Wonderlands, Playstyle, and Game Design

Now, I definitely don’t think of myself as an expert in any particular Borderlands game. I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the franchise, but not nearly as much as the streamers and content creators that I watch. Many of those people have 1000s of hours in one or more titles.

As I’ve worked on achievements again recently, I’ve definitely noticed a change in my general ability to play, my overall play style, and my ability to throw together a quick skill build. Most of that change I believe I owe to Wonderlands and the time I spent there.

I noticed the change to my play style in the games first. I used to adopt a very conservative playstyle similar to a cover shooter. Part of that is also my time messing with one life challenges and the general change in difficulty curve moving into BL2’s end game. When everything seems to one shot your shields you compensate by trying not to get shot. The overall level design often suggests this as well, as most of the games have conveniently places cargo containers and crates stacked around. The few areas that exist in the open get dangerous quite fast.

While Wonderlands definitely has cover, to a point, it also trained me to use movement, speed, and momentary line of sight breaks instead. A decent portion of this is the stronger emphasis on melee combat in the game. It’s hard to hide when you’re up close. It’s actually easier to close the distance quickly and efficiently. I first noticed this in TPS as a much greater tendency to use slams and melees as an area damage and/or an interrupt. Those little staggers can buy you some precious time to reload or pop an action skill.

Another thing the game really helped with was understanding basic build construction. Most games in the series have three or more separate skill trees for any given character. This often made it harder to mentally process what was available and how to fit things together. In Wonderlands, though, you only start with one and add a second later, so it’s much easier to see what your options are and how things fit together. After a while you start to see something and remember what you’ve seen in another tree and wonder how they work together. I just found it much easier to get my head around what was going on with Wonderlands. Once I had experimented with the diet version, I find that it’s much easier to take that knowledge backward and apply it to the other games. At least to the extent that the choices I make naturally are much more in line with those seen in end game builds.

The deliberate choice to make the Wonderlands endgame easier to reach is also contributing. The ability to use chaos mode without having to do three playthroughs first placed me in the endgame much quicker than I was used to. In fact, it was the first Borderlands game where I really had any contact with the endgame. It was only yesterday that I learned BL3’s Mayhem mode is available for the other playthroughs as well, as is whatever passes for this in TPS. WL was also my first direct exposure to anoints/enchants as well.

Just looking at everything together, I feel like Wonderlands served as a sort of Borderlands training wheels. There’s a lot more to it than that, but I wonder how much of that is intentional design.

Y’all take care.


Hey, it’s Blaugust time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

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