Why the ending of Tiny Tina’s Wonderland was such a disappointment
Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is a flurry of intriguing narrative ideas, a veritable world of possibilities, full of captivating concepts and mind-blowing potential outcomes. And then… he does nothing with them, culminating in an ending that fails to fulfill its own potential. Let’s talk about it.
Spoilers ahead for the ending Tiny Tina’s Wonderland.
Spin-from gearbox Borderlands loot shooter series, Tiny Tina’s Wonderland The action takes place chronologically between the events of the second and third main games, and takes place almost entirely physically in a fantasy tabletop role-playing game called Bunkers and bullies (funny twist on one influential board game from IRL). Divisive Tiny Tina plays the role of a dungeon master; you are the “arbiter of fate”, in general, the catch-all term for the “player-hero”. Your one glimpse of Pandora, the main setting Borderlandsthrough a plot device: the cave in which you play Bunkers and bullies.
Wonderland includes the standard “Save the Kingdom from the Bad Guy” story, which is enhanced with some top notch vocals. Wanda Sykes and Andy Samberg play your doomsday companions (respectively, a fully sentient robot and a completely unlucky bounty hunter). Meanwhile, Will Arnett is voicing the game’s villain, the Dragonlord, a role that suits him perfectly.
Early on, Dragon Lord hints that he, and not Tiny Tina, is in control. Bunkers and bullies. “Psst…newbie. Don’t worry, those idiots at the table can’t hear me. It’s just us here,” he says in one of the first missions. Later, Tiny Tina remarks “This shouldn’t have happened” after the Dragon Lord suddenly beheads Queen Ass, the ruler of the kingdom, a deviation from Tiny’s scenario. Moments like this, where the Dragon Lord goes against Tina’s carefully crafted narrative and then brags about it, are replete with other episodes. Wonderland.
You feel that Wonderland comes to an inevitable conclusion: the Dragon Lord is actually breaking out of the game and wreaking havoc on the “real” world. Borderlands World. Maybe you fight him outside Bunkers and bullies as a necessary battle with the final boss of the second stage. Or maybe he really is running away, (Perhaps as the villain in the inevitable next mainline Borderlands? Or – hell, why not – a cameo in this year’s big screen adaptation?) Either way: damn cool!
But no. In the last few missions of the game, when you storm his fortress, the Dragonlord starts talking openly about how he can affect the game. It’s a cool concept, even though the wind is sucked right out of his sails. While the Dragon Lord is indeed capable of changing what “should” happen in Tina’s eyes, causing waves of enemies and environmental hazards for you to deal with, she simply uses her powers as a dungeon master to put him back in place. . He was stuck as a pawn, no matter how much he wanted to be a chess player.
And here’s the actual ending. Well, for one thing, the meddlesome Dragon Lord turns out to be a complete pushover in the climactic boss fight. Maybe it’s because I pointed out how the strongest class in the game– and also played with someone with the same powerful build – but we cut through the Dragon Lord like butter. The Queen Butt Stallion comes back to life, not decapitated (decapitated?). There is a short cinematic moment where it seems like you have some choice regarding the Dragon Lord’s fate; your character, after all, is fateful. But where any other game would allow for an ending with multiple conclusions, you don’t get that kind of leeway. You let him live. Queen Stallion orders him 200 years in prison. Thus, his role becomes a steward in the Chaos Chamber end-game mode (which, however, absolutely, undeniably amazing).
He doesn’t break out like you’d expect for most of the game, really. Bunkers and bullies and leave any impact on the wider Borderlands narration. He just becomes another NPC.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderland could be bold, he could really use the “wonderful” part of his namesake. Instead, it changes the perspective of the imagination to something much more familiar and mundane. Instead of letting Bunkers and bullies spring to a totally imaginary life, Wonderland dissipates its own magic, as if uttering with a dismissive shrug the phrase I thought we applied for a lock and key many years ago: “It’s just a game.”