Is the New Tales from the Borderlands worth picking up now or should you wait until it goes on sale? Read our review to find out! When Tales from the Borderlands was first released in 2014, some felt that Telltale would ruin the Borderlands franchise and not capture the essence of the series.
At the time, only Borderlands and Borderlands 2 had been released and we were a year removed from the beloved Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC. Fans were eager but wary of a Telltale-led narrative for the beloved franchise. Tales from the Borderlands would go on to be one of Telltale’s more successful titles.
Now fast forward to 2022 and we have two new Borderlands games released, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands and the New Tales from the Borderlands. While I enjoyed Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, our writer Fingal did not. Now looking back at the previous game, it is easy to see why we mildly enjoyed the New Tales from the Borderlands game rather than loving it as we did with the original title. So let’s dive into what has changed:
New Tales from the Borderlands
Developer: Gearbox Studio Québec
Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X (Review), Switch, and Steam
Release Date: October 21, 2022
Price: $39.99 USD
New Tales from the Borderlands follows three unlikely heroes (Anu, Octavio, and Fran) as they attempt to make a name for themselves and get revenge on the Tediore corporation. Anu is an ethical scientist who seeks to create a better world by using nonviolent devices to de-escalate situations. Her only problem: she works for a corporation that benefits from conflict. In trying to do no harm, she ultimately harms herself by getting fired.
As for Fran, she is the representation of capitalism in America. Throughout the game, Fran is harassed by her sponsor bot, verbally degraded for her looks and socio-economic status, and made to be almost the mom character of two entitled children. Any time Fran gets one piece of good news, reality finds a way to hit below the belt.
Down on Promethea, Octavio desires to make a name for himself with the help of an Assassination bot L0U13. During most of Octavio’s sequences, the focus feels like it is on everyone else. On top of not being really the main character of his own story, he is often the comic relief that is used more as a punching bag rather than a hero. The side characters surrounding him feel like they could be vault hunters if given the chance.
In fact, most of the side characters in the game are more interesting than the game’s protagonists; sadly, you will only get to see some of them in clips here and there. L0U13 is the only nonplayable character featured in the party and feels like the only one with redeemable qualities. Yes, based on your decision within the game, you can change the resolutions of each character, but only L0U13 character development feels sincere rather than plot-driven.
New Tales from the Borderlands attempts to show that three ordinary people can become heroes; instead, the narrative feels forced, deprived of choices, and lackluster. For a sequel to a beloved franchise and game, this game falls drastically short of the marker.
Most of the suspense and drama within the game is ruined by forced pop culture references and jokes. Some of the references are valid but sadly, most of the dialogue feels like it was written to get to that joke. During both playthroughs, we only found a limited number of the jokes to be well-timed and comical.
On top of the forced jokes and pop culture references, the game’s narrative path feels rather limited, unmeaningful, and restrictive. The only time the player’s choices feel like they matter is at the very end of the game.
Unlike its previous Telltale counterpart, the story feels like it is being held hostage and forced to walk. The character’s interpersonal relationships are the only deciding factor on who lives and who dies. If the player dies based on a bad choice, it will just load back up to before the death with very little consequence.
Beyond the player death aspect, the story follows a rather linear path with the player’s decisions having very little merit outside of their personal bonds.
An early example is when Octavio is helping L0U13 assassinate someone for hurting an innocent skag. If the player chooses to lure the target out with pizza, three of the four outcomes will result in the target’s death; one will cause Octavio to die.
This is just one example of the player’s choices not actually mattering in the long run. The game lacks the essence that made the original Tales from the Borderlands great. In fact, New Tales from The Borderlands tries a little too hard to make the player laugh and falls short of the mark.
New Tales from the Borderlands suffers from the lack of the crowd play feature that was available in the first game. Annoyingly, the game does not allow the player to skip through dialog.
Quick Time Events in the game would make you believe that if successful the player would be rewarded; however, choosing not to do the QTE can give a more favorable outcome.
Yes, this comes down to player choice but goes against previously established gameplay principles. Even though these failed outcomes do not feel like they matter in the grand scheme of things, the narrative will push on. While playing through the story, the player is often interrupted by a soldier who wants to have a Vaultlander battle.
The Vaultlander battles often take the player out of the moment and are rather bland despite featuring some fan-favorite Borderlands characters. Each Vaultlander character has an attack and defense stat and a passive ability to help them in combat.
During combat, the game uses QTEs for combat. Most of these QTEs are rather simple to dodge and will make you think about increasing their difficulty. Players can get new Vaultlanders either by winning battles or finding them in the free-roaming part of specific levels.
The game also features a minigame with Octavio’s Echodex. Players can choose to do the hacking mini-games or skip them entirely; thankfully these hacking mini-games are easy to complete if the player has any kind of refluxes.
Our biggest three complaints with the New Tales from the Borderlands fall within its graphics section. When changing chapters, the game often takes a few seconds to render the scene. If this was a one-off occasion it would be no big deal, but it can happen in ongoing scenes when a new item is introduced.
The second issue is the notification box; the box itself is rather tiny and easily missable, especially on larger TVs. The third and final issue is with skins in the game. Thank God they do not cost actual money or else players would riot. The game features multiple skin colorations focused around three different character skin designs.
The New Tales from the Borderlands soundtrack is easily one of its best features with a variety of songs and sound effects to set the mood. No character within the game’s voice sounds out of place and each voice actor is able to deliver their lines well.
As for the game’s controls, they are rather straightforward. If the player does not like the layout or the input controls, they can be changed in the settings.
New Tales from the Borderlands Verdict
Going into the New Tales from the Borderlands game we were hopeful based on previous Borderlands titles. Sadly, these hopes and dreams were crushed before the end of the first chapter; by the end of the game, they were absolutely destroyed.
Your choices only matter at the end of the game and subsequent choice only gives a different variation of dialog with the same outcome. The choices in the game feel meaningless and trivial.
The three protagonists have character traits that are too relatable to modern-day society. Yes, you can see yourself in each of these characters, but part of the fun of Borderlands was the dystopian aspect of the series. Now it hits too close to home. This game tries to capitalize on the success of the franchise but strips it of what made it successful.
If you are looking for a tale set in the Borderlands universe, this game is sufficient; however, if you are looking to recapture your love of Tales from the Borderlands or Borderlands 2, wait until the game goes on sale or avoid it entirely.
New Tales from the Borderlands was reviewed on Xbox Series X|S using a code from Gearbox. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. New Tales from the Borderlands is now available on PC, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X (Review), Switch, and Steam.