- Developer: 2K Games, Gearbox Software, Telltale Games
- Publisher: Take Two Interactive
- Release Date: 23/3/2021
- Price: £19.99 / $24.99
- Review code provided by 2K Games
Introducing: Tales From The Borderlands Review
Last year, I had the excellent occasion to replay and review both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands the Pre-Sequel and I can tell you right now that I am a pretty huge fan of the series at large. Notably, the only game in the series that I had no exposure to was Tales From The Borderlands, so I was pretty excited to see this announced for a console I finally had consistent access to. Telltale has had some great hits under their belt with The Wolf Among Us, Batman and even the much beloved Strongbad’s Cool Game For Attractive People, so I knew that anything that they had their hands on was going to be something worth playing. So, let’s dig into something that I didn’t see coming: Borderlands, without all the shooting and looting I expect from the series. (spoiler: It’s REALLY GOOD)
The Salaryman and the Con-Woman
So, Vault Hunter, you have decided to head back to the barren, lawless wastelands of Pandora (and associated moons and space-stations) once again. But what’s this? You’re not a Vault Hunter? Explain yourself! The story of Tales From The Borderlands revolves around two main characters: Rhys, an executive from the Hyperion corporation (the same corporation previously run by the nefarious Handsome Jack, the villain of Borderlands 2) who is trying to make his way up the corporate ladder. Things, well… don’t exactly go his way. In trying to swing things back in his favor, he takes on a task to retrieve a Vault Key (an artifact vital in opening mythical Vaults full of incredible treasures) on the lawless planet of Pandora. Meanwhile on Pandora we meet up with Fiona, a con-artist looking to pull what might be the biggest heist of her entire career. Unfortunately, the con is giving a counterfeit Vault key to some suckers from Hyperion. Well, things go south pretty quickly and Fiona and Rhys end up on the run together from bigger and angrier forces who are usually aiming to murder them as hard as they can.
The story plays out over five chapters, each one getting a little bit crazier and giving you more difficult decisions to make along the way. Now, the way that the story is presented is kind of unique in that it’s more of a retelling than it is a story that happens around you. When every chapter starts, it’s from the perspective of Fiona and Rhys who are being escorted by a mysterious man who seems to know more about their situation than he lets on. Is he a friend? A foe? A random psycho? You’re gonna have to play the whole game to get to the end of that story. After the intro to each chapter, the game takes turns telling bits of the story from Rhys’s perspective and then some from Fiona’s perspective, but each chapter is ended by a pretty intensive action sequence that makes you hungry for more.
Well, If It Isn’t The Consequences Of MY Own Actions
The gameplay for Telltale games in general revolves more around the story being told and how to best tell that story in the world that you are in. In the case of Tales From the Borderlands, story is told through quick-time events and solving puzzles by interacting with people around you and objects you find lying around. Most puzzles are solved through those quick-time events by pushing the prompts on screen as quickly as you can, but that’s not to say that they get boring. Those sequences are some of the greatest moments in the entire experience, but talking too much about them ruins the whole thing. My only grievance with some of these quick-time sequences is that sometimes the cursor is a bit unresponsive when you want it to get to the spot you need to get to. It’s nothing huge, but it would have been nice to have added a touch sensitive mode for the fast paced moments.
Things get crazier with every chapter as more strange characters join your crew, but while the characters are certainly one of the strongest components of this adventure, this game is all about choices and their long lasting consequences. For instance, one of your closest friends betrays you during a very heated moment and in doing so this person gains possession of a box filled with an enormous amount of money. The catch is that you know that if this person opens the box then a bomb inside of it will be triggered and they will be killed instantly. You are given the choice to go tell them to screw themselves or to tell them that opening the box will trigger the bomb. This choice’s consequence changes an entire branch of the game and I didn’t know that until I recently finished the ENTIRE STORY and saw that I could not access a branching path due to this guy being blown to smithereens. Given, there are usually more immediate consequences to choices you make, like a character getting punched in the jaw, or somebody back-sassing you for making them look bad a few minutes earlier, but I was impressed by how long lasting some of those choices would be.
Pretty as a Pandoran Sunrise
I have to say that one of the best things that Telltale and 2K did with this game, and I certainly noticed it as I reviewed Tales from the Borderlands, is that this game fits so well into the universe of the other games in the series. Visually, the game looks just as beautiful as the other Borderlands installments are. The art style is perfectly adapted to these new characters and new scenario and I love it to no end. Like I said, I love this series, so to see character introductions done just like the main entries makes me smile. The folks making this game didn’t just want to make a quality experience, they wanted to make a game that seamlessly fits into the world that it belongs to. It’s impressive, to say the least.
The audio design is pretty solid too. The clicks of gears, roars of rusty engines and explosions all sound like I’m out with my friends hunting down a vault and mowing down bandits. Dialogue between characters is not only delivered well, but it feels natural which is not something you get a lot with games with voice over. I love seeing moments where other characters will be talking and a menu shows up and even after you make your choice the person talking doesn’t get interrupted. Instead, they finish their sentence and the option you chose is delivered in a natural sounding way that fits seamlessly into the conversation. Trust me when I say it makes gameplay feel much more natural and relatable. Excellent work. 5 stars.
Catch a (Fairly Smooth) Riiiiiiiiiiiiiide!
This game runs pretty dang well. I mean, sure the game came out an age ago, but the port is nearly flawless. Now, I say nearly because there are some noticeable glitches and weird hiccups that happen every so often. The most notable of these are visual glitches where a texture will freak out for half a second or so when a cutscene loads up. It’s nothing that really breaks the game, but it ruins the immersion for a little bit. Other than that, the main things I saw, or more heard were audio glitches as loading screens started up. It didn’t happen much until the last two chapters, but where the loading screens take a few seconds it certainly does not feel good when that chord keep freaking out for a hot minute.
Other than that, this port is great. Things feel good and polished and I rarely felt like I was playing something that could have used a few more days in the oven, per se. This is a great port. Seriously.
Finishing The Mission
Folks, this game is good. Characters are well written, the story is wonderful and touching (I almost cried as a grown man at two specific moments – one of which I ALREADY KNEW WAS COMING) and the game is ultimately satisfying in more ways than I could have expected. I recommend this game to all those who love stories, Borderlands, and great comedic timing. This is certainly worth your time.
- Some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long time.
- Characters you really care about in a world filled with life.
- Genuinely emotional moments that made me feel things for the first time in a long time.
- Occasional glitches with visuals and sound