For FPS and RPG fans, Borderlands can be a guilty pleasure where shooting, exploding and smashing rewards you with more guns to shoot, explode and smash with. And it does it at a rate that makes Destiny seem positively pedestrian. No one does “Diablo with guns” any better.
So when it was announced that Telltale Games were creating a series based in that universe, I’m sure some players were wondering how that could possibly work. A first person shooter now turned into an adventure game?
But it does work… and it’s a very easy fit too. If the franchise hadn’t existed as a shooter beforehand, you could see this as easily being an adventure game franchise in its own right.
Instead of treating us to another story of vault hunters in search of epic loot, the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands introduces us to Rhys and Fiona, two characters from different walks of life trying to make a less interesting living on the planet Pandora. Rhys is an underling at Hyperion Corporation, who massive space station watches over the planet and Fiona is the older sister of a family of thieves trying to earn her keep. When both get involved in an illegal deal that goes wrong, they end up joining forces in an attempt to make things right. And get rich doing it.
The game’s story format presents you with the opportunity to play both of them and see situations from both of their perspectives. And these are skewed perspectives which tend to contradict each other when their paths physically cross which makes you wonder what the ultimate truth to their tale will be. This is a great fit for the humour in this backstabbing universe; with everyone vying for an advantage nothing, not even the story itself, can be taken at face value.
For fans there are some very clear call outs and cameos, the episode’s title “Zer0 Sum” make one fairly clear, but they are not necessary to enjoy the game. Those who make the connections will appreciate it though.
Like most Telltale titles, at the conclusion of the episode you get to see some statistics indicating how many players either made the same decisions as you or different ones. How this will play out throughout the season is what will keep players coming back.
Visually, the game is marvellous. The Borderlands art style shares some similarities with that used in The Walking Dead series so it is an easy fit within the game engine. Through in the hyperactive colour palette and you have something that is striking to see in action. In fact I’d say it’s the best looking Borderlands game out there.
This is coupled with a great soundtrack and voice acting (Patrick Warburton is perfect as Rhys’ nemesis Vasquez) helps deliver an experience worth listening to as much as watching.
The episode will take to two the three hours to play through from start to finish but it is broken up into sections that could easily allow you to play that in twenty to thirty minute bite sized chunks. If the rest of the episodes are of similar length you are going to have at least a dozen hours of game there which turns out to be great value.
For those who may have found the gravity of The Walking Dead too much, this exactly what you need. Tales from the Borderlands is irreverent, violent, outlandish and shows that with the right people, the universe of vault hunters, psychos and skags can give us experiences beyond finding that one gun out of a gazillion.
Please note: The version reviewed was for the PC, downloaded via Steam. The game is also available on other platforms including both console and mobile.