It’s been quite a few years since we got to play a Tales from the Borderlands game. When the original title was released way back in 2015, it allowed players to experience the crazy and over-the-top Borderlands world without needing to also master a shooter interface. Created by Telltale Games, the original title featured two very different characters from the Borderlands world, Rhys and Fiona. Rhys was an out-of-luck corporate worker while Fiona was a con woman. Somehow these two hapless souls ended up getting together for a narrative adventure that was a lot of fun to play and pretty humorous too.
The original Tales from the Borderlands earned 4.5 GiN Gems out of 5 in the Gameindustry.com review at the time, with our reviewer noting that it was a lot of fun to bring the deeply storied Borderlands universe into a narrative format. Of course, narrative games were all the rage at that time, and Telltale Games was also in their prime, so we expected many new tales over the years, which sadly never materialized. And with Telltale folding operations back in 2018, it seemed like the Tales series was gone for good.
Thankfully, the rights to the Tales series went to Gearbox Software, who didn’t let them molder in a vault. They recently launched the aptly named New Tales from the Borderlands, with 2K as the publisher. Now fans have the opportunity to experience narrative adventures set in the Borderlands world all over again with new characters, an original story and a couple new features. So, let’s dive in and see how well this new tale plays.
Right from the start, we are introduced to three new characters who players will be controlling throughout the adventure. And unlike the original title, all of them have some connection to one another, so when they finally meet up near the beginning of the first chapter, it seems pretty natural that they would decide to go on a grand adventure together.
Each of the new main characters has a lot of personality and are very different from each other. First, we have Octavio, who is a streetwise hustler trying to build up his businesses and become a player in his world. He is joined by the best NPC in the game, who is an assassin robot named Lou13 (pronounced Louie) who is a perfect character for setting up deadpan humor. The next character is Fran, who moves around in a hovering wheelchair. She initially owns a yogurt shop which is quickly destroyed, and despite her calm demeanor, she’s actually suppressing a huge ball of rage that’s ready to get unleased when needed. She is a pretty great fighter too because her chair has a lot of cool combat attachments. She reminded me a lot of Pam from Archer.
The final playable character is Anu, who is Octavio’s sister through adoption. She presents an interesting dynamic because she works for Atlas designing weapons but is non-violent by nature. This causes her to butt heads with her boss and ultimately get fired right near the beginning of the game (right when Tediore Corp invades, so probably not that big a deal). Anu is probably the weakest of the main characters and arguably the most annoying too, so it’s kind of unfortunate that the title starts with her. She becomes slightly less annoying once the group gets together and all three of the characters are able to work together.
Interestingly enough, some of the side characters are even cooler than the main ones. I already mentioned Lou13, but there is also an explosives expert named Radon, a streetwise kid called Lor, a professional thief and expert sniper named Diamond Danielle and a really cool psycho girl named Stapleface who is trying to be less murderous and leave her fellow psycho tribe behind. There are a few others, including some who are unnamed, but which also help to add to the plot. All of the side characters are well-done, and it really perked up when some of them like Lou13 or Stapleface got screentime.
The adventure itself is played through five chapters as the characters try to break out of their humdrum lives and make something of themselves through lots of dangerous missions and shady dealings, which is pretty much a Borderlands necessity. Gameplay itself comes down to mostly making dialogue choices on a timer, pretty much like how Telltale used to do it. The timers in New Tales from the Borderlands are a bit more generous than in the first title, and I never really felt too rushed when trying to make a competent choice to advance a conversation and push the story along.
There’s also quicktime events in New Tales from the Borderlands which are another staple of these narrative type titles. For the most part, the quicktime sequences are not too challenging. There’s even a symbol that warns you which kind of quicktime event is about to pop up, be it one where you need to push a movement key to dodge aside, one where you have to hold or mash a certain button, or an aiming event where you target someone or something using the mouse (or controller if playing on console.) If you fail a quicktime challenge and your character dies, it’s not too big a deal, because the narrator will pop up and explain that things did not really happen that way. Then you can try again using the same buttons as before. You even earn a trophy the first time you fail such an action or get a main character killed.
There is also a new mini-game in New Tales that involves collecting little action figures which can then be used to fight those owned by other people who you come across. When you win a battle, the winner collects the losing figure too, which continues to beef up your collection. This is just a side quest to the main mission but does add another element to the title and just a dash of extra fun. Those who enjoy collecting things will certainly like it, while others can mostly ignore it without much consequence.
I had a lot of fun with New Tales from the Borderlands. It really leans into its over-the-top humor more than the original, and admittedly some of the jokes fall flat or even venture into annoying territory. This is in contrast to the more subtle humor of the original title, but I guess the developers at Gearbox figured they had to swing for the fences if they wanted to hit some homeruns. And anyway, taken as a whole, New Tales is a real blast to play, especially for those who enjoy narrative type adventures or the wacky Borderlands world. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another eight years before being treated to a new, new tale in this fascinating and fun series.