The New Tales from the Borderlands is a new graphic adventure game developed by Gearbox Software Quebec, and published by 2K games. Set about a year after Borderlands 3, New Tales isn’t intended as a direct sequel to the original Telltale series, but rather a spiritual successor. It introduces three new protagonists, Dr. Anuradha Dhar who is a brilliant Atlas scientist, Fran the struggling frozen yogurt vendor with what appears to be cerebral palsy and a hovering chair, and Octavio Wallace-Dhar the adopted street-smart brother of Anuradha whose big dreams make up for his lack of common sense. These three are brought together by necessity and the allure of the fame and fortune vault-hunting brings.
Booting and menus
Upon first boot, New Tales’ menus are immediately legible, the bold nature of the font, which has now become synonymous with the franchise, makes menus easily legible, and they’re easy enough to navigate because they are the traditional selection type and don’t use a reticle like the ones found in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Going into the settings menu and choosing gameplay will present players with more accessibility options than are typically offered in a game of this genre. Everything from dialogue option timer to QTE completion can be toggled or tweaked, and the explanation of each feature’s function is clear and concise even going as far as showing a visual aid for things like strength-tap meter depletion being disabled.
When dealing with accessibility, a picture like this can often illustrate a point that written descriptions can often fail to articulate. I don’t anticipate any visual barriers, not only as a result of this, but because subtitle size can be adjusted via a slider and has a whopping ten different sizes to choose from.
Gameplay and Interaction
Anyone who played the original Telltale series is going to feel right at home here, as despite having new writers, it retains the zany over-the-top and often violent sense of humor characteristic of the franchise. Like its predecessor, dialogue in the game dictates how the story will unfold. When presented with a situation where a choice is required, four options will display at the bottom of the screen, and by pressing one of four face-buttons players make a choice. By default, choices like these have a timer just like Telltale games, but here, the timer can either be extended or disabled completely to allow for infinite time. When doing QTEs that require rapid taps they can be switched to holds, but even more impressive than that is the fact that the meters that fill during rapid-tap events can be set in such a way that they don’t deplete should you release the button. If QTEs aren’t something you are able to complete, not only can you freeze the timer, but you can also program it to read a correct input regardless of which button you press, or even set them to auto-complete. As such, I foresee no barriers for players with motor impairments.
The caveat is that the consequences of choices are never clearly explained, and the title never distinguishes which choices are the ones that have long-lasting ramifications, so a choice that seems insignificant in one episode can come back to bite you in another and vice-versa. This ends up being the game’s biggest miss-step simply because whether or not players acquire the best ending is determined by the group’s chemistry, and at one point in episode 2 a companion decides to rate chemistry with skateboards, yet even when he gives +50 boards to the entire group, at the end you are told you failed in other areas only to have the system be completely forgotten outside of a passing reference in episode 4.
Also included for comedic value and as a side-activity of sorts is a figurine-based fighting game known as vaultlanders. This activity is quite bland, as all chosen accessibility features carry over, but the figures have nothing to differentiate them besides stats, and perks such as health regeneration, or extra critical damage that make them unique, and they are found hidden in the game-world and won as prizes for defeating NPCs who challenge you.
The visual and auditory side of things
New Tales possesses a number of visual options that are helpful to those that are deaf and hard-of hearing. These include size-adjustable subtitles, and also include background opacity. Speaker-tags also change color depending on which character speaks, and it matches their color-palette. The stand-out visual feature for me is the QTE warning system. This system displays a different visual cue for each type of event, be it a cross-air, rapid-tap, or sequence of buttons. The size of these cues is adjustable via a slider. There is also a high contrast outline option available, which puts an orange outline around interactive objects. These objects also shimmer.
However, as greatly accessible as it is, it misses the mark in some key aspects. For example, there is no hint system, and sometimes the key to progression can rest with an object a character has already interacted with, often leaving one confused, only to find after wandering that you need an object you already touched. Given how accessible the title is it’s strange that there isn’t a better system in place to highlight the decisions that alter the course of the narrative, other then a small blue text box in the top-left.
Like its three protagonists, New Tales from The Borderlands is flawed, but it retains all the ingredients that made Telltale a household name, it sets a new benchmark for accessibility in the genre as a whole and fixes many of its longest-running issues in the process. Fans of the series and genre would do well to pick it up.