For those who love the grind, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is Borderlands heaven. For those who don’t, it’s a solid shooter that lacks the sharp hooks of a true-to-form live-service game. I imagine this dynamic will remain much the same in the wake of the game’s latest expansion, which adds the game’s first new class since launch: the Blightcaller.
Released in March for consoles and PC, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a fantasy spin-off of Gearbox’s Borderlands series of loot-shooters. Historically, Borderlands entries have put an emphasis on meaty, story-driven post-release expansions. (Wonderlands itself is technically a follow-up to one of those: Borderlands 2’s terrific Assault on Dragon Keep.) But for Wonderlands, Gearbox instead opted to release four smaller packs called “Mirrors of Mystery,” each one a sort of series of combat chambers—light on story, heavy on looting and shooting.
The price tag, however, remained more or less the same.
The fourth such expansion, “Shattered Spectreglass,” came out yesterday, and is available piecemeal or as part of the game’s season pass. The most interesting aspect is the rollout of the Blightcaller class, which brings the total number of available classes in Wonderlands up to seven (and the total number of dual classes up to a number I’ll, uh, need one of you who knows math to figure out).
Blightcaller is an odd class. Whereas the standard-issue Wonderlands classes—Stabbomancer is your assassin-type, Brr-Serker is for melee-focused builds, and so on—map neatly to classes from previous Borderlands games, the Blightcaller has no easy corollary. Generally, it traffics in dishing out elemental damage. But it also has a companion. And a focus on defense, rather than offense.
For instance, there are a couple of skills that increase your damage proportional to how much ward (Wonderlands parlance for “shield”) you have. Wraithmail will restore part of your ward for every enemy you kill. That dovetails with Flawless Edge; every point you invest in the skill increases your damage output by 6 percent if you have a full ward.
Its action skill, Bog Totem, summons a small tree companion who fires a barrage of tiny evil skulls that home in on and attack enemies. But here’s the real draw: Those skulls will match the elemental type of the weapon you have equipped. Combine that with the Geist in the Shell skill—which summons a similar barrage, one that deals poison damage, every time you land a critical hit—and you’re more or less a constant stream of elemental projectiles, dealing damage of up to three different elemental types at once.
Last night, I roped in Kotaku’s Zack Zwiezen for a new Wonderlands playthrough. I messed around with a new Blightcaller character, and we played up through the end of “Thy Bard, With A Vengeance” story mission, which allows you to choose a subclass. (Since Zack didn’t have access to the expansion, he wasn’t able to select Blightcaller as either a primary or secondary class.)
There’s no obvious match—like, say, the Clawbringer and Spore Warden, resulting in the uber-powerful Wildfire dual class—but I eventually settled on the Spore Warden for my Blightcaller, too, since it comes with a little mushroom monster as a companion. Now, I’m a cool AF-sounding Shroomwraith. The Blightcaller’s Active Decay skill increases poison damage, making the little mushroom monster more powerful. I’m excited to see how else the two evolve over the course of this playthrough.
That is, if I continue playing.
The Blightcaller is a blast, sure. But it doesn’t radically change the game. Look, this is my fourth Wonderlands character. Maybe it’s because I’ve now sat through the intro five times (I lost one character for reasons of I Have No Clue What Happened), but re-rolling really clarified for me the gulf between recent Borderlands games and the original ones: Wonderlands, and kind of Borderlands 3 before it, exist in the murky purgatory between a typical campaign-focused game and a live-service game.
For a while, I absolutely loved the endgame “Chaos Chamber” mode, what with its roguelike elements and seemingly limitless legendary loot drops. But it started to feel like a grind for a grind’s sake, all in the endless service of making bigger numbers so you can make even bigger numbers. Maybe, if you’re really, really lucky—like win-the-lottery-multiple-times-lucky—you’ll end up finding a one in 85 billion piece of gear. Wonderlands has the compulsive repetition of a live-service without the impetus spurred by the steady content stream you’d get with a true-to-form live service game: a rotation of cosmetics, time-limited seasonal events (even Borderlands 3 had some of those), new areas that don’t cost $10 a pop, a social space in which to congregate with other players. The addition of the Blightcaller class doesn’t change this dynamic.
So the grind, at least for me, has grown stale. This is fine! Games are allowed to just end. You are totally within your rights to enjoy a game, to have a really damn good time, and then…move onto the next one. If you’re starting Wonderlands for the first time, sure, yeah, I’d say opting for a Blightcaller build would be a good call. But if you’ve been waiting with bated breath for this new class to revitalize the game, you’re better off waiting for Borderlands 4.