I must be the only adventurer in the land who doesn’t know anything about Bunkers & Badasses. I’ve heard of it, but never really thought much about it. I suppose I just never had the friends or opportunities to pursue silly things like that. Pop culture didn’t interest me much anyway. Everyone talks about B&B like it’s a normal part of their vocabulary, while I stare blankly. Yeah, having friends and social experiences must be cool. Can’t relate. I’ve been a solo adventurer my whole life, just surviving in my own world. You get used to it.
I was asked to play a game for the first time in my life when my local group were short on players. Rather than be dismissive, I thought it was a good time to break out of my comfort zone and find out what it’s all about. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
What’s all this then?! We’re being invaded! I was comfortable with enemies shooting at me, but I was struggling to process all these…. colours? It took my gritty, soulless eyes a few moments to adapt to this onslaught of light and creativity.
Okay, this is pretty much what I normally do but in a different spectrum. We’ve still got guns, loot, shields, quests, but everything has different names. Pistols are crossbows? Wards are shields? I can get used to that. It’s my old life with a little fantasy sprinkled on top. I’m more of an introverted grunty soldier type, but while roleplaying I can try to bring out a new side of myself. Now let’s kill the thing! Wait, no… clears throat. Slay that beast! No, still too bland and grunty. Let us EMBARK on a QUEST to defeat the ferocious DRAGON LORD!
I sense a calling over yonder!
I’d never seen the world from this perspective before. This “board game” view gave me an insight not just into the scope of the world, but my own abilities. Could I really punch my way through some trees to a new path? *hyaarrr!* YES! I can open up shortcuts, visit camps, talk to people, find treasure. I could travel great distances in seconds.
Some encounters transport you to small arenas, while the bigger locations are just as big as anything you’d see in the old Borderlands. These were large fantasy settings with no creative limits or arbitrary connections to other places. My old home in the Borderlands seemed so far away at this point, and I couldn’t be happier.
Wonderlands takes the scope of a theater production and injects it into a virtual world without limitations. The sky can change colour on a whim, a bridge can materialize from pure will power, skeletons fall from the sky, goblins can talk, and bards are respected and don’t starve to death. It felt like my imagination had become visible and playable. For the first time in my life, I understood the appeal of Bunkers & Badasses. It wasn’t just a whole new world, it was many new worlds!
Fighting mushrooms, goblins and dragons filled me with a renewed vigor that sweaty bandits couldn’t provide. I felt the creative and optimistic side of my brain light up after years of inactivity. Colours, songs, magic spells, and roleplaying filled my soul with delight. I started eating mushrooms instead of blood-stained cold stale pizza and skag meat. The main quest wasn’t even the highlight of this journey, it was the wonderful places and people I met along the way. So many delightful distractions.
Now what is this shiny, multi-sided numerical object?
A dice! These are scattered throughout the overworld and in every single major area. They offer a great incentive to explore every corner and crevasse of this world, as every dice collected will slightly increase your loot luck. It’s such a nice feeling to have your chronic desire for exploration feel rewarded. If there’s a dark cave, high platform or dead end, there’s probably a hidden dice.
I love this town, Brighthoof was my new home in my head. People walked around enjoying their day, fulfilling their own fantasies and completing personal quests. After a long quest I decided to hit up the tavern, where I met a veteran adventurer who had seen it all. He was drunk on the local lager, but why wouldn’t you be? There’s no negative health effects in this world, no hangovers. All this confidence and enthusiasm comes from inside of me, not the outside.
Anyway, this bloke at the tavern was yelling and complaining about the lack of post-game content. Not sure what he’s on about, but he wanted to “do his adventure over” again and was disappointed at the lack of options. It’s called getting old, mate. Nevertheless, the previous Borderlands games had much better post-game content from a gameplay standpoint. You what, mate? I left the old adventurer to his ramblings. Maybe he had a point, but I was living in the now, and enjoying every moment. The story and world was much better here, even if I couldn’t increase my numbers as high.
It made me wonder what kind of advice I’d pass on to upcoming adventurers. I would say, don’t underestimate the value of imagination and creativity. It has the power to turn a bad thing into a good thing, is there anything more useful than that? It can give meaning to things you had dismissed, and dismiss things you thought had meaning. And most importantly, it can make you smile and feel like things are worth doing. There’s no point being strong if you have nowhere to use that strength. There’s also no world larger, richer, and more interesting, than the one in your mind. Except perhaps, the one inside Tiny Tina’s mind. Bunkers & Badasses might be the last game you ever play, because everything afterwards is real.
Photos taken by a mysterious mute photographer named Grubdog who joined me to chronicle my adventure.