By Steve Baltimore / February 4th, 2016
*This review contains minor spoilers for the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands. I did play all five episodes to completion on the PC before writing this and tried to keep it as spoiler free as possible*
|Title||Tales from the Borderlands|
|Release Date||November, 2014 – October, 2015|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature|
When I first heard that Telltale Games was doing a game based off the Borderlands franchise, I was a bit surprised. While Borderlands is a decent RPG / Shooter hybrid, it is not known for its storytelling. The made me very interested to see if they could bring their brand of epic storytelling to this franchise. Did Tales from the Borderlands finally find some epic storytelling or is it more of the same?
The story begins on the Hyperion moon of Helios where an eager employee named Rhys is hoping to get a promotion. The Hyperion corporation is the very definition of “dog eat dog.” Soon, Rhys will learn his boss has been murdered and replaced by his rival, Vasquez. Instead of promoting Rhys, he promptly demotes him to role of Janitor. Rhys is not one to take this lying down, so he gets with his co-worker and friend Vaughn to hatch a plan to get even. They decide to steal Vasquez’s deal for a Vault Key. The two venture into the wild lands of Pandora with some help from their friend Yvette to make this happen. However, on Pandora nothing ever goes as planned, and they find themselves in a mess of bandits and thrown into a grand adventure with two con artists named Fiona and Sasha.
I thought it was interesting that the story was told mostly in flashbacks, since the game opens up with Rhys and Fiona being captured by some unknown gunman who wants to know their story. You often forget this while you are playing. Since you get so wrapped up in what is going on in the story at that moment it slips your mind, but at the end when you see who the mysterious captor is, it’s one of those “Wow, I didn’t see that coming” moments.
Like all other more recent Telltale Games titles, your choices will affect the story in big ways. People will live or die by your choices, and it will spur many different dialogue choices, as well. Some of these outcomes are quite entertaining, and you will want to play each episode over again just to see how things would come out if you went the other direction. Since it is never really known what effect your choices will have, if any, it really makes you think before choosing.
I honestly cannot say enough about the storytelling here. The writing here is simply great in every way. Telltale Games not only crafted an amazing story filled with plenty of twists and turns, but they made these characters in such a way that you really care about what happens to them. By the time you get to the end of the last episode, you feel like you know these people, and that is what great stories do. I could go on and on about everything that is great about this story, but, honestly, this is something you just need to experience for yourself.
Even though the story is great, it wouldn’t have the same impact without great graphics. Tales from the Borderlands definitely delivers in this department, as well. The graphics are crisp, clean, and done in that classic Borderlands cel-shaded style. That gritty look of Pandora is fully represented here, and I love the character designs, as well. There are even some different costumes you can buy throughout the game to give them some extra flair. The animations were very nice with very little framing or tearing, though every once in a while you may notice a small glitch here and there. These were very minor and do not affect anything.
This one really shines in the audio department, as well. The opening and ending theme songs they picked for each episode are amazing, and very fitting to what is going in the story at that moment. When James Blake’s Retrograde played at the beginning of Episode 5, it hit me pretty hard and heightened that already emotional moment. The rest of the game’s soundtrack is fantastic, as well, from somber tunes when things are down to hard rocking pieces when things are going straight to hell on Pandora, which is often. The voice acting here is top notch, as well. With such seasoned VA pros as Troy Baker, Laura Bailey and Chad Hardwick, you know this is quality from start. Even the minor characters were given great care in their voiced lines, and it really brings this story to life.
While the gameplay mostly consists of dialogue choices, there are some QTE’s and minor puzzles to get you more engaged in the story. While I found most of the QTE sequences to be well placed, I felt that some were just thrown in there to give the player something to do. There are also some areas you can walk around and explore a bit. You may find some useful story items, loot, or just examine a random object with Rhys’s cybernetic eye. The descriptions you get by scanning certain objects with Rhys’s eye are quite interesting and added a nice touch. Though I did feel walking around felt clunky, but this could be because I was using the keyboard controls.
I really enjoyed my time with Tales from the Borderlands. This is such an amazing and emotional story that I will not soon forget it. The music is fantastic and only heightens the fantastic ride this game truly is. It will take you around 12 hours to complete all five episodes and it is a joy every minute, and well worth the $14.99 pricetag. Whether you’re a fan of Borderlands or not, this is an epic tale that should not be missed by anyone.
Game was provider by the publisher for review purposes.