Telltale Games released the first Stories from the Borderlands game in 2014, and it received critical acclaim for many good reasons. Its fantastic narrative, charming characters, and amazing pace made it one of the best games of this year.
When Gearbox announced there would be a follow-up, I was ecstatic. As longtime border areas Fan, I was hoping New stories from the Borderlands would be as magical as its predecessor. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead of this, New stories from the Borderlands is a disappointing game full of unbearable characters with terrifying dialogues.
New stories from the Borderlands follows three new characters: the siblings Octavio and Anu and Fran. Octavio is a smart kid striving for fame and fortune, while Anu is a scientist dedicated to saving the planet. Fran owns a frozen yogurt shop and is Octavio’s boss.
Events begin to spiral out of control when Anu is fired and Octavio gets into trouble with the Tediore Arms Factory, which is randomly raiding the planet. Along the way, the trio find a magical shard that can heal any wound and even revive the recently dead. When Tediore discovers its existence, the megacorp naturally focuses its efforts on capturing the protagonists. And things keep turning.
While the story here is fine on its own, it quickly devolves into an unbearable mess with the medium’s most annoying characters. It doesn’t help that the tiresome dialogue often drags back and forth, constantly exceeding its greeting.
In one chapter, Anu considers taking an item that could help her get out of a difficult situation. She keeps repeating the same joke: “Would you like me to take you with me? Oh, I shouldn’t take you… but I have to take you! I will take you! Okay, I just took you.”
Jokes like this are scattered throughout the script New stories from the Borderlands and after a chapter or two of a five-chapter run, the lack of self-awareness of both the story and its characters becomes tiring. Octavio comes along as a Gen Z Tiktok kid, unaware of how stupid he sounds. Anu is socially awkward, but the writers completely overwrite her fear to the point of derision. And Fran’s sexual and kinky jokes just come off as creepy.
It’s a shame because the trio are made up of underrepresented characters in gaming. Both Octavio and Anu are South Asian Indians, a group that rarely gets the spotlight. The same goes for Fran, who is disabled and needs a hover chair to get around. I appreciate that their identities aren’t an integral part of their overall personalities, but they’re mistreated at best.
The first Stories from the Borderlands is packed with action-packed scenes but also finds room for slower, character-driven moments, resulting in an impeccable sense of pacing from start to finish. Even in the most intense scenes New stories from the Borderlands feels unexciting outside of the final boss fight, which is itself undermined by the game’s annoying penchant for getting in its own way.
New stories from the Borderlands has a few bright spots, particularly its art style and voice acting. The cel-shaded lines and vibrant colors look clean and amazing on pretty much every asset. Despite my concerns with the dialogues, the voice actors deliver their lines well and convey real emotion throughout the game. I’m glad actors like Michelle Rambharose are at least getting the right opportunities to portray ethnically authentic characters.
While New stories from the Borderlands tries too hard and is generally unfunny, there are some comedic moments worth noting, especially the ones involving L0U13, the crew’s assassination robot. In one scene, I chose to have Octavio tell the truth about a near-death experience the characters had while escaping a monster, rather than embellishing the story. L0U13 berated him and told him that the truth didn’t make Octavio sound cool and that next time he should just lie instead. The serious and stoic nature of L0U13 contrasts well with the trio’s over-the-top qualities.
New stories from the Borderlands Review – The Bottom Line
- Beautiful art style.
- great voice acting,
- Features an underrepresented cast of characters.
- Cringe-inducing dialogues and writing.
- Annoying occupation.
- Almost a joke lands on his face.
New stories from the Borderlands doesn’t have an ounce of the charisma or nuance of the first game. Its script is disgusting and its characters ultimately unlikable, making for a groaning 10-hour runtime. It looks nice and the dialogue is delivered well, but that’s about all it has to offer. As a huge fan of the original, I can’t help but feel totally disappointed New stories from the Borderlands.
[Note: 2K Games provided the copy of New Tales from the Borderlands used for this review.]