New Tales From The Borderlands - Hands-Off Preview
It wasn’t even a fortnight ago that we learned about New Tales From The Borderlands, now, thanks to 2K Australia and Gearbox, I was fortunate enough to get some time with the developers and 30 minutes to check out New Tales From The Borderlands in action. Tales From The Borderlands, the 2014-15 smash from Talltale Games feels like a distant memory at this point with all that has occurred in the industry, Telltale has been shuttered and been reborn again, while Gearbox have gone on to release remasters of Borderlands classics, VR renditions, and new titles in Borderlands 3, and 2022’s Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Despite their reemergence, Telltale aren’t involved with this new entry, with former Telltalers partnering with Gearbox Quebec on this new game. From what I’m seeing, we should all be feeling incredibly positive about what New Tales From The Borderlands is going to be bringing this October 21st.
The demo that I was shown, with accompanying commentary from New Tales From The Borderlands’ Director of Production, James Lopez, Lin Joyce, the game’s Head of Writing, and Frédéric Scheubel, Producer from Gearbox Quebec, highlighted the importance of choice in the game. Choice was always a substantial part of Telltale’s past works, however what Gearbox Quebec is looking to achieve in the scenario design of New Tales From The Borderlands far exceeds what was accomplished nearly eight years ago. The demo emphasised the importance of the hard fail state versus the soft fail state, one that would result in a game restart, like a failed QTE opportunity that led to new protagonist Fran being filled with lead, while soft fail scenarios kept the action going but with less-than-ideal consequences for your error or lapse in focus. The team discussed the thousands of large and small moments where what transpires is driven by the narrative choices of the player or the action/inaction of the player in moments, and from the limited time I had to watch on as the demo was played, it is clear that players are going to enjoy what is on offer.
Launching with five episodes, all available on October 21, the demo was set during the game’s second episode, with the trio of Anu, Fran, and Octavio, all franchise newbies, together, and on the hunt for a Vault. You could see the archetypes of the characters, Octavio the overly enthuiastic, and particularly clumsy-with-his-words young man, who is desperate to do everything in the most stylish way possible, Fran is keen for bloodshed, any situation where you avoid bloodshed is an opportunity missed, while Anu feels like the primary vessel for the player, one whose decisions and indecision gives players the opportunity to be the moral compass of the group. Despite Anu seemingly being the guiding hand of the party, the path the crew pursue is still shared. When decisions need to be made a small mugshot of the controlling character is at the center of the decision screen highlighting who is responsible for the choice. Players can then opt to lean into the nature of the character, or push them in ways that challenge their nature. Watching on as the decisions you make force the team to wrestle with the ever-evolving implications stands to be exciting to consume.
New Tales From The Borderlands also introduces Vaultlanders, a fun aside where players who lean into it can collect playable figurines throughout their adventure, which they can add to their pool and compete against others in the world. The demo showed off the likes of Salvador, Amara, Vasquez, Phuong, FL4K and more, and when I pressed about the presence of other iconic characters such as Handsome Jack being present the team understandably got shy. For fans of the franchise’s most endearingly obnoxious character we’ll just have to wait and see for now. The action involving Vaulthunters seems simple enough though, its a 1v1 clash of characters with some button mashing and fast QTE responses to evade incoming attacks. It’s all very basic, but it’ll be a nice, light distraction for those eager to engage.
With October 21st rapidly closing in, it seems clear that Gearbox Quebec have taken the time to understand what made the original tick, and channeled that into this post-Borderlands 3-set world, layered upon by new systems, and new and improved approaches to storytelling within the constraints of the style of game that they’re making. “Hold onto your butts” because New Tales Of The Borderlands is shaping up really well!