Review: Tales from the Borderlands
Svenna reviews: Tales from the Borderlands, the newest installment from Telltale Games
This review was posted on the PMS Clan website in November, 2014
The following includes spoilers from Borderlands 2.
For my review, I played the PC version of Tales from the Borderlands via Steam.
I’d be lying if I said the regular Borderlands games were more interesting than Tales from the Borderlands. In one short three hour first episode titled “Zer0 Sum,” Telltale’s newest installment with 2K shows the world we know through the eyes of a Hyperion business man and a Pandoran con artist and makes us want more.
The game begins after the events of Borderlands 2, where power in the Hyperion Corporation has shifted since Handsome Jack’s demise. Rhys, a man who has more fashion sense than gun accuracy, immediately confesses to his friend, Vaughn, how he wants to be the next Handsome Jack. We know from the start he’s an antihero with that comment. Fiona, with the help of her sister Sasha and Felix, her adoptive mentor, makes a living as a con artist. The two cross paths during a vault deal gone wrong that Rhys intercepted from his Hyperion superior, Vasquez.
The dual protagonists each have their own unique play style. Rhys has an ECHO bionic eye that allows him to scan objects and people, revealing indepth information, sometimes too indepth. This is important when you want to find out whether or not someone is bluffing. Fiona has no inherent abilities so far (this is a Borderlands game). If she did, she’d probably
been killed off for it anyways with how cocky she is. But then again, so is Rhys. One would think having dual protagonists means displaying parallel lives, but these two are cut from the same cloth. Their personalities are very much the same despite growing up in two different worlds.
Hidden up her sleeve, Fiona has a oneshot pistol. It’s a oneshotter since Felix believes she can talk her way out of anything. In addition to her gift of gab, she can scavenge around the field as her “ability.” You’ll often be prompted if you want to take money from corpses or move around objects, such as a Mad Moxxi poster, which will usually drop cash. The money aspect seems fairly useless. In the first episode, you’re able to pay your way through a scene or buy a temporary cosmetic feature if you feel like it, neither of which changes the game.
Tales from the Borderlands throws in numerous references to its predecessor games, but never ones that are so much in your face that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it if you hadn’t played the earlier titles. I liken it to the different Doctor Who TV series. Sure, the Dalek race was present in the original show but you’re not going to miss that much because they’re also in the new one.
Enemies and friends will remember how you treat them, which is a common in feature in other point-and-click Telltale games. Sometimes, with no prior background knowledge, it’s hard to make a decision, so you need to quickly assume from the context and just go with your gut especially if you have only a few seconds to do so. Cinematic dialogue heavy scenes transform into timed button mashing contests or slow motion gun shots that require precision. As much as I love the action, I found myself more strained when making dialogue choices than having less than a second to move my analog stick to the side so a Psycho didn’t slice my head open with an axe.
Telltale brought in a stellar voice acting cast for this game. Gamers will recognize Troy Baker, the voice of Rhys’ voice from Bioshock where he played Booker DeWitt. Chris Hardwick, who hosted Talking Bad, the Breaking Bad post show, plays Vaughn. Laura Bailey has mostly been involved in anime voice acting though she voiced Jaina Proudmore in Blizzard’s online card game, Hearthstone.
Jared Emerson Johnson scores the soundtrack, which can easily serve as the backdrop for a contemporary spaghetti western it’s that good. Songs on Hyperion have a whimsical, mysterious vibe that give you the same uneasy feeling you had dealing with Handsome Jack. While the outskirts of Pandora feature an uppity, twang over low electronic synths. The latter is almost a metaphoric fusion of Rhys and Fiona’s two worlds colliding.
The four remaining episodes are titled “Atlas Mugged,” “Catch a Ride,” “Escape Plan Bravo,” and “The Vault of the Traveler” and will be released in the coming months, hopefully sooner than later since I need to know what happens next!
Tales from the Borderlands is available on current and last gen Sony and Microsoft consoles, iOS, and Android for various prices.