‘New Tales From The Borderlands’ hands-off preview: an entertaining choice-driven comedy

It's hard not to love this trio of endearing losers

New Tales From The Borderlands goes above and beyond in earning its ‘New’ prefix. A spiritual successor to Telltale‘s original 2014 game, new developer Gearbox Software crams a lot of firsts for the Borderlands series into this chaotic choose your own adventure.

The first thing you’ll notice about New Tales From The Borderlands is that it brings a completely fresh cast into play. Spoiler: they’re brilliant. The game’s main trio includes hard-as-nails Frogurt slinger Fran (who has a weaponised wheelchair,) goodie two-shoes scientist Anu, and her endearingly daft brother Octavio.

As you’d expect from Borderlands, the chemistry between the three is mostly just punchline after punchline – but unlike the mainline series’ recent games, New Tales makes this work because each character is irresistibly charming. As the trio plot to steal a Vault’s treasure before invading gun manufacturer Tediore can get its hands on it, each character’s distinct personality helps New Tales‘ choice-based narrative take shape.

New Tales From The Borderlands. Credit: Gearbox.
New Tales From The Borderlands. Credit: Gearbox.

When debating how best to deal with a guard in their way, Octavio is all bluster and bravado, and lays out a plan to sneak past the sentry – despite spending the last five minutes of dialogue proving silence isn’t a strength of his. Meanwhile, the world-weary Fran offers a simpler solution: she’ll just…kill the guard. Gearbox says that whichever option the player selects, it will take them down a new cutscene or dialogue branch and for the sake of demonstration, we got to see that both resulted in a series of quick-time events – though one was far more violent in nature than the other.

Throughout the preview, it was rare for a minute to go by without a decision to make or a quick-time event to complete. New Tales From The Borderlands plays completely tongue-in-cheek, and is all-too eager to puncture a scene’s gravitas with a silly gag. When one of Octavio’s more questionable ideas – a stealth sequence involving a moving cardboard box and a suspiciously familiar “!” sound effect – fails, all looks certain to get bloody until a guard challenges Octavio to a duel with toys. New Tales From The Borderlands sometimes feels like a relentless pursuit of punchlines, but if they’re all as entertaining as those shown in the preview, the writing’s good enough to make it work.

New Tales From The Borderlands. Credit: Gearbox.
New Tales From The Borderlands. Credit: Gearbox.

That being said, New Tales‘ charismatic cast means that you’ll get so invested in their quest, moments of genuine danger can feel intense. When they reach the vault – only to find its guardians effortlessly slaughtering Tediore’s first wave of would-be explorers – you’re pulled into a terrifying chase that requires quick thinking. As a result of the choices made, Fran ends up taking a bullet to the shoulder – not only does 2K say this could have been avoided, the developer adds that it will have an effect on which decisions are available in the future.

From the preview, the biggest takeaway is that players’ choices feel genuinely impactful in some form or another – whether it’s with the players’ decision being recognised with a fresh set of dialogue, a different quick-time event to mash out, or in Fran’s unfortunate case, an extra hole in the shoulder. New Tales From The Borderlands isn’t going to win over anyone who already finds Borderlands’ shtick a bit tiring, but for anyone else, it’s shaping up to be a highly entertaining story that’s worth checking out come October.

New Tales From The Borderlands launches on October 21 for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. 

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