Tales from the Borderlands is a terrific title that will satisfy both fans of Telltale-style games and Borderlands.
When developer Telltale Games announced that they were working on a graphic adventure based on Borderlands, I was skeptical at first. At the time, I couldn’t understand how Borderlands (which is all about shooting enemies to level up and acquire better loot) would work as a choice-driven point-and-click adventure. Although Borderlands’ story was always secondary, the series has some memorable characters and genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, so there was a glimmer of hope for those of us who didn’t realize Tales from the Borderlands’ full potential. Now that the entire season is available, I must say that Tales from the Borderlands is a terrific title that will satisfy both fans of Telltale-style games and Borderlands.
In the game, you play as two different characters whose stories are intertwined. First, we have Rhys, a worker of Hyperion Corporation turned Vault Hunter after his boss demoted him. Rhys and his best friend Vaughn steal $10 million and travel to Pandora with the hopes of getting a vault key but after a deal goes sour, they find themselves stuck on the planet and they must figure out a way to go back. Second, we have Fiona, a con-artist who’s trying to make ends meet however she can. Luckily, she has a more than competent sidekick called Sasha that helps her with all the deceiving and the trickery. That’s pretty much what I can say about the game without making reference to specifics, but let me tell you, Tales from the Borderlands is a fantastic adventure game and you’ll soon learn that in the world of Borderlands alliances are as easily forged as they are broken, so knowing who to trust can be a problem.
Right out of the gate, Tales from the Borderlands declares its intentions. Unlike other Telltale Games, which deal with harrowing stories, Tales from the Borderlands is one of the funniest games I’ve played in a while. Don’t get me wrong, the world of Borderlands can be harsh and violent, but everything is so lighthearted and silly, that there’s room for several hilarious moments that will remain in your head for a long time. Some of these funny moments come in different forms and one of my favorites was the “reality vs expectations” scenarios that take place when a character is telling a story and purposely misremembering it. There’s also a shootout in the fourth episode that made me laugh a lot, so keep an eye open for that.
The story might be new, but there aren’t many innovations in terms of gameplay, though. Rhys has an eye implant that allows him to scan his surroundings and get information he wouldn’t be able to detect otherwise. Apart from being there to solve some pretty straightforward puzzles and access a character that I’m not going to mention for obvious reasons, this scan vision is unimportant. Also, as you explore Pandora, you get money which lets you bribe people or buy different cosmetic items, but acquiring these makes no difference, since there’s always an alternative way to bypass the purchase. If you’ve played any Telltale games for the past few years, you already know what to expect in terms of gameplay: the story adapts to the choices you make, you have a limited time to choose your answers and there’s some quick time events from time to time.
As it’s usually the case with Telltale-developed games, there are some bugs, glitches and technical issues here and there. In some cases, lines of dialogue overlap or are completely silent. On one occasion, I died and the game didn’t let me restart, so I had to reload everything again from the main menu. But the worst issues came in the form of slowdowns that took place before and after loading times (which by the way seemed long.) To be fair, I was playing on the Xbox 360 version, so some of those problems might be related to that platform only, but it’s hard for me to say because I didn’t play the game on other platforms.
Finally, I get the feeling that this is the Telltale adventure where my choices mattered the least, but that’s fine because Tales from the Borderlands also happened to be the funniest game I played in a long time. Since you alternate between two different characters there’s room for jokes, such as the time Fiona is speculating about a conversation between Rhys and Vaughn and she thinks they use the word “bro” again and again. Also, the introductory scenes for each episode use different licensed songs and they are absolutely fantastic and memorable.
In a sea of Telltale Games that are grim and harrowing, Tales from the Borderlands is a breath of fresh air. The world of Borderlands can be brutal and violent from time to time, but there’s also room for silly jokes and a more lighthearted tone and that’s more than welcome to anyone who has been playing Telltale games for years.