Telltale is the leading developer when it comes to crafting engaging, emotional, memorable, and now absolutely hysterical narratives with well-known franchises. Tales from the Borderlands is no different, as they've taken the very unique backdrop setting of Gearbox's games and crafted a compelling and immensely entertaining adventure with characters voiced to perfection that I hope to see again one day.
+Constantly hysterical, especially finger-gun firefights
+Fantastic character development
+Top notch soundtrack and voice acting
-The original wait between episode releases
-Some choices don't seem to really matter in the end
One would think that turning the popular shooter Borderlands into a narrative focused adventure with no shooting at all (aside from some amazing pretend finger-gun shootouts) would be asinine. Borderlands has always been about using millions of guns, shooting bandits and psychos, and converting that into a story driven title seems as it was going to be an immense challenge for Telltale. Good thing that, currently, Telltale is the best in the business when it comes to narrative adventures and crafting compelling stories.
They've managed to create a five-part episodic story based on the popular shooter from Gearbox Software that is not only consistently funny, full of interesting characters new and old, but also immensely full of fan service while staying faithful to the source material in a genuine way. While it may not have many guns to shoot it does contain some of the best storytelling that Telltale has ever delivered, all while making you laugh from beginning to end with characters I hope to eventually see again either in a Season 2 or in the eventual titular Borderlands 3. Comedy is immensely difficult to pull off consistently, however Telltale has managed to do so in a huge way in each of the five hilarious episodes.
Set directly after the events of Borderlands 2, Tales from the Borderlands follows the adventures of two characters, each with their own goals and aspirations, that is until they eventually cross paths. You begin playing as Rhys, a cybernetically enhanced Hyperion employee trying to climb the corporate ladder up on Helios. A character who is following in the footsteps of his recently deceased hero: Handsome Jack. You'll also play as Fiona, a common Pandoran con artist looking to pull off a scam for the biggest payday of her life.
Like any good story, there's always two sides and perspectives worth telling and you'll get to do so with some crossover points which becomes some of the most entertaining parts of the season when one character calls out the other for essentially lying about what actually happened before telling their side of the tale. This wouldn't fit into the Borderlands lore if it didn't have bandits, psychos, explosions, betrayal, surprises, humor, Vault Hunters, and a quest for a key to a Vault containing immense riches and loot. The two characters simply don't trust one another, though they share a common goal. They'll need to work together if they want to succeed. Who's really telling the truth is up to you to decide when you make your choices throughout the course of the story.
While it may rely on the trope of 'adversaries eventually becoming allies' in the beginning, it's done in a very smart and hilarious way that has made me really become connected for these characters along the way, something that Telltale has mastered at this point. It's not just the main cast either, the supporting characters all have their time in the spotlight and I really became attached to them as well. Characters such as Loader Bot, Sasha, Vaughn, and Vasquez to just name a few.
It's refreshing to see a Borderlands tale showing the unique perspective from a Hyperion employee and how they manage when stranded on the filthy and rugged Pandora. The story itself is not only fantastic due to its clever and witty writing, it's the masterful voice acting that really puts it over the top and makes it completely believable. Telltale completely encapsulates the atmosphere of the Borderlands games while crafting their own tale within it in an engaging and hilarious way all the way to the final credits.
For the massive fans of Borderlands, it may seem odd having a Borderlands game without any CL4P-TP but don't despair, as there are plenty of other familiar faces you'll see along the way such as Handsome Jack, Zer0, Athena, Scooter, and more. Telltale has done a great job of actually integrating these familiar characters into the story and not simply adding them in for a fan service checklist cameo. Borderlands fans will obviously know who these returning characters are, but even if you're not up to par on your Borderlands lore and knowledge, these people are explained very well as to why they're so important, allowing even non-fans to really enjoy these characters.
If you've played Telltale's games before, you'll be familiar with how each of their series has an overall tone. For example, The Walking Dead is incredibly sad and depressing and brought me to tears. Game of Thrones make you feel like there is no right choice. The Wolf Among Us plays out like a murder mystery and is suspenseful. Tales from the Borderlands on the other hand is completely light hearted and full of laughs regardless of your choices. That's not to say that this game isn't emotional, as there may have been some man tears may have been shed at a certain part but the overall tonality is simply fun while making you smile from ear to ear with laughter.
While the core gameplay may be the same as their other titles, as the bulk of your interactions is either QTEs or simply choosing your dialogue response. Don't let that fool you though, as you'll be missing out on a fantastic and hysterical tale that should be experienced. While you're still going to get from point A to point B, regardless of your selections, there are some heavily weighted choices that you'll make that will absolutely change the outcome of certain sections, especially in the final climactic episode where you may or may not have certain options open to you based on your decisions up until that point.
First off, the game itself looks great and utilizes the cel-shaded style that we've come to know from their other series, though everything seems much more stylized, sharper, and detailed this time around which really adds to the authentic Borderlands theme. The best part about Season 1 of Tales from the Borderlands though is without a doubt the amazing soundtrack and even more incredible voice acting from everyone involved. It's hard to not having perfect voice acting when Telltale uses such great actors like Nolan North, Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Patrick Warburton, and Chris Hardwick to just name a few. The dialogue is written so well and is incredibly witty but it's the performances from these voice actors that put it completely over the top and memorable.
Telltale Games has certainly carved a niche out for themselves, of which I would argue that they've become the top storytellers in the past few years hands down. They've managed to take a well-known franchise and have it play into their strengths for a uniquely hilarious adventure. The only issue I had originally was the months-long wait between episodes. Now that the Season is complete, you can play it all in one go without any of the agonizing delay between episode cliffhangers.
Each of the episodes average around 2 hours long and truly embody 'quality over quantity'. I found the PC version had much better loading times than the console counterparts, as well as less stuttering that seems to randomly plague their in-house engine time to time. That being said, there were some truly memorable sequences throughout the 5 hilarious episodes that I don't think I'll ever forget: having a finger-gun fight in Helios' main hub area, scooping out eyeballs with a spork, and having Zer0 simply give me a ":)" emoji. If you love Borderlands make sure you buy this game. If you've never played Borderlands, still buy this game. Never heard of Borderlands? Simply buy this game. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go convince my wife that our next kid should be named Loader Bot.
Release Date: October 21st, 2015