The Borderlands franchise has never really been heavy on story, instead focusing on the co-op shoot and loot gameplay. Sure, the setting has always had some really interesting ideas, but they always took a backseat to the action.
So when Telltale games announced they’d be making one of their signature adventure games set in the world of Borderlands, I was actually really excited to see it explored more in depth.
On the planet Pandora, an old west style economy involving psychos in hockey masks, corporate greed run awry and people called vault hunters who make their living searching for Vaults, caches of treasure left behind by ancient civilizations.
The story focuses on two playable protagonists, Rhys, a white collar corporate schlub navigating the hilariously hostile Hyperion corporation orbiting the planet and Fiona a con artist who has spent her life amidst the soul crushing poverty and crime ridden streets of the planet's surface.
Though a series of convoluted events involving both of them trying to make it rich quick, a common motivation in the Borderlands universe, the two are thrown together in a wacky adventure that takes them screaming through a five episode tour of the craziest stuff the franchise has to offer.
In many ways, Tales is just like Telltales previous offerings, using the same basic set of mechanics as their other games, albeit spiced up with some Borderlands trappings.
For example, Rhys is implanted with cybernetics, and his Echo-Eye can be used to scan for information and interact with various computer systems.
What separates Tales from it’s older siblings however is tone.
Games like the Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Game of Thrones, while they had their lighter moments, were pretty consistently dark, grim and violent, filled with gruesome sights and horrific tragedy.
Tales is also filled with gruesome sights and violence, but it opts to take the comedic root, and it ends up being one of the wittiest and outright hilarious games I’ve ever played.
As I’m reviewing the whole season, I can’t really talk much about the story much in fear of spoilers, but what I will say is that the narrative was far more poignant and hard hitting than anything you’d expect out of a Borderlands title. It takes a Futurama and Rick and Morty approach to writing, with wackiness and laughs dominating much of the experience before they’re interrupted by a heart wrenching moment that may have the audience in tears.
The cast of characters is fantastic, showing off a broad range of personalities built from new characters and returning veterans franchise fans will recognize.
Rhys and Fiona make a fantastic duo. Despite coming from opposite backgrounds, Rhys from the affluent white collar corporate world and Fiona from the seedy underworld, they actually have quite a lot in common, in that they’re both ruthless opportunists bent on getting what they want, but both have a human side, with a deep affection for those close to them.
How that affection is expressed (if at all) is of course up to the player, but it’s there regardless.
Special kudos has be given to the game's finale sequence; which unlike many games of this type, actually incorporates decisions from the previous episodes incredibly well.
It doesn’t fundamentally change the conclusion, the same basic framework of events still happen no matter what, but the game's final segments ends up being incredibly reminiscent of Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission in terms of mechanics and stakes.
Tales from the Borderlands may just be some of Telltale's finest work to date, and is worth seeking out.