A New Tale from the Borderlands is a raucous tale traversing space, featuring over-the-top characters, dangerous experiments, and mysterious alien powers, for better or worse, in signature Borderlands style presented. Fortunately, in this case, it’s mostly for the better.
While the story is told in the style of science fiction, the core of the story of “New Tales of the Borderlands” revolves around the relationship between three seemingly hopeless chumps, each with their own unique characteristics. Embarrassment. Players will control all three of these main characters in various orders throughout the game. Anu is a selfless and ambitious scientist who can barely save a conversation without embarrassing herself and others. Octavio, her brother, is in many ways her antithesis, seeing himself as a charming, brilliant entrepreneur. Unfortunately, none of these descriptions actually apply to him. Fran is a frozen yogurt artist with a levitating chair full of gadgets and a dangerous rage problem.
The game begins with Anu establishing herself as a staunch supporter of animal rights, as she unleashes jabbers (monkey-like creatures) that her company, Atlas, uses for experiments. Players quickly learn of her serious plans to create a world without killing — anyone who’s played a Borderlands game will know how impossible that is in this universe. From there, the focus shifts to Octavio, who’s off to help a robot friend commit some accidental, sanctioned murder. Finally, the players meet Fran, who serves her usual frozen yogurt at her recently bombed restaurant.
In this opening chapter, the game takes its time and the audience gets a good feel for the heroes of New Borderlands Tales. Unfortunately, the pace of progress feels a little off, rushed in some cases and dragging along inconsequential banter in others. There are slight narrative imbalances : The lack of moments of real development the characters deserve is exacerbated by the occasional long relish or silly conversation. Some players will have to resist the urge to click through some dialogue where dumb people are overly welcoming and offer little value.
But thankfully, the imperfect pacing and comedic missteps don’t hinder the otherwise great writing too much. Importantly, the game has largely shed the potty humor mentality for which the mainline looter/shooter entries are known, and replaced it with quick, clever, and surprising jokes that elicit a hearty laugh from the player . New Tales from the Borderlands introduces some pop culture references, but not particularly many, and the game does occasionally fall back on fart jokes, but overall, the trio’s goofy charm and back-and-forth sharpness It was a great pleasure to witness.
The main crew joins a cast of characters who not only have their own, each brings something weird and interesting to the table. The writers were able to extend the lives of these supporting characters beyond the obvious inside jokes they embody, finding new ways to make them meaningful and interesting throughout the story. Psychopaths (the Borderlands term for a group of predatory, erratic killers) who want to stop being psychopaths, and L0U13 (or Louie), a robot on a journey of self-actualization, are two standouts.
Yet these creative characters and great dialogue wouldn’t be able to reach the heights they do without incredible voice acting. The cast of A New Borderlands Tale is a big part of the story and humor. Heroes, villains, and supporting characters are all played with a sense and energy that brings them to life. Players will be drawn in by the laughs until the very end and will likely never tire of hearing the characters speak.
Motion capture adds another layer of realism and personality. Anu’s awkwardness, while very well done vocally, wouldn’t be as strong without the uncomfortable, restricted movement that motion capture is able to exploit. Octavio’s unearned swagger and panicked gestures don’t carry as much weight with the character either.
In terms of gameplay, while New Tales from the Borderlands is not a Telltale project, it still has the same skeleton. Action takes place in fast timed events, making it nearly impossible to fail unless the player wants to, and dialogue choices also form an important part of player agency. In both cases, what the player says, does, or doesn’t do has narrative consequences that affect future dialogue or scenes. They will even decide the winner at the end of the game.
Spread across the game’s five chapters are a handful of mini-games, but most of them add nothing meaningful and are not satisfactorily completed. Fortunately, they’re skippable, but disappointingly, they require very little interaction and effort, even in a genre defined in part by its limited gameplay. The mini-game basically consists of repeatedly pressing a button. Players occasionally get a chance to play a collectible miniatures game called Vaultlanders, which again consists mostly of pressing a button, but adds the need to dodge enemy attacks with directional input. For an experiential game like A New Tale of the Borderlands, deep gameplay isn’t expected or expected; it’s about the story and the characters. But the minigames are so bland that players might wonder why they were included.
At the end of each of the five chapters, players are presented with a results screen detailing how the relationship between the three main characters has developed, along with an overall team cohesion rating. It also allows players to see what important choices they made, and the percentage of players who made the same choice. Unfortunately, at the end of a level, it’s not always obvious what choices lead to their current shared level of bond, or what exactly a better bond will allow players to do in the future.
Despite some choppy pacing, unsatisfying minigames, and occasional attempts at corny humor, Borderlands: A New Tale is a fun and sometimes zany story filled with charming characters. Games with this quality of performance are a true rarity, and the inherent replayability of a choice-based game like this makes it worth checking out.
A New Tale From The Borderlands is out now on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S. Game Rant obtained the PC code for this review.