I am a veteran Borderlands fan. I have played every game in the franchise except the obscure China Exclusive MMO (Yes, it’s a thing - look it up) and I’ve put over 6000 hours into Borderlands 2 over multiple platforms. I say all this to give context for the rest of the review. These aren’t the views of someone jumping into the world for the first time; these are the views of someone who has been heavily invested in the Borderlands franchise for 13 years. With that out of the way, what is New Tales from the Borderlands? Well, New Tales from the Borderlands is a new entry in the Tales from the Borderlands spin-off franchise, originally developed by TellTale Games, hence the title.
Having such an action-packed franchise like Borderlands spin off into a more narrative driven game sounds like a weird idea but the original Tales from the Borderlands was a smash hit and is widely considered to be Telltale’s best game, so already this new instalment has some big shoes to fill. It doesn’t help that in recent years, the public perception of the franchise’s writing has been abysmal, there’s no real nice way to say it; I could go on for days about Borderlands 3’s plot but these reviews have a set word count and I’ve already spent most of it on this introduction…oops. What I’m saying is that New Tales from the Borderlands is fighting an uphill battle. Can it bring the franchise’s standards back to form or will it be another disappointment to add to the pile?
The three central characters of the plot are very well realised and performed, and they compliment the chaotic world of Borderlands’ setting very nicely. Anu is a scientist working for Atlus that's trying to bring peace to a universe where violence and murder are just common day occurences; her brother Octavio is a well meaning scatterbrain with a desire to start his own business, which lets us see the world through the eyes of an average civilian; and the rage filled Fran, the owner of Fran’s Frogurts, who let’s us see how the major gun manufacturers owning most companies in the universe affect the lives of small business owners.
The trademarked Borderlands humour is on full display and isn’t grating like it has been in recent releases, well for the most part; Octavio tends to push it a bit. The jokes are snappier and have more of an impact, especially when the game starts getting into its irreverent dark humour that the franchise is known for. There were times when I was playing where I got so absorbed into its humour, I thought I was watching an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
The choice to make the weapons manufacturer Tediore the villains of the game is a very interesting choice from a lore perspective. Tediore has always been off to the side, not really doing much for the majority of the franchise to the point where some characters believe that Tediore didn’t even actually exist and that the CEOs of other manufacturers consider the company an embarrassment. As the player will learn, Tediore’s business model of cheap affordable weapons for the average consumer has made them massive profits and therefore, a lot of extra resources that make them a Handsome Jack era Hyperion level threat.
- Well written characters that compliment the setting
- Well executed humour
- New and interesting Tediore lore for the lore nerds
New Tales from the Borderlands’ narrative pacing is kind of all over the place. The plot just plods around in chapter 3, only for it to spike right up in chapter 4 and then slow back down to a glacial pace in the final chapter, giving the player narrative whiplash.
New Tales from the Borderlands does not do enough with the Borderlands setting. In the original Tales from the Borderlands, the player had to explore all across Pandora looking for pieces of a vault key, got attacked by bandits, met Vault Hunters from previous games, etc. In this game, if it weren’t for Tediore being the main villains, you’d forget you were even playing a Borderlands game. Heck, the only returning character in the game that isn’t just a collectable figure you can find is Rhys, the protagonist from the previous Tales game and now CEO of Atlus, and even then he shows up very sparingly.
I really don’t want to write this because it’s going to make me sound incredibly insensitive, but Fran as a whole is an unnecessary character. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Fran, she’s my favourite character in the game, but she really doesn’t add anything to the overall plot and feels like an afterthought. And now, I have to bring up the fact she’s in a wheelchair; whenever Fran is involved in an action scene, the action has to slow down considerably to accommodate her, which it really shouldn’t because her chair has a built-in hydraulic fist and a freeze ray; she’s the most action-ready character in the game but you guys gotta put the baby gloves on for her, why? There is a scene where she jumps into a shark tank and fist fights sharks but instead of showing that, the camera is glued to Octavio shoutcasting the whole thing! It just feels kind of disrespectful to those with similar afflictions. She feels like she would’ve fit better as a Vault Hunter in a mainline Borderlands game than in this. Heck, I can easily imagine how her skill trees and action skills would be implemented.
- Narrative pacing is all over the place
- Doesn’t do enough with the setting
- Fran is a disrespectfully written character at times
Final Score: 7/10
Despite some of my misgivings about New Tales from the Borderlands, I do believe it is a step in the right direction for the franchise. The characters are enjoyable, the writing is well done and it fleshes out some of the world that fans have wanted to see in a way that doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Thank you for checking out our New Tales from the Borderlands Switch review, thank you to 2K Australia for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: