Written by Glen Litchfield.
A fantasy forest right out of the Forgotten Realms stretches in front of you, this picturesque view only broken by … a colossal upturned soda can? This is Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, where Gearbox tries to sell a game-in-a-game – the idea that players are in Borderlands and playing a role-playing game, both sitting around a table and inhabiting the secondary imagined world of Tiny Tina’s . game. It’s almost like being in Animus from Assassin’s Creed (though hopefully smaller features.)
To that end, Gearbox has included some of the “real world” of characters from the Borderlands layer in fiction as obstacles in your fantasy world, including the aforementioned waterfall on soda cans, as well as dice and impressive cheese puff obstacles. I was charmed by this idea: a shrink-ray little world reminiscent of de_rats from Counter-Strike or The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.
Gearbox’s upcoming sequel to Borderlands 3, a spin-off independent sequel to one of the best Borderlands DLCs, takes its RPG and tabletop inspirations to heart. I had the opportunity to sit down with the project’s creative director Matt Cox, art director Adam May and senior designer Gabriel Robitaille to talk about these inspirations and their impact on the game.
All three made clear their desire to translate Borderlands’ looter-shooter gameplay loop into a nostalgic, RPG-like structure, with the shooter sections spread across an exploratory world map reminiscent of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. They wanted to put a real contrast between the more familiar gun battles and the upper world. Getting the right mood was of paramount importance to Gearbox: The studio experimented with several art styles, including a watercolor approach and a rad-sounding perspective, which unfortunately resulted in some usability issues, according to Cox.
“I even tried very early on to do tilt-shift photography as a way to make the 3D world look like a thumbnail,” he said, “but when we wanted the player to still have the ability to rotate the camera, I learned “Hard way, if you try to rotate the camera around tilt-shift photography, you’ll get very sick! I got sick for four to five hours the day I tried it.”
Gearbox ultimately decided on the version we can expect to see in the finished game, one reminiscent of a high-end wargaming board with a more exaggerated style (including bubble-headed, toy-like character models) than the pseudo-cell-shaded ones. shooting game.
In addition to simply having a sweet aesthetic, the travel sections of the card will also shake Borderland’s established open world, vehicle-based cadence. Cox was reluctant in detail, but seemed to indicate that actions within levels would change the supernatural world and add an element of reactivity to it.
Robitaille and May also described JRPG-like random encounters on the world map in the form of one-off arenas, but seemed aware of the reputation of random encounters. They were quick to qualify that these meetings would have enticing rewards and that there would be a high degree of leeway in whether players engage in or avoid them.
May also gave one of the most interesting little things about the gameplay side of things, at least from my perspective. “There are downright giant first-person cards that you don’t even unlock unless you do quests in the upper world,” he said. “They are some of the best we have, so I really hope people do side jobs!”
It has certainly piqued my interest. Since I’m a fan of RPGs and Soulsbornes, I love when a lot of work goes into something players might never want to see. That, as well as the other additions Gearbox described, suggests to me that Borderland’s well-established loot-shooting formula could be about to receive a refreshing change.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will be released on March 25, 2022.
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