When Tales from the Borderlands was first announced, I wasn’t too interested. While I loved the core series, Telltale Games fatigue had set in on me. However, eventually I gave in and I’m glad I did. Obviously your mileage may vary depending on your affinity for the franchise, but Tales from the Borderlands is their best series yet.
If you have played one Telltale game, you have played them all. Most of the gameplay consists of dialogue choices to make along with some quicktime events and limited exploration. In the case of Tales, you can also scan things in the environment for funny bonus text describing objects or hoard cash that you find to get out of troublesome situations.
Beyond that, this is a very story-driven game. Luckily, going back through the game and choosing different dialogue options can result in different story events which can go so far to result in a character living or dying. It is also episodic like the developer’s previous works split out into five chapters with the end of each episode letting you know how many other players made the same or different choices than you.
Story and Modes:
Tales from the Borderlands presents a story with two protagonists, Hyperion employee Rhys who is ready to take over the company after the events of Borderlands 2 and Fiona, a small time con-artist going from job to job with her sister. The entire story (up until the end) is told in flashbacks as they have both been captured and detained by a mysterious mask-wearing, shotgun-wielding bandit making them tell their stories. Oftentimes this results in some hilarious moments of one character bending the truth about what happened while the other calls them out on it.
Even for someone who hasn’t played the core games before, the game has an entertaining story. You will obviously get more out of it if you know who characters like Handsome Jack, Zero, Brick and Scooter are, but the narrative at its core is an enjoyable ride. The main core characters of Rhys, Fiona, Sasha and Vaughn are all new and have not been in the series before. The game contains all of the dark humor that the series is known for while surprisingly having some serious and heartbreaking moments as well. The pacing stays fantastic throughout with nothing to trip you up along the way.
While Rhys and Fiona are solid characters, the supporting cast carries it just as much including the surprisingly in-shape Vaughn, the hilariously pompous Vasquez, the headstrong Sasha or the best new character of 2015, Loader Bot. Out of the several Telltale series that I have played, this cast is the most well-rounded from top to bottom.
Visuals and Sound:
The visuals are the classic cell-shaded graphics with thick black outlines that the developer is known for producing. They look great with a couple of rough spots here and there. It doesn’t hurt that the core Borderlands series has the same artstyle making the transition a seamless one. Character designs are spot-on and feel like they belong in that universe.
While none of the music outside of the intros for each episode are particularly memorable, it all sounded like it belonged. Luckily the voice work is top notch with headliners such as Troy Baker, Laura Bailey and Nolan North as well as the supporting cast such as Patrick Warburton and, surprisingly, Chris Hardwick.
When it comes to Telltale Games projects, you know what kind of game you are getting and that is fine. They only make one style of game, but they are very good at that style. You get the Borderlands flavor and sense of humor which is fantastic, but playing this feels no different than when I played The Walking Dead: Season One or The Wolf Among Us with the exception of it having less puzzle-esque sections which helped keep the pacing solid.
For $25 you get all five episodes and a great game. Each episode can take anywhere between an hour and forty-five minutes to three hours to complete along with the replay value of playing it again making different decisions. The ending is also satisfying but leaves the door wide open for a second season. Like their games in the past, Tales is not free from the technical glitches that have plagued this particular engine in the past, but those don’t diminish how great of an experience this game is.