New Tales From The Borderlands Review "An Entertaining And Whacky Borderlands Experience"
The Borderlands series is iconic for its cell-shaded art style, love of guns, and irreverent humour, with the first two games lauded as two of the best examples of looter shooter RPGs out there. So it came as a massive surprise when a Telltale point-and-click game, Tales From The Borderlands, was announced, and shocked people even more when it debuted to critical acclaim for its story, emotional depth, and hilarious set pieces. Fast-forward just under a decade, and we're finally getting a sequel, New Tales From The Borderlands, but does it live up to the first?
Ain't No Rest For The Wicked
New Tales From The Borderlands takes place sometime after Borderlands 3 on and around the planet of Promethea, which is owned by the Atlas corporation and currently run by the previous game's protagonist, Rhys Strongfork. The inciting incident is that rival corporation Tediore invade the planet and Atlas corporation in search of a Vault Key, and in the chaos, the three playable characters are forced to team up as they are pursued by Tediore.
Anu is an Atlas scientist who is seeking to make the world a better place in her conquest against guns; Octavio is Anu's adopted brother and a street hustler with eyes on becoming rich and famous; Fran is a frogurt store owner with anger issues and a need for vengeance against Tediore and its CEO, Susan Coldwell. Over the course of the game's five episodes, you'll switch back and forth between each character, making decisions during dialogue scenes and more open interactive sections that dictate their character arc.
The core of New Tales From The Borderlands is the story and characters, and each of the main protagonists has their strengths and weaknesses which endeared me to them. My personal favourite was Fran, who is a rather atypical video game protagonist as a middle-aged, disabled woman, but her fierceness, flirtatiousness, and inner conflict over controlling her anger made for a compelling arc. Not all the protagonists, and secondary characters, are equally engaging, and there's a lack of heart that the original built up with its clever use of characters from the other games.
Humour is another key aspect of the experience here, and a lot of your enjoyment will largely hinge on whether you find it funny. Like the older Tales game, most of the humour comes from the character interactions and set pieces, rather than the "lol random" type of humour that plagues the shooters. That's of course still here in smaller doses though. I found many of the funnier moments to be loaded into the first half of the game, while the second half was uneven in its delivery. There are also a few moments where characterisation is cast aside in place of serving a joke, which just ends up undermining them, and in the case of Octavio, outright flanderises them.
This Ain't No Place For No Hero
While it mostly plays the same as the classic Telltale games and the first Tales From The Borderlands, with it feeling like one big long cutscene most of the time, there are some small changes to the systems and mechanics. A notable change is the removal of indicators of how a character responds to one of your choices, leaving you to figure out from their reaction and body language. These aren't totally gone, as occasionally one will pop up to remind you of the general attitude a character has toward another, but the reduction of these reminders is a positive change for immersing you in the story and forcing you to think more about your decisions.
Another big change that makes the game feel more reactive, is the possibility of failing QTEs to move the story forward. Previous Telltale game's made QTEs a part of the wallpaper and a trick for making you feel like you're in more control, but New Tales From The Borderlands actually lets you choose to fail some of these, leading to different outcomes during scenes, and even the ending state.
A less impressive change is the inclusion of some collectable figurines of past Borderlands characters called Vaultlanders. While on their own, these collectables don't let the game down, their place in it does. Along with collecting these through the episodes, you can use them to take part in optional fights, however, these fighting sections are painfully dull due to how easy they are, and quickly makes collecting them more of a chore.
How You Like Me Now?
New Tales From The Borderlands is an earnest attempt at capturing the magic of the first game, and while it doesn't quite reach those heights, it succeeds at providing an entertaining and whacky Borderlands experience. As a game, it's very uneven in its delivery across the board, with odd episode pacing, hit-and-miss humour, and less of an emotional core to attach onto. However, during its high points, it makes for a unique adventure that very few games can match in its boldness.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.