A Gearbox staffer recently shared in a new interview how their studio is working on making their own New Tales of the Borderlands without the original developer, Telltale Games.
The original Telltale Games was founded in 2004 by former LucasArts staff, establishing themselves as the progenitor of episodic narrative driven adventure games, where key choices would change parts of certain storylines within the game. While Telltale’s work would prove popular, they would declare bankruptcy in 2018 over mismanagement and funding issues. A new Telltale Games under different ownership was also launched in 2018, which did acquire many of Telltale’s IP, and have promised to make new games for those IP, but have yet to make an original release.
Gearbox had the original Telltale develop Tales from the Borderlands, a popular comedic spinoff from the Borderlands series that detailed events after the ending of Borderlands 2. For New Tales from the Borderlands, Gearbox has decided to strike out on their own, which also means that they will be making changes to Telltale’s original formula to create something that will hopefully feel entirely new.
This interview was with Gearbox Director of Production James Lopez, and he emphasized that with New Tales from the Borderlands, the company deliberately tried to get away from the skill based gameplay Borderlands is known for, in favor of a more casual friendly, light comedic experience.
There will still be things like mini-games and narrative choices, but the way they play out will not make you feel as pressured as Telltale originally did. For example, they are adding a settling so that QTEs will give you more time to press the required input, almost allowing you to auto pass them.
However, a more significant gameplay element is the subtleties they are adding to your choices. Going beyond Telltale’s notion that every dialogue choice changes the game, Gearbox wants to make every input make a meaningful change to the game, even if you don’t notice it.
In particular, Gearbox did not want players second guessing if they made the ‘right’ choice with the best outcome, and then having to go back in and choose again to find something favorable. So this time, there will be less obvious clues that a choice you made has affected an outcome. These won’t raise alert levels as much for players, but if you are very observant, you will notice.
In the example given, the PAX stage demo for New Tales from the Borderlands has a dialogue choice where your main character, Anu, has to choose between her companions’ plans. If you choose Fran’s plan over Anu’s brother Octavio, Octavio’s feelings will be hurt, but you will only notice it if you pay attention to his gestures and inflection.
Going back into the QTEs, Gearbox wants to change the general pass/fail feeling that those interactions generate. So New Tales from the Borderlands will have hard fails, that will require you restart from the checkpoint, and soft fails, which will let you move forward, but also makes small changes to the game. Again, pointing to the Pax demo, there’s a combat QTE where you can come out of it injured, but ready to continue. Some players will get a unique outcome, where they see the character getting patched up, but not every player will see it or know how to make it come out.
Their hope is that instead of feeling dread from failing a QTE, players will be curious about soft failing QTEs, and experimenting in multiple playthroughs if they want to move forward with certain fails to see what outcomes they can generate.
Lastly, James revealed that New Tales from the Borderlands is about twelve hours long, but players have flexibility to extend that as they feel like it. Many of the elements they added, such as the Vaultlanders mini-game, or the figurine collectibles, are optional and skippable. James also asserted that speedruns will be difficult because there are no gameplay elements like grenade jumping to skip game sequences. Of course, hardcore speedrunners take the trouble to look beyond official gameplay and peek in the game code themselves for bugs and exploits to enable speedruns the developers didn’t intend. It remains to be seen how far they can actually push the game to speedrun it, but for the rest of us, it may turn out to be most fun sticking around as long as you can.
New Tales of the Borderlands will be released on October 21, 2022 on Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.