What’s old is new again as Tales from the Borderlands’ resurrected into a new series called…well…New Tales from the Borderlands. Ok, so naming conventions aren’t Gearbox’s forte.
The original Tales from the Borderlands was developed by Telltale Games, who had great adventure game credentials under their belt with The Walking Dead game series. The New Tales from the Borderlands game is developed by Gearbox Software, the creators of the Borderlands games…who incidentally have no experience with this genre that I’m aware of.
You’d think that would equate to disaster right?
Ummm…yes and no?
What do I mean?
Read on kemosabe.
What is New Tales From The Borderlands?
The New Tales from the Borderlands is a single player 3rd person adventure game developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. It is available right now for the PC, Nintendo Switch as well as both the Playstation and Xbox consoles.
Our copy was given to us by the awesome (so awesome) folks at 2K Games.
Don’t go in expecting this to be a shooter like the regular Borderlands games though, it’s not.
As its name suggests, New Tales from the Borderlands is a new installment of Tales from The Borderlands.
New Tales from the Borderlands is an adventure game, which means it more cerebral and plot oriented than the regular series. It’s pretty much a video game version of a Choose Your Own Adventure book but much more interactive. You’ll be able to choose your replies, which in turn may affect the plot or the way people treat you.
It’s not a direct sequel but is instead a spiritual one, reusing similar gaming styles.
As a spinoff of the main Borderlands games, New Tales from the Borderlands requires you to have at least a passing knowledge of what’s gone on.
Timeline-wise, it’s set in the aftermath of the last game (Borderlands 3), which means it’s a pseudo sequel of sorts.
During your time with the game, you’ll encounter familiar places and faces which is pretty cool, especially if you’re into Borderlands lore. Like the Telltale games, replaying the game is the only way to see all the available outcomes and endings.
Unlike those games though, New Tales from the Borderlands is much more interactive. You’ll directly control your character at times and interact with the environments more (including searching for cash to buy cosmetics).
Unfortunately, interacting with other characters can be frustrating, as the triggers to initiate actions (or conversations) requires you to stand a certain distance away for the action prompt to appear. You’ll need to fiddle around, trying to find the exact spot to go to before you can even start the action. It’s quite irritating, to put it mildly.
There are also QTEs (Quick Time Events) scattered throughout the game too. What’s great is that the game actually gives you a warning that a QTE is incoming so that you have time to prepare.
It gives you a fair chance to successfully complete the QTE or fail miserably. Failing them might even alter your adventure! Also, there’s a Teamwork Cohesion score (given as a rating of skateboards) that affects how your characters work together and it’s graded by an Assassin Bot. Yeah…
There’s even a minigame called Vaultlanders, which has you doing QTE events and button mashing to win. It’s a pretty cool (if rather basic) minigame and you can even use the hidden figures you find throughout the game.
Overall, New Tales from the Borderlands is a much more fleshed out version of the old Tales from the Borderlands. It’s much more impressive, not to mention ambitious. Set pieces are bigger, the plot is much more expansive, even the locations much more detailed.
The new characters are great too! They’re kooky yet lovable, relatable losers like most of us. They’re not heroes or Vault Hunters, they’re just schmucks like you and me.
I really love LOU13, an assassin droid who talks like Marvin the Martian and has a really deadpan delivery. Stapleface is cool too, though she reminds me too much of Krieg (from Borderlands 2). Plus, it really helps matters a lot that the writing’s (and voice acting) pretty well done too…mostly.
Sometimes, it can get a bit too cringey in it trying to be smart and witty but most of the time it’s fine and actually quite funny. That’s good because 90% of the game is just you twiddling your thumbs watching the game instead of playing.
It’s not the game’s fault (you knew what you signed up for!) but just be prepared for long stretches where you do nothing but pick out a character’s response or do some QTEs.
New Tales from the Borderlands is done on a completely new engine than the one the old Tales from the Borderlands ran on…and it shows.
Animation in particular is much improved. Faces now are much more expressive and can portray subtle nuances. Movement is fluid and more lifelike. It doesn’t feel as robotic as it did before and that’s a damn good thing.
It’s also visually appealing, especially if you like Borderlands’ cel-shaded art style. I do and I think New Tales from the Borderlands looks good, but perhaps things could look much better if the game wasn’t being developed with the last generation and underpowered (coughNintendoSwitchcough) consoles in mind.
The textures look great and sharp on 4K on the Xbox Series X and the framerate’s smooth as a baby’s butt so there’s really not much to complain about. Since this is an adventure game, there’s not going on in the game (like if you’re playing an FPS) so there’s really no reason for a bad framerate.
There is slight texture pop-in however, which mainly occurs when there’s a quick camera angle change. It usually last just a split second but it’s more than enough to annoy me. I suspect it’ll annoy other players too. Again, this is probably a consequence of programming for the lowest common denominator so a patch should be able to resolve the issue…I hope.
The Bottom Line.
New Tales from the Borderlands is not for everybody.
If you’ve no interest in the Borderlands universe, there’s really no point in playing it seeing as how it depends so heavily the main Borderlands games for its setting and plot.
On the other hand, fans of Gearbox’s Borderlands series will likely get a huge kick out of this. New Tales from the Borderlands shows off a different side to the universe, told from a perspective that’s not from a Vault Hunter. The new characters are likeable, the writing’s decent enough to elicit chuckles here and there and the decisions you make can have pretty monumental effects on your experience.
It’s a refreshing take and I can only hope that Gearbox incorporates saves from New Tales from the Borderlands into the inevitable Borderlands 4, kind of like how EA’s Mass Effect games took into account your decisions and changed the games’ universe accordingly.
Technical issues notwithstanding, New Tales from the Borderlands is a great start to a new era of Gearbox helmed adventure games.
Great spinoff for Borderlands fans!
- Animation’s much better.
- Pretty cool story.
- Likable new characters.
- Cameos galore!
- Texture pop-in.
- Writing can be cringey in parts.
- Interacting with other characters during certain sequences.