New Tales from the Borderlands Review
The fact that New Tales from the Borderlands exists at all warms my heart, considering he had to defy the death of Telltale Games to do so. The original episodic adventure from 2014 won me over with its excellent writing, sharp sense of humor and likeable leads in Fiona and Rhys. While the disjointed, full-game-in-one-box sequel fixes a lot of things, its attempts to flesh out the Telltale formula — not to mention the runtime — bog down what’s otherwise a laughable mess on a new planet with a new cast of anti-heroes.
What I like most about New Tales from the Borderlands are the three new protagonists: the prudent, all-knowing scientist Anu; her street-smart, fame-chasing adopted brother Octavio; and the furious owner of the frozen yogurt shop, Fran. L0u13 (“Louie”), a killbot who starts questioning the purpose of his existence in one note and gets a lot of laughs by the time the credits roll, is also along for the ride in a non-playable role. New Tales was picked up by Borderlands developer Gearbox itself after the demise of Telltale, but the quality of its characters and their humor is pretty consistent.
New Tales From the Borderlands Gameplay Screenshots
The group go their separate ways, but are quickly brought together, in typical Borderlands fashion, by the Vault, its treasure, and an evil corporation. And the first 80% of New Tales does a pretty good job of emulating what made the first Tales game so great: slapstick humor superbly delivered by talented motion capture and voice actors, cartoonish violence, and separate but intertwined plots. And like Vaughn and Claptrap before them, some of the supporting characters you meet along the way provide some of the most memorable moments, especially the nameless, action figure-obsessed Tediore, the corporate soldier, the co-dependent talking gun Brock, and the ex-Psycho aptly named Stapleface. You’ll have plenty of chances to hurl harsh words at anyone, friend or foe, and your four dialogue options in each exchange are always engaging enough to make it difficult to pick just one quickly.
Still, playing New Tales as a full, non-episodic game really highlights why a Telltale-esque adventure works best episodically: it’s ideally consumed in small doses. To New Tales’ credit, it gives you every opportunity to play it that way, with breaks between its five 1-2 hour episodes showing how your choices compare to other players, just like in the Telltale original. Within each episode, however, the actual gameplay is almost comically minimal, as Telltale veterans will be familiar with. There are no puzzles to speak of; you’re mostly just watching set pieces and doing the occasional quick event – although I do have to give props to the excellent music video montage style sequences that occur in each episode. Sure, your controller is broken, but they’re a fun and refreshing way to break up large chunks of QTEs and dialogue trees.
New Tales tries to give your hands more work by occasionally letting you wander around the stage, examining items and opening chests for cash that you’ll never be able to spend on a cache of cosmetic character skins or participate in mini-games like hacking or Vaultlander action figure battles . These activities are pretty fun on paper, but they’re all ridiculously simple. I’m not sure you could go wrong if you tried, and while that’s not unforgivable in itself, there’s no better reward for working through these sequences than just going through them.
But where New Tales really drops the ball is in its final episode, none of which I will show here due to spoilers. I have no complaints about the pacing or character development of episodes 1-4, but the finale not only lacks desire – with its lingering fixation on painstakingly dragging each of the three protagonists through a journey of self-discovery – but also rushes the plot off a cliff of sci-fi silliness that feels out of place even in Borderlands’ Everything-goes universe. In short, the story ends up being really heartwarming – regardless of which ending your choices lead you to – killing the momentum it’s carefully built up through the first four episodes. It’s a true “it’s the journey, not the destination” situation.
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