gearbox added 15 more unlockable tiers of chaos, to a max of 35. No weapons received any changes, but the update did boost the efficacy of the already powerful AF Clawbringer class.
It’s all, according to Cox, partially in pursuit of the north star of balance, sure, but mostly to ensure players are making full use of the tools at their disposal. Wonderlands is the first game in the series to feature six classes at launch, and to allow mixing and matching between two classes. It removed grenades in favor of spells, which, according to Cox, are used more by players than grenades ever were. (Grenades were limited by ammo, whereas spells, which function similarly, are tied to brief cooldowns.) He also said players tend to use melee attacks more than in prior games. (Wonderlands introduces equippable melee weapons for the first time in the series.) There are tons of methods to fine-tune a class for maximum damage, many of which are more interesting than the age-old tactic of finding the best gun in the game and using it at the expense of everything else.
“Player choice is always something that we want people to have,” Cox said. “Like, they actually have to choose between certain different guns and weapons and gameplay types and spell types or whatnot.”
Of course, there’s the school of thought that if a gun—or a spell, or anything, really—is ridiculously, comically overpowered you can just…not use it. You’d likely hear a lot less from that school were there some sort of directly competitive PvP in Wonderlands. Previous Borderlands games, for instance, had a feature where you could duel members of your co-op party. It was fun, sure, but it was also an effective method for settling who gets to walk away with loot in disputes. That’s entirely absent from Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
When asked why dueling isn’t part of the game and if it’s coming in a future update, Cox demurred.
“We have a certain amount of time to concentrate on certain things,” Cox said. “And so we wanted to laser-focus all of our resources on the things that we knew were going to make, you know, Wonderlands very different from a Borderlands experience and make sure that we delivered on those.”