Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Telltale Games & Gearbox Software LLC
*There may be some spoilers scattered throughout the review. You have been warned.*
The Borderlands games are mainly known for their shooting combat and their expansive amount of gun customization. They are open world games that contain lots of side missions and loot for you to take advantage of. The story however? It doesn’t really stand in the spotlight. When Telltale announced that one of their next famed adventure games would take place in the Borderlands universe, it was a little surprising. The games do have their own brand of attitude and flair that transfer perfectly however to Tales From The Borderlands.
It’s immediately apparent that the game has the same look and feel as the Borderlands game. The art style looks really nice and the colors pop right off the screen. It’s a nice looking game, and the returning characters look exactly like they do in the previous games. However, we get a look at some completely new characters exclusive to the game.
The first episode, titled Zer0 Sum, starts off with a beat-up Rhys, a company man for the well-known and highly frowned-upon Hyperion Corporation. He is looking for his companion, Fiora, who is a con-artist from the planet Pandora. The two are the most unlikely duo, somehow brought together by a single link. Rhys is then captured by a mysterious stranger, who quickly asks him to talk about the Gortys Project as he takes Rhys back to his hideout. This is when we get to see the back story and how the two characters were brought together.
The two obviously don’t trust each other yet, and that is seen through their constant bickering between themselves. The story is told in medias res, where both of the characters tell the story from their point of view. They tend to disagree with each other a lot and their stories contradict each other. There was a lot of humor from these little arguments.
The two are introduced to each other after a deal gone horribly wrong. Rhys is promised a promotion by his scummy boss Hugo Vasquez. Instead of the promotion, he gets “promoted” to a janitorial position, which sets Rhys off. His friends up at Hyperion, Vaughn and Yvette decide to help Rhys in screwing Vasquez out of a deal he set up with a group in Pandora over a rare vault key for ten million dollars. Vaughn quickly wires them the money and he’s off to Pandora, along with Rhys, to carry out the deal before Vasquez figures anything out.
Once we get down to the unforgiving desert region of Pandora, we begin to look around for the place where the deal will take place. This is where the action gameplay in introduced. Quick time events were not a big deal in past Telltale games, but they seem to play a bigger part in Tales From Borderlands. Some bandits want to know what is in the case full of money and they don’t hesitate to attack Rhys and Vaughn. With some timely executed quick time events, you take out the bandits in a few tense moments. You also summon down a Loader Bot, which you can customize in real time to fight the bandits. All of these features are new for the Telltale games, and they were all generally fun to play around with.
It’s also worth noting that Rhys has a special cyborg eyeball that lets him scan objects and characters in the environment, giving the player an added dimension of information, as well as humor. It’s a cool little feature that is pretty well executed. Later in the game when you take control over Fiora, you get access to money, which you can pick up and use to buy yourself out of trouble. It’s little things like this that make the game seem completely different from past Telltale games.
Going back to the story, Rhys and Vaughn eventually come across August and Sasha who have the vault key. They seem pretty reluctant to give them the key since Vasquez is nowhere in sight. This is where the story is thrown in Fiora’s hands, who begins to explain how she got connected with the deal.
Fiora is the slick and sly con-artist that makes her residence in Pandora. She’s not alone in her endeavors however. Felix has been her mentor in the game and Sasha is Fiora’s partner in crime. They begin to think up a scam that they believe will net them some excess cash. They put together a fake vault key that they plan to sell to the gullible August who they believe will sell the key to Hyperion for big money. All it takes is some sweet talking and persuasion from Fiora to get August on board, who then travels with Sasha to make the deal. Felix and Fiora are close by to make sure nothing gets out of hand, and to make sure that the fake vault key doesn’t get outed.
This is how it all comes together. When Rhys scans the vault key with his eye, he finds out that the thing is fake, and this causes a bunch of ruckus. A gang of bandits led by the obnoxious Bossanova busts through and takes the briefcase of money among the confusion, while Rhys, Sasha, Felix, and Vaughn escape from the scene, leaving August behind. We also get introduced to Zer0, a deadly vault hunter who also wants to get his hands on the money.
After a shaky alliance is formed between the four, they decide to go after the money. After some work by Vaughn, they track the money to Bossanova’s base, which is an old Atlas facility. It also turns out that the briefcase is top prize for the winner of a death rally that Bossanova is putting on. The team splits up, with Rhys and Sasha going after the briefcase and Vaughn and Fiora gearing up for the rally. After more quick time events and some action, we get met with our first major decision of the game. Felix, as it turns out, is in this for himself and he ends up taking the briefcase, backstabbing the group. It’s known that the briefcase has a bomb wired to it for anybody that tries to get in. You have to decide as Fiora whether or not to stop him, or let him find out the hard way. It was a tough decision to make, but I ended up watching Felix explode as the money started to fly everywhere…destroyed.
This causes some tension between Sasha and Fiora, who couldn’t believe that Felix was left for dead. Rhys and Vaughn also realize the situation they are in, now that Hyperion and Vasquez are aware of what had happened to the money. They need to get the money back to Vasquez. They stumble around the debris of the explosion, coming across an opening to an Atlas vault containing some highly valued vintage weapons…as well as a mysterious looking pair of artifacts in the middle. Fiora and Rhys put them together to reveal what is explained as the Gortys Project which supposedly leads to a vault, as explained by a holographic Handsome Jack, one of the most popular villains form the Borderlands universe. The whole project is still mysterious in nature, and will most likely be explored in the future episodes. We also got a sneak peek at what is believed to be Mad Moxxie’s voice, after talking to Zer0 Sum who successfully took down Bossanova. It leaves me anticipating how she will factor into the story.
I really liked where the first episode went and what it did in terms of introducing all of the major players. We started to see the chemistry between characters like Rhys and Sasha, as well as Vaughn and Fiora. It’s these types of relationships that I hope are further explored in future episodes. I also heavily anticipate how Handsome Jack, who is presumed dead, and Mad Moxxie will come into play. I also really enjoyed the humor and attitude that was present in the game. The banter between the characters and the stylish title cards for the characters were all fun to experience. It looks like Tales From The Borderlands has an intriguing story to tell.