Analysis of New Tales From the Borderlands, choose your joke

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Looking back, despite its bittersweet ending and the controversies experienced during his years in the industry, the enormous footprint that has left the Telltale Games label in the video game industry, especially in the aspect of its narrative adventures. The huge success of The Walking Dead. A Telltale Series, in combination with his darkest years, overshadowed many of his best works, such as Tales from the Borderlands. This adventure in the purest Telltale style offered us a spin-off of the famous franchise of Gearbox; despite using its much-maligned release in episodic format, Tales from the Borderlands he dazzled audiences and critics alike with his sense of humor and a successful mix of the studio’s best qualities.

New Tales from the Borderlands can be interpreted as a spiritual successor to that title, although there is an important change that, ultimately, ends up being noticed in the final result: Gearbox has been in charge of the development instead of Telltale Gameswhich is still involved in the development of the expected The Wolf Among Us 2.

The result is a work that, although he knows how to capture the essence of the Borderlands universe and is capable of making people laugh like few othersalso shows a huge lack of ambition, settling for superficially copying what makes this type of proposal special. Humor and absurdity engulf everything, being the engine of his story and of decisions that seem to have no other purpose than to guide us towards the next joke. Although it has many virtues, it is difficult not to think of New Tales from the Borderlands as a freehand copy of the work done by Telltale Games.

An original setting within the saga…

New Tales from the Borderlands It is set on the planet Promethea, after the events of Borderlands 3 and the Maliwan attack on the city. We will control three protagonists: Anu, Octavio and Fran. Anu is a pacifist scientist who works for Rhys at the Atlas Corporation (yes, the Rhys of the first Tales from the Borderlands), now CEO of one of the great arms industries that controls the galaxy… at least until Tediore decides to attack his space base with Anu inside. However, Anu manages to rescue his latest invention: a device capable of making anything disappear. But, as Anu would insist on specifying, it is neither a weapon nor does it kill.

On the other hand, in Promethea we have Octavio, the brother of Anu. A hustler who, together with the sophisticated, as well as hilarious, killer robot LOU13, pursues his dream of setting up a company and becoming a business tycoon Between wads and wads, he works for Fran, the owner of a yogurt business that was destroyed in the last invasion. Fran is an energetic middle-aged woman with serious problems controlling her anger and her libido, but that won’t stop her from being happy and rebuilding hers again. Prosperous? business. When Tediore’s attack reaches Promethea, the fates of these three losers will be sealed.

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Although the search for the chambers introduces a key element on which the adventure will be based, it was important for the developers to choose a setting and characters that were far from the desert environments and exotic places of Pandora; in Promethea they found the ideal place to place a story in a more urban environment and to focus on how the secondary of the universe survive Borderlandsbut also how in such a crazy universe even three nobodys can determine the fate of the galaxy.

“It’s difficult to decide whether or not to give in to the joke, something that has a very direct influence on how we perceive the story”

Without abandoning part of the action that characterizes the saga, as well as its enemies, characters and setting, New Tales from the Borderlands manages to broaden the horizons of the series through this installment, showing a large number of new perspectives and situations within its universe; Of course, it is also full of winks and references to old acquaintances of the saga. However, the absurd humor is so present in all aspects of the game that at no time do you get to take seriously the events that are narrated to us. Although it is appreciated (and much!) that there are still proposals like the one at hand or Return to Monkey Island that embrace humor without complexes, for the claims of a narrative adventure with a certain emotional impact it can be very difficult to balance the tone. When it comes time to decide between various dialogue options, It is difficult to decide whether or not to give in to the joke, something that very directly influences how we perceive history. It is very difficult to accept with good grace the most introspective and emotional sections in this continuous festival of humor.

The plot is followed with interest and all its chapters have twists and unexpected and funny situations, but the omnipresent presence of humor means that at no time are we aware of what decisions can influence our future. According to the developers it is something deliberate, but I think it works against them a lot: despite the fact that their intention was that at no time were we subject to pressure (by the typical “this person will remember what you have done” signs), as a last resort gives the feeling that our choices are unimportant, whether or not they lead to a different situation. This perception increases when we fail a QTE, since the vast majority of occasions the game will simply load the game so that we repeat it again until the scene is resolved properly. Not even the end of the game itself feels like a directly related consequence of our journey.

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Fortunately, he ends up loving his protagonists; The entire cast of the game, supporting (underused) included, have wonderful designs and performances. Particularly, the characters of LOU13 and Fran are authentic scene stealers, giving us some unforgettable gags. If there is something in which New Tales from the Borderlands is a resounding success is in its ability to make us laugh out loud with a good part of his gags and situations. That magical moment in which we have to stop playing for a moment to recompose ourselves is not achieved by its election system, but by its jokes. It is one of those games whose games always end with a smile.

The Borderlands universe has never looked better, starting with characters with fabulous designs and body and facial animations that are surprising for their variety; The recognizable cel shading style of the series shows its full potential here, making us dream of the possibility of an animated series of the license. Also has great optimization on PCallowing fairly modest computers to move it with ease and detail.

… with outdated gameplay

As usual in this type of premises, the gameplay is very limited. We will only have control in a specific way to perform certain QTEs (as a rule, simple and uninspired), choose between various dialogue options or explore small scenarios. The exploration feels like an excuse to add variety rather than a content that fits the proposal, since the special abilities of the protagonists are used only as a vehicle to chain new jokes, not as a form of interesting interaction.

Anu has glasses that allow him to scan the environment, Octavio a watch with which to hack gadgets and view character history, and Fran can hit items on stage with a function of her chair. However, none of these capacities serves to relate to the environment in a different way. On a playable level, New Tales from the Borderlands is a tremendously conformist game.

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There are small mini-games throughout our journey that bring freshness and are very well integrated, although they are too simple. For example, in all the chapters we will be able to have an optional combat of “Fight of camerafish”, a transcript in Mortal Kombat in which the fighters use plastic dolls of characters from the series Borderlands; there will be several of them to find and collect. It sounds great, but don’t get your hopes up: we’ll just have to hit a button and hit a simple QTE when it’s time, wasting an idea that, with a little more work, could have worked beyond being a recurring joke.

“On a playable level, New Tales from the Borderlands is a wildly conformist game.”

The same goes for the money we find in the game. As in Tales from the Borderlandsin the exploration scenes we will be able to obtain money with which to buy new skins for our protagonists, but it has not been integrated in any way at the narrative level, despite the fact that economic solvency is the main concern of a large part of our adventurers.

The only original “mechanics” you try to implement New Tales from the Borderlands it is a score (on skateboards, the best form of assessment according to the studies consulted by LOU13) of our cohesion as a team at the end of the chapters, in addition to showing us what choices other players have made. The problem is that at no time in the 10 hours that it took me a while to complete the game, nor when replaying it, did I know exactly what decisions are those that affect that score; I didn’t feel like it was a real score that I could influence with my QTE performance or my decisions.

New Tales from the Borderlands is content to function by copying the class nerd. The label of spiritual successor is a double-edged sword that can reveal the lack of evolution and charisma between student and teacher. Although the story, the setting and, above all, the tone, are pure Borderlands (in the best of ways), the title is weighed down by such conformist gameplay that it comes to play against the immersion in the plot.