Tales From the Borderlands is Telltale’s venture into the world of Gearbox’s critically acclaimed series, Borderlands. Telltale is recently coming off from a successful second season with The Walking Dead, so I was overjoyed to find out that I had the opportunity to play the highly anticipated game at this year’s PAX Prime.
Tales From the Borderlands proceeds the events that took place in Borderlands 2, which means that Handsome Jack is now dead. Since Handsome Jack is now dead, his position as CEO at the Hyperion corporation is now vacant. There’s where Rhys, one of the games main protagonists comes in (there are two protagonists that the player will control). Rhys is a lowly data miner for Hyperion, who is looking for a chance to move up on Hyperion’s chain of command the fastest way possible. Rhys’ big break comes when Vasquez, his superior reveals that he has a deal to receive a vault key from someone on Pandora — which was an immense mistake on Vasquez’s part. Since gaining a vault key usually leads to power, Rhys thinks that gaining one will garner him the influence he needs to fill Handsome Jack’s spot as CEO of Hyperion. Rhys decides to undercut Vasquez and goes down to Pandora to meet with the dealer himself, and that is where the demo begins.
At first, I was a bit skeptical on how Telltale would approach Borderlands’ eccentric humor, because of their recent success with their own iterations of franchises with much darker tones than Borderlands, such as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. My mind was immediately put at ease — as soon as the demo started, I was bombarded with hordes of jokes. Tales from the Borderlands doesn’t only have Borderlands’ humor, but it also embodies it aesthetically. If the game wasn’t third person, I wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not if I was playing Gearbox’s Borderlands.
There must be extensive action in this game since most of the game takes place on the fictional planet, Pandora, right? Right! Since Pandora is riddled with psychos and bandits, our character Rhys is sure to encounter a great deal of them. It didn’t take more than minutes for me to experience my first action sequence, because of some bandits wanting to steal Rhys’ suitcase full of money, to get back at Hyperion for the torment that was unleashed upon the citizens of Pandora when Jack reigned supreme. At this moment in time, after making a quick call to Hyperion, I was able to select a loader bot from Rhy’s robotic arm, after selecting the loader bot (I’m assuming more choices will become available throughout the game as you progress) I had to choose which weapons it would be carrying into battle. I ultimately chose for my loader bot to wield both a gatling gun and a missile launcher. As soon as I finished, the loader bot launched all the way from Hyperion onto Rhys’ location on Pandora. After the bot landed, I assumed control of it — the camera then transferred to a first-person view from the bot’s perspective. I then focused the bot’s gun onto the nearest bandit, and then proceeded to unload endless amounts of rounds into the unfortunate soul. Soon after, I turned my ( the loader bot’s) gun unto the other bandits, dodged a couple of missiles, then unleashed several of my own. The battle ended up as a bloody massacre. The combat was a nice change of pace from Telltale’s previous games, and it fits perfectly within this episodic adventure.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to go back and change what weapons would be at the loader bot’s disposal, and see how much of an affect different weapons would have had on the gameplay and the outcome of the battle.
What makes Tales From the Borderlands exceedingly unique is the fact that the player chooses how the story plays out, deciding what happens next. The narrative jumps back and forth between the present and past — what decisions you make in the present immediately affects the next flashback. The game’s story is told between both of the protagonists — which they attempt to make themselves shine by over exaggerating the story to the point of ludicrousy. In 2013, at the SXSW panel for the game, the President and Founder of Telltale Games, Kevin Bruner stated “You never really play what actually happened, you’re playing this Big Fish version of what happened,” and it looks like this holds true. The narrative is basically the two protagonists telling a tale while on an adventure, thus the title Tales From the Borderlands.
If you’re sleeping on Tales From the Borderlands, then you better not hit the snooze button. This appears to be Telltale’s most exciting venture as of late, with the introduction of a new wallet and loot system, that makes a brief appearance in the demo. Furthermore, the combat has never been more satisfying in a Telltale title — allowing different outcomes depending what you accessorize your bot with.
I was alleviated from all my skepticism about whether are not Telltale was able to transfer Borderlands‘ humor into this game — I laughed from the opening to the ending of the demo. Once again, I must forfeit my money to Telltale when Tales From the Borderlands releases sometime this year for: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.