Tales from the Borderlands for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, OS X, iOS and Android
I wasn’t particularly excited for this one. I love Telltale games, particularly playing them with my fiance, but I only ever liked the Borderlands universe rather than loving it. I was much more interested in the Game of Thrones adaptation, but here I am, waiting for the final episode of Game of Thrones and barely caring whilst I cannot stop thinking about Tales from the Borderlands. This is Telltale’s best game, beating out The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us.
Tales from the Borderlands picks up following the death of Handsome Jack at the end of Borderlands 2 but with Hyperion still floating ominously above Pandora. Down on the planet a mysterious stranger with a shotgun has taken two people hostage and is interrogating them to discover their story. There is Rhys, a Hyperion middle man who betrays his company and his jerk boss to come into possession of an incalculably valuable Vault Key. The other is Fiona, a Pandoran con artist who takes part in a con involving a fake Vault Key. The two worlds collide on Pandora as Rhys and Fiona, alongside a wide cast of allies, work together to find the Vault and gain the riches they crave.
I love when media refuses to abide by a single genre category. My favourite TV shows tend to be dramas which make me laugh and comedies which make me cry and Tales from the Borderlands is the first Telltale game to achieve this tone. The writing for the Borderlands games has always been on a teensy bit obnoxious for my liking, but the comedy is immediately smarter and more character driven than anything seen in the main games. The first episode was mostly played for laughs and I couldn’t really pinpoint the moment when the balance shifted and I was genuinely emotionally invested in these people, but I really was. The writing is genuinely top notch, with even seemingly straightforward characters exhibiting emotional depths and genuinely moving moments. A few characters from the main games appear; some of these appearance feel natural and vital to the story, such as an AI Handsome Jack and Athena, a character from a Borderlands 1 DLC and the Pre-Sequel. Some others feel a little shoe horned in, including some Vault Hunters from Borderlands 1 and 2. Overall though, the writing in Tales from the Borderlands is up there with Telltale’s best.
There’s little in the way of gameplay differences in Tales from the Borderlands, but for whatever reason this was the most fun I’ve had with the actual mechanics of a Telltale game. There’s something about the choreography of the action scenes, particularly in the utterly joyful final episode, that makes you feel more involved than normal. I mean, it’s all an illusion, but it’s a mostly successful one. There’s a neat mechanic introduced earlier on involving kitting your Loader Bot out for battle which doesn’t make enough re-appearances towards the end and Tales from the Borderlands mostly abandons its new ideas as it goes on, which is a shame because it was aiming for something a little different. Let’s be honest though, no one is playing these for the mechanics.
Congratulations Tales from the Borderlands, you’re the first Telltale game which isn’t a weird technical disaster! Sure, there’s the odd visual glitch, but this is easily Telltale’s nicest looking game ever. It helps that the art style of Borderlands transfers without a hitch over to Telltale’s signature style, but they also feel more expressive and human in their facial expression and movements than has been the case in the past. As you’d expect, the voice acting is outstanding; I have no criticisms and so little of interest to say there. The use of music is really interesting here, with some incredible intro sequences supported with some really interesting and effective music choices.
Tales from the Borderlands may very well be Telltale’s best. Even if you’ve never played a Borderlands game I’d recommend this one; the storytelling is genuinely top notch with a story which varies compellingly between comedy, action and drama. This is not one to miss.