The New Tales from the Borderlands is a highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed episodic Tales from the Borderlands which was developed by the now-dissolved Telltale Games and launched way back in 2014. Eight layers later, Gearbox themselves have taken the helm for the spiritual successor to this spin-off series.
But have they managed to ignite the flame with the same intensity as Telltale Games did in 2014, Or are they still inexperienced when it comes to this unconventional series of their own IP? Let’s find out in our New Tales from the Borderlands Review.
Story And Setting
New Tales from the Borderlands has been developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows. Similar to its predecessor, this game is a narrative-driven experience set in the Borderlands universe where you interact with the world by picking dialogue options, executing quick-time events, and performing certain on-screen prompts.
This title is divided into five episodes, and each episode features multiple chapters. The narrative follows three protagonists namely Anu, a philanthropist and a scientist, Octavio, her adopted brother who knows his way about the streets, and Fran, a violent frozen yogurt shop owner. A non-playable robot named LOU13 or Louis also joins them on this journey.
Each of the three characters have their own goals and are busy with their respective lives. Anu needs funds for a device that can end all conflicts without bloodshed, Octavio is hungry for fame, and Fran seeks revenge on Tediore, a weapons manufacturer who destroyed her shop during the invasion of Planet Promethea. Thus, when the trio learns that the true purpose behind the invasion is the treasure inside Promethea’s vault, the line between their goals starts to blur.
Each character is well-written and has a distinct personality augmented by great dialogue lines. Most side characters, both new and recurring, you encounter during the story also enjoy the same treatment. Even the main villain appears to be menacing and makes Tediore appear as a real threat. Besides the side characters, the enemy soldiers have some of the most humorous moments in the game, staying true to the Borderlands roots.
The dialogue here is phenomenal, and Gearbox has once again succeeded in injecting its brand of absurd humor into the world. Player choice is present here through dialogue, and while these choices cannot alter the overall end goal, they can change how certain events play out. The story remains mostly consistent thought its run-time with some high and low points.
For the sake of this New Tales from the Borderlands Review, it is pertinent to mention that there are a few pacing issues in certain moments where the dialogue, although good, serves no purpose other than to artificially extend the story. The narrative is also nothing too innovative or groundbreaking but it held my attention long enough for me to see it through without rushing through it for the sake of just getting done with it. I can safely say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The gameplay essentially involves pressing a button to select a dialogue option, mashing a button repeatedly, or holding it down to perform certain action prompts. Occasionally, the game lets you wander a small area to look for cash, which you can use to buy cosmetics or interact with NPCs. Since this is in an episodic-driven narrative, the gameplay here is expected to be minimal. Still, I was expecting there to be a certain degree of evolution from its predecessor.
It might just be me, but this Telltale formula is starting to age a little bit. Sure it had its prime time with The Walking Dead Season 1 and the original Tales from the Borderlands, but the new developers need to make considerable changes to inject new life into this formula. It felt more like I was watching a long movie than playing a video game for this review.
There are also certain minigames present that are fun, such as hacking, but they get repetitive pretty quickly. A frequently occurring activity is the Vaultlanders, which is a miniature-figure fighting game. It’s fun the first few times but it gets stale when you encounter it again and again, as it offers no challenge. I breezed through all of my matches by spamming attacks and dodging by swiping at the prompt. Ultimately it became too annoying for me.
And not just Vaultlanders, every minigame is hilariously easy to pass. There is also no sizeable award associated with winning these games, such as alternative story paths or the like.
Gearbox should’ve at least implemented some complex and interesting puzzles with tangible awards here since the rest of the gameplay is minimalistic.
Visuals And Performance
The visuals are a noticeable step up over its predecessor, and the shift to Unreal Engine 4 is a huge upgrade over the Telltale Tool Engine which the previous entry was made with. The title’s art style also aligns with the Borderlands game this time around.
This comic-like colorful art style always held a warm place in my heart, and it’s better than ever here. I also loved the cinematography as it featured excellent scene setup and character shots. The motion capture for the characters is some of the best I’ve ever seen in any game. It blends nicely here with the gameplay, and not once did I feel that the character’s animations were artificial.
The game is also a step up performance-wise as the original game suffered from input lag where a number of times I failed some sequences as my input didn’t register timely. That problem is all but gone in this new entry. It runs optimally too.
Let’s move on to the last section of our New Tales from the Borderlands Review. Telltale’s demise left a hole in its wake, but Gearbox has managed to pull this spin-off series back on its feet, and the game lives up to the original for the most part. The humor is fantastic, the characters are well-written, and the art style is phenomenal. The story foes suffer from some hiccups here and there but does manage to gain momentum in most cases.
One major gripe I have with this game is regarding the gameplay. It received virtually no upgrades over the previous title even though the time span between them is eight years. Were they trying to be faithful to the older Telltale games? If so, then they played it way too safe and forgot that a sequel to a successful game needs to take risks, otherwise it runs the risk of becoming stagnant.
Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my 10-hour run of the game. I just wished that there had been more innovative gameplay mechanics, which could sharpen the outline between this game and a 10-hour-long movie.
This has been our review of New Tales from the Borderlands. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles.
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New Tales from the Borderlands Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
Telltale’s demise left a hole in its wake, but Gearbox has managed to pull this spin-off series back on its feet, and the game lives up to the original for the most part.
- Charming Characters.
- Comedic Gold.
- Beautiful Art Style.
- Main Story Can Drag.
- Minimalistic Gameplay.
- Repetitive Minigames.