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[News] New Tales From The Borderlands Review - Good Stories

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New Tales from the Borderlands is a fun pit stop in the space Western of the Borderlands series. Much like its predecessor, Telltale Games' Tales from the Borderlands, this new adventure focuses on an ensemble cast of everyday people, not the superhero-like Vault Hunters of the main series. And in a very similar vein to the first game, New Tales from the Borderlands makes a solid case that the series needs more stories like this one. It's just more interesting to see normal people navigating Borderlands' capitalist hellscape of corporate wars as they approach the ludicrous antics and dystopian lawlessness from a more relatable perspective.

The normal people in question are altruistic scientist Anu, her younger adopted brother Octavio, and frozen yogurt shop owner Fran. Anu wants to build a device that can end conflicts nonviolently, much to the chagrin of the weapons manufacturer she works for. Octavio desires respect and fame, seeking an idea for a get-rich start-up business. And Fran desires vengeance upon weapons manufacturer Tediore, whose invasion of the planet of Promethea results in the destruction of her shop. Upon learning the invasion is to acquire a Vault Key and open the Promethean Vault, the trio finds themselves working together to acquire the Vault's treasure before Tediore can claim it, hoping it will be something valuable enough to secure funding for Anu's research and Octavio's dreams, while also depriving Tediore of their goal and netting Fran her revenge.

Most of New Tales from the Borderlands has you making dialogue choices for Anu, Octavio, or Fran, or performing some feat via a quick-time event. Your choices can have a range of consequences--strengthening the relationship between two characters, for example--but their primary effect is repercussions on the story. You can't outright avoid the major narrative beats of each chapter, but you can influence how events transpire to color in your own take on the adventure. Fran is always going to be visited by the insurance agent overseeing her claim of the damage to her shop, for instance, but it's entirely up to the choices you made leading up to and during that encounter that determine whether she gets that payout, and shapes how the agent perceives her going forward. This structure does mean that New Tales from the Borderlands can occasionally feel too scripted--especially near the end of episodes when the story has to guide you towards an unavoidable outcome to set up the next story beat--but it works for the most part, injecting enough player agency into the story to create tangible change in pretty much every event.

Between all the careful decision-making and timed button-pressing, New Tales from the Borderlands opens up into contained areas where you can explore. In these spaces, you can talk to certain characters, scavenge for money to pay for in-game cosmetics, and accomplish optional objectives. Additionally, as Octavio, you can hack into electronics, and as Anu, you can scan important objects or people to learn more about them. There's not much to these moments beyond solving optional puzzles (like hacking minigames) to accomplish side objectives. They do provide a nice reprieve, though, breaking up the action of the plot to give you a chance to breathe. It helps ensure there are several easily-identifiable moments within each episode where you can pause and take a break if you need or want to.

New Tales from the Borderlands opens on a strong note, both in terms of storytelling and humor. It's very clear from the outset that Anu, Octavio, and Fran are not Vault Hunters and are some of the most ill-equipped people to be tackling a venture that's normally handled by women who can bend the fabric of space and time, soldiers who can summon murder mechs, or mutants who can grow stronger by setting themselves on fire. But there's a goofy appeal to each of the protagonists. You can't help but root for these underdogs to somehow, some way succeed. Octavio even grew on me. Is he a tad annoying? Absolutely. But there's a roguish charm to him--I can see why all of his far more competent friends keep him around. He's like that one idiot goofball who everyone loves to make fun of, but also keeps the group dynamic fresh with the occasional wisecrack and is ready to throw down for you at a moment's notice. He's a good guy.

Link: https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/new-tales-from-the-borderlands-review-good-stories/1900-6417984/


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