Hey you, Pikachu!, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII and Shadow the Hedgehog, all of these spin-off titles shamed the core games they derived from; Tales from the Borderlands is NOT like one of these games. Tales takes the humorous roots of the Borderlands series and the energetic world of Pandora and puts the excellent telltale storytelling spin on it.
If you’ve never played a telltale game before, they’re choose-your-own-adventure style games where the choices you make and the dialogue you choose can drastically alter the outcome of the story, so much so that certain plot events that take place in your adventure may not take place in another person’s. Will your character be a humble Hyperion worker, or will he be a huge dick who sells out his friends? It’s all up to you.
You’ll live out your time on Pandora as Rhys (pronounced Reese) and Fiona, a white-collar Hyperion worker who can’t catch a break, and a Pandoran con artist from the lowly town of Hollow Point — it’s in a cave. You take turns recounting the botched scam attempt that brought Fiona and Rhys together in the first place, learning the truth from one where the other may have embellished certain facts, and the events afterwards filled with multiple (unsuccessful) assassination attempts, trust issues, a murder race and an inevitable betrayal. Don’t trust anyone.
While a slight background of Borderlands knowledge will certainly help someone appreciate certain nuances of the story, it is certainly not needed, but does add a certain “OMG!” factor when certain characters make cameos or major plot events trigger.
Tales’ action sequences take the shape of quick time events (QTEs) that progress the sequence if you succeed and sometimes result in death if you fail — even dying is hilarious in the game, though. The QTEs certainly add a welcome change of pace after lengthy dialogue-driven scenes, and watching them play out offer some of the most intense laughs in the game.
While playing as Rhys or Fiona, you have access to unique powers and abilities while in the third-person exploration sequences. Rhys, having a Hyperion robotic arm and eye, can scan the area for interesting facts about the items around him. Fiona, on the other hand, has the ability to collect money she finds throughout the world, money that is used to open up different dialogue options over the course of the game. These lead to hilarious instances where Fiona can grab a quick hundred bucks from a dying man’s hands — he doesn’t need it, right?– or Rhys reveals humorous facts about a certain character. In either case, they add extra depth and humor to Zer0 Sum.
By far the best part of Tales from the Borderlands is the fact that it FEELS like Borderlands. Everything from the menus to the UI and even the dialogue, it’s ALL distinctly Borderlands and I love it! From the second you hit play and hear Marcus’ deep, commanding voice setting up the story, you feel like you’re back in a familiar place, and it’s awesome!
Tales from the Borderlands is an experience that anyone who loves excellent story telling coupled with funny everything shouldn’t miss. Shaping your Rhys and Fiona into who you think they should be is amazingly rewarding, and all the characters truly fit the Borderlands mold. Telltale has done right by Borderlands and you come out on top. Now go play and show the world that you have the shiniest meat bicycle!
+ Feels like Borderlands
+ Feel like a telltale game
+ Lovable cast
+ Amazing setup for the next episode
– Infrequent sound glitches
– Failing a QTE can force you to replay minutes worth of gameplay to get back to the same spot