An underdog story is a great way to pull at anyone’s heartstrings. Consequently, no matter how cold and callous you are, you’ll secretly want them to break free from their rut, and succeed at least once in their lives. This opportunity arises in New Tales from the Borderlands. It’s a narrative-rich story that is full of humorous and whacky cinematic. Accordingly, it takes you on a strange journey full of wonderment and familiar settings.
Developed by GEARBOX and published by 2K, this is an amusing and grim narrative-focused adventure title. What’s more, it captures many of the much-loved elements from the main franchise, while delivering something entirely unique. Filled with QTEs, mini-games, and zany text, it retains the Borderlands charm, while delivering a wonderful standalone experience. Unlike its 2014/15 predecessor from Telltale Games, this is much more intelligent and sophisticated. Furthermore, it couldn’t be any further away from the classic shooter looter that we’ve all come to love. However, its well-timed plot, interesting characters, and moralistic choices are intriguing and silly and offer oodles of replay value.
New Tales of Borderlands: new story, similar setting.
If you love the franchise, you’ll know that the grim Borderlands world is somewhat rundown. Criminals run wild, and you are pretty much free to do as you want when you want. Yet, there is still some order in this chaos thanks to the overbearing and all-seeing corporations. Unfortunately, there is little room for underdogs, as you soon find out. You control 3 of life’s biggest losers who have aspirations to change their lifestyle. Sadly, though, the system won’t allow this to happen, and they must stand up and be counted if they wish to make a difference.
Set across 5 different chapters, you flit between 3 lowly but interesting protagonists. First, there is Anu. She is a pacifist scientist who ironically works for Atlas. Why is this ironic? Well, Atlas is one of the largest weapon producers in the Borderlands universe. Second, you control Octavio. He is a streetwise young man who has dreams of becoming the next big thing. Finally, there is Fran. A restaurant owner who owes too much money, but has a badass hover chair that is filled with deadly weaponry.
Each of these personalities is set perfectly within the narrative and cinematic heavy gameplay. The slow-paced and often methodical action is punctuated by cutscenes, quick time events, and the odd moralistic dilemma. As such, you feel more of a voyeur than a key player in this unsubtle, yet comical, game.
3 players, unique abilities, and Vaultlander toys.
A Borderlands game would be total junk if the protagonists were weak and unremarkable. Thankfully, the 3 heroes have unique abilities that are pivotal to the progression of the story. Anu uses her special goggles to scan for hidden objects and other scientific tasks. Fran’s chair can freeze things with a touch of a button and the robotic prosthetics are a great defensive tool. Finally, Octavio is a bit of a talker and he can hack electronic devices with his wristwatch.
These abilities are perfectly synced with the interesting, albeit predictable QTEs! Slide the analogue stick in the correct direction, or slam each button before the timer runs out. Each of these elements is pretty well established and somewhat lacks originality. However, I enjoyed the occasional layers of shooting, the odd boss battle, and the mini-games you must undertake.
Each of these activities lacks challenge, but is fun, nevertheless. Octavio has a hacking game to get your teeth into, whereas there are many sequenced-based challenges that require quick reactions and accuracy. This is most apparent in the Vaultlander battle encounters. During every chapter, you’ll undertake a button-bashing event that is, unfortunately, far too easy. With little effort, you’ll overcome any opponent and move on with your life. This was disappointing, as there was potential to add a challenging distraction from the maddening, yet hilarious plot that unravels. Sadly, however, this never happened, and you’ll want something to push you a little harder.
New Tales from the Borderlands look amazing.
When a game focuses on slow and arduous action, the visuals have to be spot on. Thankfully, the comic book styling and excellent steampunk approach are incredible. On top of this, there is the classic comic book artistry, the rich colour palette, and the striking and easy-to-read dialogue. Furthermore, fans of the franchise will recognise many key elements from the shooter looter series. With loot boxes to open, awful cities to explore, and the usual grunts to fight, the familiar graphics were very much appreciated.
Alongside this, the excellent audio sets the scene. With incredible acting, amazing music, and excellent sound effects, the cruel atmosphere is well and truly set. Furthermore, when a game relies heavily on its cinematic, it needs to be on point with its audio. Thankfully, it delivers on each element, and this produces a hilarious, yet dramatic, end product.
An excellent UI and responsive controls.
QTEs add pressure to any gaming experience. Therefore, you want responsive controls that work immediately. Luckily, that’s exactly what you get in New Tales from the Borderlands. With plenty of pre-warning, you know what button to press at any moment. Accordingly, quick inputs ensure that mistakes are reduced. However, the slow gameplay and ample input time reduce stress and make this a straightforward title to play.
When there are multiple storyline branches and moralistic choices on offer, replay value is at a premium. Unfortunately, though, the roughly 10-hour play time and a £35 price tag prevent this from being truly great value for money. Subsequently, new players to this genre may look elsewhere, and this is a shame.
New Tales from the Borderlands delivers what is expected.
I enjoyed the 2014/15 Tales from the Borderlands game. As such, I couldn’t wait to see how the second instalment would evolve. Luckily, the developers have done an amazing job with practically every layer. Aesthetically, it is fantastic, smooth, and problem free. Furthermore, it is laced with humour; it is easy to play, and the QTEs are enjoyable if not a bit too easy. Disappointingly, though, it isn’t long enough, and the Vaultlander battles aren’t challenging enough. Yet, it is still a great experience and I recommend you buy it here! Will you help each protagonist to redeem themselves? Explore the grim world, uncover the secrets, and fulfil your dreams.