Telltale Games have certainly been keeping themselves busy. Since Walking Dead debuted back in 2012 we’ve seen Telltale team up with HBO, for Game of Thrones, & Vertigo’s Fables, for The Wolf Among Us. With a Marvel game also on the horizon I finally found time to play through the first episode of Tales From The Borderlands.
Interestingly, Telltale have two games on the go at the same time. Game of Thrones and Tale From The Borderlands. For every episode released from the Game of Thrones camp we see a Borderlands tale thrown out to the masses. Out of the two, I feel that Tales from the Borderlands has somewhat been overlooked.
Firstly, when Telltale announced that they would be partnering up with Gearbox for Tale of the Borderlands, I had mixed feelings. Both regularly use a cel shaded comic book inspired style, so in terms of aesthetics it was a match made in heaven. However, and this is not detracting from either studio, but Telltale have a tendency to write heart-felt in-depth characters and place them into a story with varying plot arcs that test your strength of character. How were Telltale going to convert Borderlands, a first person shooter that is fuelled by comic book violence and crazy over the top characters that have somewhat lost touch with reality, without losing what makes both studios great? Surely this was a step too far?
Oh man how wrong I was.
Telltale have encapsulated the world of Borderlands superbly. Whilst Telltale’s new found characters embrace the absurdity of their situation and the Borderlands universe as a whole, at the centre are a set of fun-loving characters you can get invested in.
Tales of the Borderlands Episode One: Zer0 Sum is set on the planet of Pandora after the events of Borderlands 2. The game features two protagonists, Rhys and Fiona, whose stories interweave. Both have set out to perform a caper, Rhys intends to steal from his employer, Hugo Vasquez (played by Family Guys’ Patrick Warburton), as payback for being blocked for a promotion. Whilst Fiona is intending to con August, a black market dealer, into selling on a fake Vault Key. Yet their individual exploits cross over to the point where you are confused as to whom is robbing whom. However, these interwoven stories often have some discrepancies. Rhys’ version of events feature him in the spot light, the silver-tongued charismatic type, whilst Fiona’s version is perhaps a lot less flattering.
The comical friction between these two, combined with the other dysfunctional members of the team, lead to some of the most hilarious scenes in a game ever. Telltale have made this their playground and decided to have a lot of fun with it. Tales of the Borderlands is high-octane, off the wall, slick, side-splitting and incredibly enjoyable. If the cast and crew of the awesome TV show ‘Firely’ took acid I can only assume the end result would be this. And that is how Telltale have infused two opposing styles to great effect. Almost to the point, that if you didn’t recognise the signature gameplay mechanics, you would be forgiven for not realising this is from Telltale.
What’s even better is that Telltale take the Borderlands characters to the next level. Gearbox (and once again this is not a criticism) rely on crazy off the wall humour that makes the Borderlands series incredibly fun to play. However, these characters aren’t exactly three-dimensional. It’s all pew pew followed by an uppercut with someone screaming ‘what up bitches?‘ And for that we love it. Telltale have taken that insanity, yet found a pocket of space to create more depth. Once again I reference Firely, but the comparison is similar. Tales of the Borderlands takes all the fun of essentially being in the wild west (as did Firefly) and place a makeshift family at the centre. These band of misfits aim to misbehave but each character, despite the frivolity, has something more about them without feeling forced or essentially detracting from the mayhem that surrounds them.
As for the gameplay, well as mentioned before, it is classic Telltale. We have decisions that must be made on impulse that determine the fate of those around you. Each decision you make will be remembered by your new teammates and will have an impact on later episodes. In this particular episode Fiona is given a hidden gun that only has one bullet in it. During the first episode there are several opportunities to fire this single bullet, but players must bear in mind that once it’s gone it’s gone. So choose carefully or not at all.
The game also features the usual quick-time action sequences, but this time the action feels like it’s faster than Usain Bolt, and making a mistake will lead to a gore fest that all Borderlands fans have come to know and love.
However, what sets this game apart from the Game of Thrones series is that, although slight, there are a few puzzles to solve. Rhys has a cybernetic eye, courtesy of Hyperion, that can scan objects. These scans mainly lead to rudimentary, although amusing, facts about the people or objects. But every now and then you can detect something on an item, something not visible to the naked eye, that can aid you in your quest. So far, the use of this cybernetic eye has been minimal in episode one but I hope, without indulging in its use too much, that we will be seeing more little treats like this.
Tales From The Borderlands sees Telltale spinning one of their most interesting and varying stories yet. The high paced action is in keeping with Gearbox’s Borderlands series, yet the extra level of character depth is unmistakably Telltale. Many may not have expected this, but Tales From The Borderlands is perhaps one of Telltale’s finest games yet and episode one certainly leaves you hungry for more. For all you vault hunters out there, it’s time to see the other side of Pandora. Happy hunting.