The most promising thing I've seen from Tiny Tina's Wonderlands so far is its tabletop-style world map. At about a minute into the gameplay trailer from Sony's PlayStation showcase on Thursday, two chibi characters run around a field, unlocking a chest and moving toward markers. This is how you progress from quest to quest, much like roaming between cities and dungeons in a JRPG. And that's not the only thing this hybrid of D&D and Borderlands has taken from Japanese RPGs.
"Random encounters will pop up in high grass, so if you're on the main path they won't pop up, but if you're trying to explore, they will," says creative director Matt Cox. "When you touch them, you go into a small first-person area. They'll have similar biomes, but they won't be a part of the bigger maps."
Cox and senior producer Kayla Belmore both detailed these random encounters as short arena-style battles that transition seamlessly between the overworld and the first-person action. Each short random encounter gives players an opportunity to get some loot, and you can opt-in to even longer encounters for a better chance at scoring higher quality loot.
"We've tried to make it worth the player's while to discover places in this way by adding a lot of things to do in the overworld itself that are exclusive to that part of the game," said Belmore. "Extra exploration will take the players to side maps that act almost like whole separate modules that are within the same Wonderlands universe. They're their own separate substories within themselves."
Belmore added that there are specific mini-quests that are exclusive to the overworld, so you won't just be moving from place-to-place in between bouts of shooting and looting. Armour and melee weapons are two new loot classes for Wonderlands. Melee weapons are still relegated to a dedicated melee button, but different kinds of weapons will have different stats and properties.
The new loot classes emphasize Wonderlands' greater focus on character customization. Cox said that he saw a lot of people pointing at characters in the trailer and saying they're a specific race or class, but he emphasized that you can actually create a huge variety of characters, changing them from beautiful elves to grotesque ogres.
"Not only do you get to pick one of the six classes, but you can customize everything else about it," he explained. "The way you look, even the voice and personality, down to armour patterns and colour of armour patterns."
One other tabletop reference: Tiny Tina plays the role of "Bunker Monster," or Dungeon Master in D&D terms. Because Tina is in charge, she can shape the world around you. These are set moments during the game where Tina will, for example, change an idyllic castle landscape on a beautiful sunny day into a kingdom ravaged by fire, brimstone, and scary purple clouds. Thinking about those potential surprises is exciting—videogames need more Dungeon Masters, after all.