Little Tina’s Wonderland does not really get started until the end. The best part of Gearbox’s new loot shooter is a playoff mode called Chaos Chamber. It’s both a total skirt, and in the end, for the best that you can not unlock it before you roll the credits, then, take it from me, to make it really has stained the rest of the game. Now, every time I start up WonderlandAll I want to do is run the Chaos Chamber again.
As you probably know, the game is a spin-off of Gearbox’s popular Border areas shooter. It is set entirely in a version of Bunkers & Badasses (a tabletop role-playing game with fantasy elements). Your goal is to defeat a villain named Dragon Lord (pronounced wonderfully by Will Arnett), and restore balance in the land. Classic D&D things – if you look past the fact that this supposed realm is ruled by a unicorn named Butt Stallion.
Once you have defeated the (disappointingly easy) Dragon Lord and rolled the credits, you will be called back to Brighthoof, the capital. You sit through a typical post-game fare – “press X to unlock a new feature that would have been really nice to have 10 hours earlier” – before being called to Queen Butt Stallions Castle, where Dragon Lord will be sentenced to live out the rest of his days. This is where you will find the Chaos Chamber mode.
Chaos Chamber is an infinite replay mode that takes the two core verbs off Wonderland– it would be “shooting” and “looting” – and remove the rest. You have the task of fighting your way through a series of spaces with increasingly challenging battles culminating in a boss battle. At the end of each room, just like in your favorite roguelites, you can choose which prize awaits you when you clear the next chamber. Some rooms lead you to a coffin. Some take you to a buff that lasts the rest of your run. Others take you to Dragon Lord, which can implement parameters that increase the challenge but allow you to earn more crystal chips.
These shards are the key to how the Chaos Chamber works. As you progress through a race, you can use them on different buffs – to increase your gun damage, spell damage, recharge speed, shield capacity, things like that – where each buff costs twice as much as the last one. You can also use 50 shards to transform the next chamber you enter into an “elite” space, giving enemies more health. (Pro-tip: This is always worth it, as any enemy in an “elite” space will fall himself more shards.) Or you can save them at the very end. If you survive to the end of a run, you will find a room lined with statues corresponding to each classification of gears; turn 500 shards into a specific statue and you get a lot of prey from the category, at least one of which is often a gold or legendary piece of gear—the highest rating in the game.
Over my 20-hour run through Little Tina‘s campaign, I found three gold weapons and one gold class against. After completing only four runs through the Chaos Chamber, my fixtures looked like …
It is Border areas distilled to its essence, deprived of all nuisance and hand luggage. No confusing cards. No backtracking among inaccurate platform segments. No overtly referential, if admittedly quite funny, one-liners. Just bright colors and fun weapons, and waves upon waves of enemies to use them on.
But the Chaos Chamber also introduces the one thing that is greatly lacking Wonderland‘main campaign: an actual challenge.
I’m sure this is not the case for all players, but somewhere along the way, min Wonderland Grade grew a little too big for their britchesto the point where the game’s incessant parade of firefights unfolded as rainbow-colored stops between story beats.
As a Clawbringer (you get a baby-dragon friend) mixed with a Spore Warden (you get a strange mushroom-humanoid friend), I am accompanied by two creatures who not only run trains on hostile crowds, but can also revive me when I die. My collaborator – a Graveborn crossed with a Spore Warden, which is combined to result in the gloriously named Morticulturist class – is similarly accompanied by two little beasts and is equally invincible. When we reached the last third of the game, we pretty much completely stopped dying, even at the highest degree of difficulty. We defeated the Dragon Lord in, oh, two minutes. We did the same for the necessary boss-before-the-final-boss-who-is-supposed-to-be-tougher-than-the-final-boss. It is not Border areas games have to be challenging in themselves, however some resistance would have been nice, you know?
Chaos Chamber offers plenty of resistance. When you start a run, you can choose a “Chaos Trial”, which each completion allows you to unlock new rows of an additional difficulty level called Chaos. (You can also apply Chaos mode to any part of the base game.) In the first level, the enemy’s health increases by 25%, and stats such as the amount of damage they inflict, or the amount of gold and XP, you earn increases by 4%. At the second level, the enemy’s health increases by 49%, while the other stats increase by 8%.
There are 20 levels.
I still have many Wonderland left. My menu is currently packed with side-quests that need to be cleaned up, and I want to mess around a bit with my alternate characters to get a feel for how the other four classes work. Next week, the game’s first expansion, “Mirrors of Mystery,” is due. I feel like I’m missing out on a bit – most of these things seem legitimately engaging – but every time I start the game, I ignore it all in pursuit of an insatiable urge for one thing: chaos. Very lucrative chaos.