Decide the fates of altruistic scientist Anu, her ambitious, “streetwise” brother Octavio, and the fierce, frogurt-slinging Fran. Claw and con your way through five thrilling chapters!
Cast: Michelle Rambharose, Diego Stredel, Lucia Frangione, Temapare Hodson, Samantha Ferris, Ray Chase, Cherlandra Estrada, Christian Lagasse, Marguerite Hanna
Developer: Gearbox Studio Québec
Writers: Anthony Burch, Lin Joyce, Doug Lieblich, Amanda Schuckman
Reviewed on: Playstation 5
Also available for: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, Windows
When Telltale started releasing Tales from the Borderlands in November of 2104, they were at the top of their game. They had just released the first two seasons of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, all critically acclaimed games with stories that impacted players. Yet there they were, about to tell a story in the world of Borderlands, a property known more for its loot-driven gameplay loop than its story. But Telltale was still able to tell an emotional story filled with deep characters, fun setpieces, hilarious moments and a sustained mystery across its five episodes. The game is still highly regarded, with hopes that a sequel would one day come from Telltale, hopes that were squashed when the studio closed in 2018. 2K were able to acquire the property and has now released a spiritual successor to that game in the form of New Tales from the Borderlands.
Taking place after the events of Borderlands 3, New Tales puts you in the shoes of 3 different characters as the weapons manufacturer Tediore has begun invading Promethea. First, there is Anu, an anxiety-ridden, high-stung, pacifist scientist who is working for Atlas on a device to “send enemies on vacation” instead of killing them. You also play as her estranged brother Octavio, a street-smart young man who is desperate to become wealthy in any way he can despite a much lower IQ than his sister and poor impulse control. Then there is Fran, the hoverchair-bound owner of Fran’s Frogurt who has deep-seated anger issues but an abundance of self-confidence. Of course, their stories all intertwine and have to work together to survive this turbulent time on Promethea.
New Tales is very much a modern narrative adventure game with players spending most of their time making dialogue choices for the different characters or performing QuickTime events and watching the effects and repercussions of these actions. The game has a system of checking the relationships between the three characters which will impact how things end up for the group. There are sections where the characters can explore locations, scan items and solve small puzzles, but these are greatly outweighed by dialogue and QuickTime event scenes. There is the occasional mini-game thrown in like “Vault Hunters”, a collectible figurine-based combat game that boils down to more QuickTime events, or Octavio’s hacking mini-game, something the game gives you the option of skipping which says a lot. There is definitely a serious lack of variety to keep things interesting and engaging.
The lack of diversity in gameplay is amplified by a middling and unevenly paced story with characters who are a little unlikeable. The game does start off strong with solid introductions to each of the main cast and a number of supporting characters are introduced but the story soon feels like it is treading water and most of those supporting characters disappear, except for LOU13, an assassination bot who is friends with Octavio. Far too often, making sure there is a joke takes precedence over character growth or consistency with Octavio often quickly swinging from making having an epiphany to doing the dumbest thing possible. Of course, the game does have a solid hit rate with its jokes which is one of its saving graces. One particularly funny character is Brock, the sentient Tediore gun who becomes Ocatavi’s adversary throughout the game, who would get a few laughs out of me each time he turned up.
The middle chapters are filled with too much with the trio going from one seemingly unnecessary misadventure to another too much is left to do in the game’s final chapter. This leaves this final section feeling overstuffed with attempts at heartfelt or emotional falling flat and a conclusion that feels a little unsatisfying. While the game is roughly 10-12hours long, it felt considerably longer.