Having to follow up on arguably the most beloved Telltale release is no small feat. Especially if you’re a new dev team named Gearbox Studio Québec—the pressure is even higher. Leaving the sequel, New Tales from the Borderlands in their hands was an interesting move, but there were several key staff from the original to make sure it didn’t go too far off target. This is how it turned out.
A Memorable Dramedy
Playing like the cinematic, narrative-driven Telltale games that came before it, New Tales from the Borderlands is full of QTEs, dialogue trees and stupendously over-the-top scenes that the series is known for. While there are some sections where the three main protagonists can move around and interact with the environment to find cash for cosmetics and collectable figurines for a minigame called Vaultlanders, the main focus is almost always on the story and characters in their cel-shaded cinematic glory. In other words, it’s an interactive movie.
In a similar vein to the original, New Tales from the Borderlands focuses on three “nobody loser-types” (as the game calls them) to drive it’s plot. Anu, Octavio and Fran all have their own distinct flaws and ambitions, and it’s quite interesting to see each of their plights unfold and wrap around each other. Upon having found a mysterious stone that regenerates any type of wound or injury, the three are compelled to join together and ward off any potential threats to their dreams… and of course, the planet’s safety. It’s great to watch our main trio work alongside one another, as they genuinely feel like close friends and the chemistry they share is undeniably palpable.
The supporting cast is great too. A talking gun named Brock has several run-ins with Octavio throughout the adventure, resulting in some of the best gags in the game. Whereas the kill-bot-for-hire named L0u13 (Louie) constantly remarks on the core team’s changing dynamics and his one-note existence as an assassin, striking a superb balance of hilarity and seriousness when called for. The voice-acting is also of consistently high quality across the board, as the comedy wouldn’t be anywhere near this good if it wasn’t. That being said, episodes 3 and 4 of this 5-parter do have a noticeable drop-off in pace and intensity, which does sour the experience overall.
What’s The Gameplay Like?
The quick-time events are pretty forgiving compared to other similarly-constructed games and only ever result in a game over screen on a few specific occasions. Albeit, I did find myself failing most of them on purpose, just to see the ridiculous antics that would ensue. As a whole, these extra scenes of ridiculousness do add to the replay value. However, the Vaultlander fighting minigame that’s played at certain parts of the story is way too basic. Since it essentially boils down to picking a figurine fighter from the Borderlands franchise, mindlessly bashing the face buttons, and then casually dodging once or twice. Rinse and repeat. This may sound harsh, but it gave me serious Balan Wonderworld QTE flashbacks, that’s for sure.
There are a handful of simple and quirky minigames to play: like having Anu literally slap her scientific “devices” into working order, or how Octavio needs to hack electronics by squashing virtual bugs and completing a code sequence. These can all be skipped to shift straight back to the story, although it is a neat change of pace to experience them every once in a while. Each character can also spend cash to update their outfits and accessories on the regular. These cosmetic changes don’t have any in-game benefits, however. But even if you aren’t a fan of these new looks, the hilarious item descriptions more than make up for this.
New Tales from the Borderlands is a solid follow-up to Telltale’s original 2014 release. This narrative-focused, 9-hour journey contains several wild, laugh-out-loud scenes and great character writing, intertwined with some surprisingly deep themes. While the pacing and quality start to drop off between episodes 3 and 4, it all culminates in a final act that brings everything together… almost. Apart from a few overly simple minigames, cosmetics to purchase and some sketchy textures on Nintendo Switch, this sequel is still enjoyable enough to purchase.
Creating a sequel to one of Telltale’s best games isn’t easy, but New Tales from the Borderlands gave it a red hot go. It’s characters are reminiscent of the original, while also being funny and likeable in their own unique way. The story is no slouch either, even though it does drop off in the latter half. Still, if you are a big fan of interactive movies and QTEs, then this new tale is certainly worth experiencing.
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