Tales from the Borderlands was a surprise hit. Building off Borderlands 2‘s momentum, Tales from the Borderlands found a way to further explore Jack and look at the world from a different angle. With New Tales from the Borderlands having a new developer, cast of characters, and set in a world that doesn’t quite have the love it did a decade ago, it’s a much harder sell. However, given the inspiration and how well the other spinoff did, can New Tales from the Borderlands find success, or should they leave that series alone?
New Tales from the Borderlands has a very different tone and feel from the previous games. Instead of following a bunch of psycho Vault Hunters, it follows three nobodies that want to make a difference in their way. Anu is a brilliant inventor who doesn’t want to create weapons and instead tries to harness Siren powers for non-lethal uses; Octavio dreams of making it in the world of business, something that has become increasingly important in the world of Borderlands; Fran is frustrated with her life and situation, but finds a new purpose following the Tediore attack; with L0U13 being comic relief.
Sounds Like Teenage Girls
It takes a fair amount of time for the story to start moving. The first chapter is a prologue, slowly building to these characters coming together. The remaining four chapters follow the group raiding a Vault and trying to figure out what the treasure does without dying.
Even if it isn’t as exciting as the mainline adventures, it works by playing into its charms. As a spinoff, New Tales from the Borderlands does an excellent job of taking the universe’s quirks and presenting them in a different light. Some characters are still insane, goofy, or eccentric, though this narrative’s confines make as much sense as they do in the mainline adventures. Perhaps the best example is Badass Superfan, a Tediore soldier who takes Vaultlanders way too seriously. These little quirks make the experience a lot of fun, even if you could ignore most instances where Badass Superfan appears.
Another nice touch is how New Tales from the Borderlands approaches quick time events (QTE). Instead of expecting players to push a random button to prevent or make a specific action occur, there is a prompt that tells you there will be an event and what type of event it will be. Sometimes you’ll aim a gun; other times click or hold a button, and a few times, you move in a specific direction. It makes it a little easier to control the world, though some will still dislike it.
In addition to that, player choices are handled well. Many of them impact how you approach a situation, frequently with the impact being evident. For example, you can lie to support a character, dismiss it in an attempt to be neutral, or go the other way and keep the other surface. A lot of these questions have no impact on the story, at least in any natural way, just relationship levels and how well they work together.
If it Works it… Didn’t Work
Other choices make a pretty substantial difference. Certain, seemingly silly, choices can result in your demise, with others paying off in the really long term. What helps a lot is how fun these different options are. Instead of a single throwaway line or action, several of these have their own distinct and different jokes, making additional playthroughs a lot more fun.
While most of New Tales from the Borderlands is on rails, there are a couple of sections where you can walk around and explore. One thing I like is most of these instances make the objective clear. Instead of accidentally triggering the path forward by picking the proper object or doing enough to progress, you’ll either need to fully interact with everything, are outright told what the objective is, or have a character that merely asks if you want to progress forward. It’s a small touch that fans of the genre will really appreciate.
Beyond the main narrative, there is also a mini-game based on the Vaultlanders above that you can play. Despite being shockingly simple and fairly easy to win, it’s so absurd it fits perfectly in this world. The basic idea is simple. Two characters have a fight and they use it to smack the other, not unlike a child playing with their action figures. Like the main game, this is done through QTEs, making it a fun and silly optional event.
New Tales from the Borderlands Review Verdict
New Tales from the Borderlands is far from perfect, but it has more than enough to warrant a playthrough. The characters are good, with even the minor characters offering comic relief or driving the narrative in their way. Many of the choices are silly, often resulting in running jokes or cute references. Even some new characters quickly find their place and get a laugh or two. For these reasons and more, it’s easy to see New Tales from the Borderlands is worth an adventure or two.
[Editor’s Note: New Tales from the Borderlands were reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided for review purposes.]