New Tales from the Borderlands Review: A Most Disappointing Sequel

New Tales from the Borderlands is a vapid vision of its remarkable predecessor, bogged down by exasperating choices from beginning to end.

Telltale Games released the first Tales from the Borderlands game in 2014, and it received critical acclaim for plenty of good reasons. Its fantastic narrative, charming characters, and amazing pacing made for one of the best games of that year.

So when Gearbox announced there would be a follow-up, I was ecstatic. As a long-time Borderlands fan, I hoped that New Tales from the Borderlands would be as magical as its predecessor. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Instead, New Tales from the Borderlands is a disappointing game filled with insufferable characters with cringe-inducing dialog.

New Tales from the Borderlands follows three new characters: siblings Octavio and Anu, and Fran. Octavio is a street-smart kid who desires fame and fortune, while Anu is a scientist dedicated to saving the planet. Fran owns a frozen yogurt shop and is Octavio’s boss.

Events start spiraling out of control when Anu gets fired and Octavio gets into trouble with the Tediore weapons manufacturing company, which just so happens to be invading the planet. Along the way, the trio finds a magical shard that can heal any wound and even resurrect the recently deceased. Of course, when Tediore discovers its existence, the mega-corporation focuses its efforts on capturing the protagonists. And things spiral further. 

While the story here is fine on its own, it quickly devolves into an unbearable mess with the most annoying characters in the medium. It doesn't help that the irksome dialogue often drags on and on, continually overstaying its welcome. 

In one chapter, Anu contemplates taking an object that could help get her out of a sticky situation. She repeats the same joke over and over and over and over again: “Should I take you? Oh, I shouldn’t take you…but I need to take you! I’m going to take you! Ok, I just took you.” 

Jokes like these are littered across the script in New Tales from the Borderlands and after a chapter or two of a five-chapter run, the lack of self awareness from both the story and its characters grows tiresome. Octavio comes off as a Gen-Z Tiktok kid completely unaware of how dumb he sounds. Anu is socially awkward, but the writers completely overwrite her anxiety to the point of mockery. And Fran's sexual and perverted jokes simply come off as creepy.

It’s a shame because the trio is composed of underrepresented characters in gaming. Both Octavio and Anu are South Asian Indians, a group rarely given the spotlight. The same goes for Fran, who is disabled and requires a hoverchair to get around. I appreciate their identities aren’t integral to their overall personalities, but they're woefully mishandled at best. 

The first Tales from the Borderlands is filled with action-packed scenes but finds room for slower, character-focused moments, too, leading to an impeccable sense of pacing from beginning to end. Even in the most intense scenes, New Tales from the Borderlands doesn't feel exciting outside of the final boss battle, which itself is undermined by the game's vexing penchant for getting in its own way. 

New Tales from the Borderlands does have a few bright spots, specifically its art style and voice acting. The cel-shaded lines and vibrant colors look clean and amazing on pretty much every asset. Despite my qualms with the dialog, the voice actors deliver their lines well, conveying genuine emotions throughout the game. I'm glad that actors like Michelle Rambharose are at least given the proper opportunities to portray ethnically authentic characters.

While New Tales from the Borderlands tries too hard and is generally unfunny, there are some comedic moments worth calling attention to, specifically those involving L0U13, the crew’s assassination robot. In one scene, I chose to let Octavio tell the truth about a near-death experience the characters had with escaping a monster instead of embellishing the story. L0U13 berated him, telling him that the truth didn’t make Octavio sound cool, and that he should just lie next time instead. L0U13's serious and stoic nature contrasts well with the over exaggerated characteristics of the trio.

New Tales from the Borderlands Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Beautiful art style.
  • Great voice acting,
  • Features an underrepresented cast of characters.

Cons

  • Cringe-inducing dialogue and writing.
  • Annoying cast. 
  • Almost joke lands on its face.

New Tales from the Borderlands doesn’t have an ounce of the charisma or nuance found in the first game. Its script is obnoxious, and its characters ultimately unlikable, making for a groan worthy 10-hour run time. It looks pretty and dialog is delivered well, but that’s about all it has going for it. As a huge fan of the original, I can’t help but feel completely let down by New Tales From the Borderlands

[Note: 2K Games provided the copy of New Tales from the Borderlands used for this review.]

Our Rating
4
New Tales from the Borderlands is a vapid vision of its remarkable predecessor, bogged down by exasperating choices from beginning to end.
Reviewed On: Series X

Contributor

Published Nov. 4th 2022

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