Developer Telltale Games has a knack for enriching popular franchises. Whether it’s their comedic writing in Back to the Future or their dramatic representation of The Walking Dead universe, Telltale’s episodic releases aren’t mere spin-offs, they’re compelling expansions of the original creators’ visions. In their latest partnership with Gearbox Software and 2K, Telltale Games crafts yet another masterpiece that deepens an already vast universe. Tales from the Borderlands embodies the series's superb humor without the guns and obsessive looting. Expert writing and dialogue choices take precedence, but there are more action-packed quick time events than in most Telltale titles. As a result, the game captures Borderlands’ colorful chaos with a fresh perspective. This is a fantastic introduction to what may become one of Telltale’s strongest series yet.
While Tales from the Borderlands is an independent storyline, it takes place after Borderlands 2 with several characters and events referencing previous entries. As with most Telltale games, familiarity with the source material isn’t necessary, but makes the adventure more enjoyable. The story revolves around two protagonists, Hyperion employee Rhys (played by Troy Baker) and the con artist Fiona (played by Laura Bailey). After being demoted to custodial staff by his boss Hugo Vasquez (voiced by Patrick Warburton), Rhys and his friend and coworker Vaughn (Chris Hardwick) decide to leave the Hyperion corporation and intervene with their ex-boss’ plan to acquire a vault key. Fiona, on the other hand, has created a fake vault key with her sister Sasha (Erin Yvette) and her mentor Felix (Norman Hall) in hopes of conning Vasquez for a large sum of money. With Rhys and Vaughn unexpectedly showing up at the exchange, things quickly get out of hand.
"As a result, the game captures Borderlands’ colorful chaos with a fresh perspective. This is a fantastic introduction to what may become one of Telltale’s strongest series yet."
The Borderlands universe radiates with absurd characters, pop-culture references and gorgeous cel-shaded visuals, and Telltale Games have done a remarkable job of capturing the series’ tone. The humor and cartoony aesthetics are as vivid and charming as Borderlands 2, making this point-and-click adventure feel like an integral extension of Gearbox’s lore. Even without the sandbox world and exploration, Pandora’s immenseness is perfectly captured by guiding players through diverse environments and hilarious enemy encounters.
The Hyperion corporation has always been painted as a super evil entity, but playing as one of the company’s defunct employees makes Hyperion more sympathetic and likeable. Its employees are not that different from Pandora’s citizens, and most of them unwillingly follow a corrupt leadership. Rhys is unaware of just how bad Hyperion’s influence is on Pandora until he lands on the planet and meets Fiona. Most Telltale Games have slow introductory chapters, but Tales from the Borderlands’ pacing is fast and energetic. The developer’s ability to portray action scenes with simple QTE’s is applaudable, even if some events rely too much on trial and error.
"The two- and-a-half-hour episode delivers substantial content with narrative twists, making this the most immersive pilot to date."
Tales from the Borderlands pairs difficult decisions with branching narrative paths. In true Telltale Games fashion, a single line of dialogue can determine a character’s relationship with the player. Troy Baker and Laura Bailey have great chemistry, and their back and forth banter is both hilarious and heartfelt. Chris Hardwick as Vaughn and Erin Yvette as Sasha aren’t just mere side characters either, instead they feel as imperative to the narrative as Rhys and Fiona. The two- and-a-half-hour episode delivers substantial content with narrative twists, making this the most immersive pilot to date. While it’s hard to say where the series going at this point, the first episode makes a gripping impression. At only $5.99 per episode, Tales of the Borderlands is both a steal and an absolute must-buy.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC