New Tales from the Borderlands Review – Out with the Old, in with the Old

New Tales from the the Borderlands delivers an entertaining sequel worthy of the Borderlands name, but doesn’t take enough risks to evolve the format.

Posted By | On 20th, Oct. 2022

New Tales from the Borderlands Review – Out with the Old, in with the Old

If Tales from the Borderlands was something you enjoyed, and that style of storytelling and choice that Telltale popularized spoke to you, then you’ll be glad to know that Gearbox Software has greatly succeeded in replicating that style for their new game New Tales from the Borderlands. The charm and humor that Borderlands games have long been so well known for continues to shine here, as it has done so consistently throughout the series, but for the more niche’ spin-off series focusing on the tales from it, it seems that Gearbox has not only succeeded in picking up the pieces dropped by Telltale games, but they have used them to assemble something even better that the last game with an experience that runs better, plays better, and sheds more light on its characters with its stellar writing and performances.

"The charm and humor that Borderlands games have long been so well known for continues to shine here, as it has done so consistently throughout the series, but for the more niche’ spin-off series focusing on the tales from it, it seems that Gearbox has not only succeeded in picking up the pieces dropped by Telltale games, but they have used them to assemble something even better that the last game with an experience that runs better, plays better, and sheds more light on its characters with its stellar writing and performances."

Out of the more notable improvements, New Tales from the Borderlands boasts a clearly better development toolset behind the curtain. The frame-rate hitching and input delay that so often plagued the Telltale games is nowhere to be seen here, outside of the occasional barely noticeable hiccup that falls well within acceptable parameters. I also get the sense that New Tales seems to feature more precise mo-cop for its actors, which is a great step up from the last game in the spin-off series, and really illustrates the subtle ticks, nods, and other small gestures that are so crucial to the humor of Borderlands and elevate the new characters’ personalities to great heights.

The same can’t quite be said for the story itself though, as it can feel like it’s shuffling around the same handful of ideas without actually building much with them for long stretches of time. Other times, it is exceptionally entertaining with its fresh cast – Fran and LOU13 being the clear stand-outs to me. No one character falls below good though, so the strong cast ends up being perhaps the story’s greatest strength. While it’s not always as consistently interesting as the story in other Borderlands games tends to be, it does shed more light on its characters than the last game by showing them in a larger variety of situations and giving them more opportunities to make drastically different decisions.

From the outrageously silly to the dramatic and serious, New Tales from the Borderlands really takes you on quite the narrative roller coaster with the clear emphasis on exploring its charming characters and putting them in challenging situations that force them to grow and show depth. Some choices are so drastically different from one another that it can be distracting as my brain was always trying to make sense out of what the canonical path really is, but I suppose that’s more of a ponderance for the choice-based narrative adventure genre at large than this specific game. In any case, while the story does have some dips in entertainment value, it mostly does a good job of managing the ebb and flow of climaxes and build-ups without spending too much time in any one segment.

new tales from the borderlands

"From the outrageously silly to the dramatic and serious, New Tales from the Borderlands really takes you on quite the narrative roller coaster with the clear emphasis on exploring its charming characters and putting them in challenging situations that force them to grow and show depth."

Gameplay is largely similar to the previous Tales from the Borderlands game with timed button prompts and choice making segments being the vast majority of it. There are of course moments where you can explore around a given space, investigate, and stumble into some funny optional interactions, but these segments are tightly confined and usually accompanied by something on the screen telling you exactly what to do when you’re ready to advance. If these segments could have been a little more open-ended and consequential as games like Detroit: Become Human and Syberia 3 have demonstrated as a superior approach, then that might have made New Tales from the Borderlands feel a little more like a major advancement from the previous game as opposed to the conservative upgrade it ended up as.

Given that the last game is nearly a decade old now, it would have been nice to see some larger spaces to explore and a more advanced web of outcomes that my exploration (or lack thereof) could’ve interfaced with. In the case of this particular series, there is certainly nothing wrong with more of the same, but with how New Tales plays things so safely as the narrative adventure genre has grown so much in recent years, the gameplay here can feel a little old hat and unambitious a lot of the time. If you’re coming at this game as a Borderlands fan primarily and not necessarily an avid player of narrative-based adventure games, you probably won’t even notice that, but if you are a fan of either of the games I just mentioned, New Tales from the Borderlands will feel quite simplistic in comparison.

New Tales from the Borderlands has the series’ iconic presentation down pat. The living comic-book aesthetic with thick black outlines and bold colors still looms large over the experience as it has done for its decade plus of games. The additional detail of skin textures and and different surfaces that has been added on in the more recent games can seem to clash with the simplistic nature of its style at times for me, but to each their own I suppose. More objectively speaking, the game runs well, registers inputs quickly, and does a great job of conveying the character’s personalities, style, and humor, just as any good borderlands game requires.

new tales from the borderlands

"Fans of this spin-off series and genre might be a little underwhelmed by the strict allegiance to the rules of its nearly-ten-year-old predecessor, but will more importantly continue to be charmed and entertained by the new faces and situations that this newest tale brings."

There is not much new for the Borderlands series in New Tales. It closely follows in the footsteps of the last game and only meaningfully expands on its ideas on rare occasion. Narratively, I would argue it’s a less consistently entertaining romp than its predecessor, yet the highs it does hit can feel higher than the ones in the previous game, and that is a trade-off you may or may not like depending on your taste. On the other side of the coin, the clear improvements on the back end make for a more pleasing gameplay experience despite the mechanics themselves being more focused on faithful replication of how the last game played rather than overhauling or advancing anything. As a result, it’s pretty clear this is a Gearbox game and not a Telltale game, but as a follow-up to Tales from the Borderlands, it undeniably checks more boxes than not, and shows that Gearbox is capable of putting out Borderlands games in both of the genres it’s taken part in. Bottom line? Fans of this spin-off series and genre might be a little underwhelmed by the strict allegiance to the rules of its nearly-ten-year-old predecessor, but will more importantly continue to be charmed and entertained by the new faces and situations that this newest tale brings.

This game was reviewed on PC.


THE GOOD

Solid new cast; Above average writing and acting; Runs well.

THE BAD

Story occasionally flattens out; Gameplay is largely unevolved.

Final Verdict:
GREAT
New Tales from the Borderlands is a safe, risk-averse sequel that gets more right than wrong.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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