A flat and unnecessary journey

A flat and unnecessary journey

Ending its episodic release in 2015, Tales from the borderland was a real triumph for Telltale Games as it was a superb blend of the developer’s cinematic stylings with the humor that made the previous point-and-click adventures shine. While it still had it Borderlands‘ signature ridiculousness — like memey humor and over-the-top violence — it was anchored by a strong script and stellar characters that elevated the story beyond the often trite source material. Seven years later, Telltale has died and been resurrected and Borderlands is still going strong with an upcoming movie and a few spin-offs, one of which is a follow-up to the 2015 adventure game of the distinctly titled New stories from the borderland. However, this sequel unfortunately does not live up to the high level of its predecessor.

New stories stumbles out the gate in two ways: the format and first “episode.” The “episodes” are more like chapters that abruptly stop the action and are leftovers from the past since this game was released all at once and not over a period of months. Regardless of the classification, the debut chapter starts off weak and does little to make you care about the main cast. Adopted siblings Anu and Octavio fall into standard archetypes – Anu is a high-strung scientist while her brother is street sick and obsessed with becoming famous – and they’re joined by Fran, an annoyingly violent frozen yogurt shop owner who seems incurably horny for everyone she’s with. meetings.

There are some attempts to explore each character’s past traumas, but the writing isn’t skilled enough to do anything meaningful with the themes of self-worth and connection around which the narrative revolves. Lacking charm and personalities that are never fully fleshed out, these hollow characters are a far cry from the original’s charming trio of Rhys, Fiona and Vaughn. The only memorable character is L0U13, voiced by Temapare Hodson, who is a robot assassin who eventually has a crisis of consciousness and provides the only effective levity in a script full of missed jokes. The serviceable story itself is also pretty tame, mainly because it’s being pulled along by a shallow crew.

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New Tales from the Borderlands Review: An Unneeded Journey

Given Gearbox’s expertise in frenetic shooters, it was an opportunity for the sequel to break away a bit from Telltale’s formula, which had begun to become stale when the studio collapsed in 2018. Instead, Gearbox follows the established plan, not bothering to try to innovate or freshen it up – rather than hoping that specific kind of genre fatigue has just subsided over the past four years. From the button presses that determine the dialogue to the quick events that make up the action, this feels very much like an average Telltale game that was stripped down and marketed as something new.

The only changes to this well-trodden formula are negative. There is a distinct lack of “They’ll remember that” prompts after significant choices, making it difficult to understand how character bonds develop. There are also annoying hints for quick events that alert you when they’re about to happen, which takes all the surprise out and just clutters up the screen. And while these can thankfully be turned off, they’re made even dumber by the fact that missing a lot of QTEs doesn’t even matter, since the same results still seem to play out on screen anyway.

New Tales from the Borderlands Review: A Flat and Unnecessary Journey

A few mini-games are also added to the mix, such as Octavio using his jailbroken phone to hack into various machines and Anu hitting her custom gun to make it work (like The Fonz did in Happy days but decidedly less cool). These are mostly just time wasters, as there’s nothing to them – the hacking in particular feels like a holdover from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era – and at least the tasting is fun the first time you do it. In addition, there are small battles between miniature figures that can be found in the few open environments as collectibles. They sound good, but these are far too simple since you just mash the attack button and then swipe in directions to avoid attacks in fairly forgiving QTEs, so these end up being painfully boring instead of a neat addition.

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While the flaws are clear, the game benefits from how much of the fatigue that plagued Telltale’s later efforts has dissipated in the years since. There are a few of these types of games that still exist, such as Supermassive Games’ horror-themed ones, but it was really nice to play one that had more colorful characters and wasn’t about constantly murdering cast members. There is still value in walking around an environment, talking to other characters and solving small puzzles. It is a good sign for the future The wolf among us sequel, which New stories from the borderlandThe biggest problems are the boring writing and the unremarkable story rather than the framework.

New stories from the borderland would be easier to swallow if it wasn’t trying to follow up one of the best cinematic adventure games ever made. Instead, we get a forced episodic structure to a game that isn’t episodic, a cast of characters that are more interesting on paper than they are in execution, and a story that ultimately lacks effort since there’s no personal investment in what happens with three bad people who are not as likable. This is Gearbox doing its best imitation of Telltale’s formula and coming up short with little to no ideas on how to modernize the formula seven years later.

SCORE: 5.5/10

As ComingSoon’s rating policy explains, a score of 5 equals “Average.” The positive and negative end up negating each other, making it a wash.

Disclosure: The publisher provided a PlayStation 5 copy to us New stories from the borderland review. Rated at version 1,001,000.

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