We've delved into Gearbox Studio's latest effort, New Tales from the Borderlands, one quick time event at a time.
Eight years have passed since Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands debuted and wormed its way into our hearts. Now, the sequel is here, however, it's no longer Telltale at the helm, but Gearbox Studios instead. But I needn't have worried so much about that because when I start the game I'm greeted by the familiar animation style and slightly sick humour that is a hallmark of the series and also a reason why I love it. It's clear that Gearbox lured over some experts from Telltale to help with the game but the question is whether they got enough people on board?
Like previous games, this is a story-based adventure that is driven by your choices as a player. And just like before, this is broken up into episodes, five to be exact. However, this time you don't have to be as patient and don't have to wait for the episodes, you can play them straight away without interruption. The game is built with quick time events and it is also important to choose the right options in the dialogue, which sometimes causes problems when time is ticking a bit too fast. Quick time events on the other hand, despite their flaws, are really no problem as long as you know your controller well and know where the buttons are located.
This time it's not our beloved anti-heroes Rhys and Fiona that we get to accompany on adventures, although Rhys does make a guest appearance in the story. No, the game instead begins with an invasion of the planet Promethea by the greedy corporation Tediore led by Susan Coldwell, and it's that event that brings our three new protagonists together as a group in this adventure to stop the destruction of their home planet. All three with slightly different intentions; one wants to save the world, another wants to save the world to become famous and make tons of money, and the third just wants pure vengeance on Coldwell.
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But let me introduce you to our trio to begin with. First up is Dr. Anuradha Dhar, or Anu as she is known. Anu is a neurotic scientist and developer who works for the Atlas Corporation developing new weapons, which may not be the best place for a nervous, panic-stricken, weapons-denying peace preacher. She dreams of creating a weapon that will stop all wars and bring world peace and would rather sit by the campfire singing Kumbaya, which is also why she suddenly finds herself unemployed when Rhys fires her for yet another failed weapon that does anything but kill. Then there's Anu's brother Octavio. Where Anu is socially maladjusted, her adopted brother Octavio is the exact opposite.
He's what he would call street smart, and aspires to be rich and famous like so many other talentless millennial babies. His dream is markedly different from his sister's because he wants to make Forge magazine's "Super Successful Dirty Thirty" list. But where Anu has the brains, let's just say that Octavio would have benefited from a little more of the same because he's a master at getting himself and others into trouble with his not-so-well-thought-out ideas. But as anyone with siblings knows, it's never easy living in your sibling's shadow and Octavio really struggles to walk his own path and not end up in Anu's. Last but not least we have Fran Miscowish, a sexually frustrated wheelchair bound woman past her prime who is working hard to continue her streak as a sober "Rage-o-holic", without falling back into old habits and losing her temper again, which is challenging considering her diner was just blown to smithereens.
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And you'd probably be pissed too if someone shot your livelihood (Fran's French Froghurt restaurant) to pieces with a laser and left it in shambles. They are three memorable characters who bring different strengths to the table. Anu, for example, has a scanning device that allows her to see hidden things and even read information about them, while Octavio has a smartwatch that can hack computers to open doors.
Fran lacks both a smartwatch and scanning gadgets, but she does have her hovering wheelchair, which could make Inspector Gadget jealous with its freezing laser that comes in handy on several occasions. You can also tweak your characters and their mannerisms in machines that are on display, changing clothes and colours, which doesn't change anything other than just the in-game appearance but still is a fun idea to be able to put your own stamp on them. While I like the characters in the game, there are those that make an even bigger impression and those are the side characters that we unfortunately can't play as; LOU13 , Brock, and Stapleface.
LOU13 is a murderous robot who is now the gang's muscle and Octavio's best friend. He keeps tabs on the emotional bond between the gang by awarding points after each episode, and it's at the end of the game that you realise that the scoring system matters in regard to which ending you get, because there are actually several different endings and mine wasn't one of the best unfortunately.
Brock isn't really a sidekick but more of an enemy but you still want to pinch his non-existent cheeks and take him home with you. Brock is in fact a talking Tediore automatic rifle that just wants to put a bullet in our foreheads but that doesn't change the the fact that he's cute with his little legs following you around. Then there's Stapleface who is a former Psycho who becomes infatuated with Anu after she saves her from her death.
But my biggest favourite in the game is still an unnamed Vaultlander-fanatic Tediore soldier who pops up where you least expect it and forces you to challenge him to a mini-game called Vaultlanders Action Fight. If you happen to open a small box, he'll come crawling out like a surprise in the mail and it's then time to fight to the death with the little action characters you can collect in the game. They bring to mind the old Skylanders figures that every parent remembers, but are now cluttering up the back of someone's closet. The mini-game isn't particularly difficult, but again it's all about quick time events and picking the figure best suited to beating the opponent's figure, all of which have unique attacks.
Whoever emerges victorious wins the opponent's figure and adds it to their large and growing collection. These figures are also hidden in various places throughout the game, so just bring out your inner truffle pig and sniff them out and reap the reward of a trophy when you find them all. I'm not going to go into the plot of the game because I understand that you want to experience it for yourself without me sitting here spoiling it for you. But what I can say is that it's a cosy game filled with humour. It's a nice relaxing experience that's not just about rushing around with a gun in first person and shooting at anything that moves.
I like that my decisions have consequences and that the story might suddenly take a different path than I intended and it keeps me on my toes. But at the same time I think the game and its mini-games are too easy, they could have cranked up the difficulty a bit so it wouldn't have felt so lacking on challenge on multiple occasions. But, there is still replay value to the game if, like me, you happened to get a pretty rotten ending.
I liked New Tales from the Borderlands, but I won't sugar-coat it, it didn't quite live up to the brilliance of the original game. And usually that's the case for a sequel, you're constantly being compared to the first one. This game is interesting and fun, it's enjoyable and entertaining, but there are better narrative-heavy adventures out there. But I don't regret playing it all, I just think there are ways that this could have been better.
7 / 10
Stylish. Brilliant humour. Great characters.
Doesn't quite live up to its predecessor. Easy mini-games.