Telltale Games have announced a raft of new series over the past year, a couple of which surprised many of their fans. The fantastic stories Telltale have given us in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us have us inclined to trust them however, and Tales From The Borderlands appears to have rewarded our loyalty:
Telltale Games has shown us on multiple occasions that they can tell a mean story (I continue to refuse Jurassic Park: The Game ever existed), so many responded with surprise and confusion when Tales From The Borderlands was announced. Based on the Borderlands series — a light-hearted, cel shaded first person shooter from Gearbox Software and 2K Games — this point and click graphic adventure set in the world of Pandora, was by no means the franchise to tackle next for Telltale fans.
Borderlands may not be known for its, albeit serviceable, story, but Tales From The Borderlands definitely should be; this is one of the most cleverly structured and best-written narratives I have experienced in some time. The passion for the silly, but at times dark humour filled with many and various cultural references that Borderlands is known for, comes through in droves.
The gameplay will be familiar to any Telltale veteran; the plot progresses through the choices you make that promise to have their consequences later down the line. These consequences seem largely cosmetic so far, but “ZerO Sum” mostly does well for a first episodic instalment. Dialogue choices are intermittently interrupted with action-packed quick time events that end up being pretty forgiving, but they keeps things from getting stale.
Similar to Telltale’s Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, we have multiple playable characters in Hyperion employee Rhys and Fiona, a professional Pandoran con artist. Rhys is looking to emulate the success of the villainous head of Hyperion, Handsome Jack, aiming to make his name by acquiring a Vault Key — the Vault being a rumoured, secret cache of alien tech hidden somewhere in Pandora. Fiona, on the other hand, is looking to make her living through scheming and scamming her victims, in this case by selling a fake Vault Key for lots of money. Perhaps you see where this is going?
Borderlands did enough from a graphics perspective, but Borderlands: The Pre Sequel! showed that Gearbox’s Pandoran adventures were dying for a next-gen console release alongside its PC counterpart. I’m reviewing Tales From The Borderlands on a PS4, which proved a treat for my eyes compared to the extensive and near-unacceptable texture pop-in I experienced with The Pre Sequel!.
That said, I do have some small issues with “ZerO Sum.” Some half-baked game mechanics have been shoehorned in, like the ability to control the type and battle strategy of Hyperion mechs. That, and the effort to implement currency into the game falls flat, giving us a shallow illusion of choice that isn’t really there. The length of the episode might also prove a problem, clocking in at a beefy two and a half hours. Despite the game getting better as it goes on, it’s a little too long. Many exquisite ideas have been squeezed into this time frame, but fingers and toes should all be crossed in the hope that Telltale’s best ideas haven’t been exhausted in this first chapter.
For both ‘Border-fans’ (if it isn’t already then it should be a thing) and those new to the series, I can only highly recommend “ZerO Sum”, if not stumping up for the whole season pass. For gamers that aren’t interested in the universe of Pandora I can also recommend the game; the raucous, chaotic sense of humour and art style constantly dictate to us that truly anything goes, thus TFTB is really a blank slate that can be endlessly explored in future episodes. For veterans of its shooty source material, this’ll be a highly refreshing experience, as you take on a new perspective in not playing the gun-toting, psychopathic vault hunters, but rather the often unarmed and vulnerable Rhys and Fiona.
Telltale Games have answered their doubters in style with “ZerO Sum.” This is one of their finest episodes to date, across all of their venerable series. Story-wise it’s fantastically written and nothing short of hilarious, with a charming set of characters in an entertaining new take on Pandora. It’s a crying shame then, that many might be put off by the distinctive Borderlands style, but those who take the plunge will be treated to the best that Telltale Games have to offer, at by far its most fun.
Harry Shepherd, Online Games and Tech Editor
How do you think Tales From The Borderlands stacks up against Telltale’s other series? Will you be picking up the season pass? Let us know by dropping us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on everything else games and tech, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.
The next episode of Tales From The Borderlands, “Atlas Mugged,” is available in the UK on March 18th, so keep checking back here at Exeposé Games and Tech for our review.