In the early to mid 2010’s, the impact Telltale Games had on the gaming community was huge. Their interactive narratives had everyone awaiting the release of the next episode in the current game they were developing at the time and the episodic nature of their releases influenced the way many publishers started structuring and releasing their games. In 2014, Telltale showed not only could they develop games with interesting characters, but they could also write humour really well and have their games sit naturally within an existing IP with Tales From The Borderlands. That game is still one of my personal favourite games released by Telltale, but when the company unfortunately closed back in 2018, I had lost hope that we’d get anything like it again. Thankfully the team at Gearbox have bought the game in-house to deliver a sequel many years in the making with New Tales From The Borderlands that follows a brand new cast of characters but is a faithful successor to the legacy that Telltale started almost 10 years ago.
New Tales From The Borderlands takes place in the year following the events of Borderlands 3 and follows the interviewing story of 3 brand new playable protagonists. There’s the scientist Anu, who believes science can solve all of life’s problems, Octavio, the street smart brother of Anu who knows how to survive on the streets of Promethea and Fran, a short tempered business owner that helps in many situations thanks to her gadget filled hover chair. The cast itself is also filled out by a number of side characters, with my personal favourite going to LOU13, a hilarious murderbot that joins in throughout the journey, but overall the character count is significantly smaller than what we usually get in a mainline Borderlands entry which not only allows New Tales From The Borderlands to feel more focussed on this small group but gives each the time to develop over the course of the game.
If you’ve played the original Tales From The Borderlands, or any previous Telltale game really, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of what to expect from the gameplay of New Tales From The Borderlands. It’s mostly an interactive series of cutscenes with dialogue choices and quicktime events scattered throughout to help shape the story along one of it’s multiple branching paths. The game does have the occasional component where you take control of one of the playable characters, but the times in which you do are often quite small in scope, used to provide a break in the story or the ability to locate and pick up collectibles scattered within the stages.
Unlike the previous Tales game, this game is not releasing in the scattered episodic format. Instead, the whole game is available and playable in one single package. New Tales is still broken up into 5 main chapters, but the whole package is available right from launch. Although it was great not to have to wait many months to experience the whole story, I did find myself missing the episodic nature of how these games were released in the past as each episode was previously structured to have it’s own beginning, middle and end and I missed that addictive quality of eagerly awaiting the next section of the story as with it being all available at once, it was easier to spot the pacing and quality differences chapter to chapter, as there are certainly parts of this story that are stronger and flow better than others.
Thankfully the writing throughout the game is really solid. Well if you like the quirky characters and world that the Borderlands typically presents. If you’re not a fan of this universe and it’s particular brand of comedy, New Tales From The Borderlands probably isn’t going to win you over and change your mind. New Tales isn’t just loaded with some pretty interesting characters, it’s full of witty humour and cleverly written jokes but also has a decent amount of jokes that don’t land the way I think the writers expected them too and occasionally lead to an eye roll rather than a laugh from myself. Thankfully though these were few and far between.
Even though New Tales From The Borderlands acts as a pseudo-sequel to Telltale’s original, you certainly don’t need to have played the last game to be able to follow and understand what’s actually going on here. The story itself is driven by it’s new cast of characters along with your dialogue and action choices. So if you haven’t played the previous game, please don’t worry. Of course if you have played, there are some callbacks to events and characters themselves that pop back in that you’ll likely appreciate but by no means would I say that playing the last game is necessary in any way to enjoy what New Tales is offering. And if you are interested in playing through the previous game, the Deluxe edition of New Tales From The Borderlands does currently include Tales From The Borderlands as part of the package.
Performance wise, New Tales From The Borderlands runs really well. Far better actually than how the previous Telltale developed game ran. Using Unreal Engine this time around has allowed more detail in the characters and the cell-shaded world. But more than that, it runs considerably better. Maintaining a consistent framerate throughout my whole time with the game playing the PS5 version.
While I did enjoy most of what New Tales From The Borderlands had to offer there were a few things holding it back from being amazing. The story pacing and quality of the chapters is inconsistent. I liked the new characters and most of the story overall but personally felt a little underwhelmed by the ending as well as the limited use of the free roaming sections where the characters can be manoeuvred. They are so limited in scope and creativity that I would have preferred if they weren’t there and the game played more like an interactive movie than have the pacing slowed down exploring the stages that provide little satisfaction.
New Tales From The Borderlands does a great job of capturing the look, feel and humour of the Borderlands franchise. It is far closer to a traditional Telltale game than a game from the mainline Borderlands franchise but does provide a mostly great story and characters to enjoy across it’s 10-12 hour experience. It didn’t quite stick the landing for me but I did appreciate how much the new cast was able to develop over the course of the game and how much better the performance was compared to the previous Telltale entry in the Tales From the Borderlands series. If you’re an existing fan of the Borderlands series, you’re likely going to have a pretty good time with New Tales From The Borderlands.
A PS5 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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