Watching the news cycle around Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands for the past month has been like watching the news cycle of a game on fast-forward. You know how it goes: Game comes out. Gets positive reviews, fans praise it. DLC hits, is then slammed by fans. By now, it’s basically a framework. Only this time, the entire cycle happened to play out over the course of barely more than a month.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a spin-off of Gearbox’s long-running Borderlands series of loot-shooters, came out last month for consoles and PC. Just last week, the game received its first DLC, a dungeon run called Coiled Captors. It’s the first part of four to be included in a lengthier campaign called Mirrors of Mystery, which comprises the $30 season pass for Wonderlands. (You can buy individual parts for $10.) The season pass also adds a yet-to-be-revealed seventh class to Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
Coiled Captors, which you can access at the new Dreamveil Outlook area by Wonderlands’ hub city, sees you fighting through a number of progressively challenging battles, culminating in a boss fight. Completing the challenges adds extra variable chambers and a new raid boss to Chaos Chamber, the repeatable roguelite-ish endgame mode of Wonderlands. And in the Coiled Captors mode, the boss itself levels up each week—though you have to complete each version before you can unlock the next version. It’s a novel idea that compels a lengthier play time through reruns. But innovation isn’t stuff you can actually chew on, and for all intents and purposes, this new expansion is a series of chambers that you can battle through repeatedly.
“One of the key things is that it introduces that concept [of replayable dungeons] way earlier than the Chaos Chamber,” Matt Cox, creative director on Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, told me in an interview earlier this month.
Approximately 2.7 seconds after Coiled Captors went live, Borderlands fans recoiled. It’s not that the DLC isn’t fun, they say. It’s that it’s disappointingly brief—especially when you compare it to similarly priced expansions from previous Borderlands games. The popular Borderlands streamer Ki11erSix succinctly summed up feedback on Twitter, noting that the Coiled Captors run itself is short, the boss is a pushover, the gear you can earn from it is “underwhelming,” and the expectation isn’t in line with what Borderlands fans have for expansions.
“Complain here. The whole subreddit is flooded with the same posts,” one player wrote in a semi-viral Reddit post on the Wonderlands subreddit shortly after the release of Coiled Captors. “This thread is already longer than the DLC,” another player quipped the same day. Many of the nearly 1,000 responses are similarly negative, saying that Coiled Captors doesn’t offer nearly the same bang for its buck as similarly priced expansions.
To a certain degree, the blowback is understandable. Borderlands games, as Ki11erSix pointed out, are indeed known for offering meaty post-release expansions. The first game, released in 2009, featured three extended narrative DLCs that added extra missions and regions to the game, each available for $10. (A fourth expansion, Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, was more of an arena mode than a narrative campaign. That went up for grabs for $10 as well.)
In 2012, Borderlands 2 followed suit, seeing four lengthy expansions in the wake of its release, each up for grabs for $10 piecemeal or bundled together in a $30 season pass. One of those expansions, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, serves as a precursor to Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Last year, Gearbox made it available as a standalone entry for $10. It was also free for a week on Epic Games Store.
Borderlands 3, which came out in 2019, also featured four post-release campaigns. Those were a bit pricier than those of the first two games: $15 for the piecemeal expansions, $50 for the season pass. Hello, inflation. Borderlands 3 ended up having a second season pass; rather than full-fledged expansions, though, the two add-ons—Designer’s Cut and Director’s Cut—simply added new modes, missions, and enemies to the base game. That pass cost $30.
So there’s some historical precedent for meatier DLCs here, for sure. But on the other hand, it’s not like Gearbox willfully obfuscated any of what’s included in the season pass. In all the promotional materials, from the press releases to the trailers, the studio was clear about what Coiled Captors—and the subsequent Mirrors of Mystery chapters—would entail. And if you consider that Chaos Chamber is the main draw of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, then the main draw of Coiled Captors isn’t what you get with your first run through its thin campaign; the main draw is what it adds to Chaos Chamber. (At the risk of getting into the weeds of, ugh, ascribing monetary value to art, $10 to add a bunch of new rooms and possible fights to a roguelike isn’t that much pricier than similarly scoped expansions for other roguelikes, like Dead Cells.)
But back to the first hand—sorry, sorry, bear with me—there’s also the school of thought that Gearbox should’ve gone above and beyond to clarify the length of Coiled Captors and its ilk. After all, again, there’s a decade-plus of history reinforcing the idea that “Borderlands DLC” equals “huge campaign.” It’s not hard to imagine that some longtime Borderlands fans sprang for the season pass without even glancing at its contents.
Gearbox did not respond to a request for comment for this story.