It’s back to Pandora for a new spin on the Borderlands universe!
VAULT HUNTING NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD
Tales From The Borderlands is a colorful, charming, narrative-driven take on the Borderlands franchise, switching gears from its loot fest, RPG-Shooter style to the familiar point-and-click, decision heavy style that Telltale Games is famous for.
I would have never guessed that a Borderlands story could be so rich.
The game spans 5 episodes over the course of a season, with each subsequent episode featuring carry-over decisions from the previous episode. As the player, you control 2 main characters, Rhys and Fiona. Rotating time as those characters, your main focus includes dialogue and the occasional quick time event (or QTE).
When engaged in a conversation, you are given 3-4 different options in which to respond. Silence is an option also. The character you’re speaking to will take into account what you’ve said. Sometimes, they will remember what you’ve said and take it to heart. Sometimes, you’ll offend them. This helps or hinders your character as time moves on.
It shocked many when Telltale announced they were working with Gearbox to produce a series on the Borderlands. If you’ve never played a Borderlands game, story is generally considered a weak point of the series. Working on highly detailed universes like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Wolf Among Us (Fables Comic Series) in the past, Tales is a refreshing change of pace, albeit a small one. It seemed that Telltale was ready to take on a new challenge.
Tales features two main protagonists – Rhys (voiced by one of gaming’s leading men, Troy Baker, The Last of Us, Uncharted 4, Batman: Arkham Origins) and Fiona (voiced by the lovely Laura Bailey, Infamous: Second Son). These two are drastically different anti-heroes, but make a great pair. Rhys works for Hyperion, a company that specializes in vault hunting. He has been working hard to get promoted, but has to deal with his obnoxious boss, Hugo Vasquez (Patrick Warburton!). Meanwhile, Fiona is a con-artist that is working on the planet Pandora. Their stories are intertwined and told in a unique perspective throughout the majority of the season.
The story arch is predominately told in flashback sequences, with Rhys and Fiona providing the occasional commentary and analysis. I was more than pleasantly surprised at how well the story came together, though I shouldn’t have doubted Telltale’s pedigree. The characters are memorable, interesting, unique, funny, relate-able, attractive, and feature a unique charm that makes the Borderlands universe stand out.
This is of course aided by the fantastic, all-star voice cast. In addition to the names mentioned above, Nolan North (Uncharted Series) plays a black market agent named August, Ashley Johnson (The Last of Us) plays the lovable Gortys, and Chris Hardwick plays Rhys’ best friend, Vaughn. The game even features cameos (some more prominent than others) from the Borderlands games. Tales isn’t the success it is without this cast.
Tales From The Borderlands isn’t without its missteps, but they are few and far between. Certain QTEs seemed impervious to failure. No, they aren’t generally challenging, but there should still be some sense of urgency to keep the gamer on their toes. At times, the story’s pace can be a bit sub-par, but more often than not, it moves along nicely.
Telltale Games have produced some of my favorite series in gaming and provided some of my favorite memories (playing TWD Season 1 & The Wolf Among Us with my wife, Lauren). If I had to decide, I would likely rank TWD Season 1 as my favorite, with Wolf being second and Tales a very close third. Episode 1 is the best from beginning to end, with a perfect pacing throughout. Plus, the most memorable moments in both action and dialogue. No worries though – the series also ends on a high note, wrapping up the season with a neat bow just moments after a massive action sequence.
There are certain RPG elements, but they don’t feel as if they held any weight. In classic Borderlands fashion, you can loot and gain cash, but there are very few situations in which you use it to purchase anything. In episode 5, you are able to choose your team from a variety of characters you have met along the way. The finale’s final moments and lead-up to it felt very Mass Effect 3 (without the whole disappointing ending).
If this was the only Tales From The Borderlands season we end up getting, I’d be okay with it in the manor in which they wrapped things up – overall, satisfying.
Tales From The Borderlands is another victory for story telling in gaming. The game is visually gorgeous with its Borderlands-like cell shaded art and combined with the narrative and sounds, produces a game that you can’t miss.
+ Story arch and point of view are unique.
+ Characters are memorable. Each individual feels creatively placed into the plot.
+ Cell-shading is a match made in Heaven between Tellate & Gearbox.
– Meaningless QTEs.
– Story pacing hits a few bumps along the road.
Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s founder. He can’t wait for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Game with him on Xbox Live & PSN via JosiahIsLegend.
Tales From The Borderlands was reviewed on an Xbox One. It is also available for PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and iOS.
Check out past reviews of other Telltale Games below:
Tales From The Borderlands: Episode 1
The Walking Dead: Season 1 + 400 Days DLC
The Walking Dead: Season 2
Game of Thrones
The Wolf Among Us: Episode 5
The Top 5 Games We Want Telltale To Make
All photos used were captured on our Xbox One playthrough.