Tales from the Borderlands is a bit different from many other popular games today, but remains consistent to other titles developed by Telltale Games. Our own Parasaur has cracked the door on one of their finished titles, Wolf Among Us. If you’ve played and enjoyed Telltale Games’ other titles you should have a bit of an idea of what to expect. If not, never fear, we’ll hold your hand and make sure you know what you’re in for.
The Borderlands franchise has been a lot of fun, and while it shares similarities with other FPS games, it has managed to create a uniqueness of character and setting that sets it apart from the rest. While taking place in the Borderlands universe, Tales is entirely separate from the main storylines of the shooters, and introduces loads of new characters to drive a specifically new-but-familiar plot, all while tossing in cameos from your favorite pals from previous games.
Tales from the Borderlands is a bit of a diversion from the regular run, gun, and collect loot style of game play we are accustomed to experiencing. Here we essentially play a highly interactive movie where the player influences or outright chooses how your character will react with the world around them. The formula is simple; the story will mostly direct itself towards the same end no matter what you do. However, there are some choices that trickle down towards the very end of the game that may affect the outcome of the final story, potentially granting you different endings. No, unlike feeling super powered and leveling up while blasting droves of baddies, this game is meant for you to act like we all do while watching movies. You yell at the screen and try to get your hero to do the thing you want him to do. By influencing these choices you start to take on a sort of role play as the character. Keep in mind, this is still a very action packed game. Just because you are not wielding the best guns the Jakobs Corp has to offer does not mean you aren’t having one of the best romps offered by the gaming industry as a whole.
We will refrain from revealing any real spoilers here within this article as this game is highly story driven. It is also worth noting that Tales from the Borderlands is technically unfinished. Telltale Games releases their titles in episodes that are usually a few months apart. If the series lasts longer than the finished story, then they start again and call it season two. This feature is currently up to episode three and so far every episode takes about two hours to complete.
Tales takes place as the most recent installment to the Borderlands story, picking up sometime after the second game has ended. You take control of not one but two protagonists directly as they tell two halves of their story to a mysterious stranger. First up is Rhys, an employee for the Hyperion Corporation and working aboard the massive space station Helios orbiting the planet Pandora. If you’re new to the world of Borderlands, Pandora’s more recognizable traits are deserts inhabited by deadly wildlife and populated by the entire cast of Mad Max. Rhys gets screwed out of a promotion, as is the Sith-like custom of Hyperion, and cooks up a plan to steal an unthinkably valuable treasure called a vault key. Pandora seems to be peppered with giant treasure troves referred to by locals as vaults that serve as the universal goal and these keys, you guessed it, open them.
The second protagonist you work with is Fiona, a crafty con artist who’s been lifting watches with her sister, Sasha, since they were kids. She seems to be on the precipice of a big score and you’ve dropped into the middle of it all to make sure it goes according to plan. Both characters control the same way with a couple of added features here or there. Rhys, for example, has an Echo Eye, a cybernetic implant less obvious than his robotic arm, that can scan objects in the world around you and offer some insight to the setting or help you decide what to do next. Fiona tends to be the character who finds and spends money for the group, but otherwise, there isn’t a lot of difference between playing one or the other. The story simply cycles between control of their two perspectives to experience the adventure from all angles.
One great theme throughout Tales is an emphasis on the western movie genre. While still adhering to the Borderlands setting, the game adds a little cowboy twist in everything it does, from the twangy showdown music when the sun begins to rise to Fiona’s holdout pistol springing from inside her sleeve. Everything about this game’s presentation is right. The music fits the moment amazingly, and the voice acting is well done: Patrick Warburton (Brock Samson and The Tick), Phil Lamarr (MADTv, and Samurai Jack), and Chris Hardwick (Web Soup and The Nerdist Podcast) all lend their voices to great and memorable characters. Everything looks, sounds, and acts like it belongs in the Borderlands universe to keep from alienating fans of the series.
In summation, Tales from the Borderlands is a welcome deviation from the other games in its franchise. It’s emphasis on atmosphere, story, and characters are what will keep you coming back between your other gaming commitments. You do not need to have played the other games in the series to understand what’s going on; however, like anything, it will help to some degree, and some familiarity will increase your immersion. At two hours per episode of run time, it’s long enough to keep you from feeling cheated without forcing to commit to a massive Netflix level binge. Most importantly, it’s incredibly entertaining. Tales mixes action packed gun fights with tongue in cheek humor. It has a habit of getting a little dark, but only moments before finding an excuse to be a bit silly. If you like the idea of an interactive action/comedy movie featuring outer space, grotesque monsters, and certified, card carrying badasses along with a few wimpy but charismatic good-guys, then look no further.