Not every game needs to a straight-up battle between Good and Evil or a quest to rescue the princess or a gritty look at the horrors of war. Sometimes the best games are the ones that say, “Hey, wanna grab as much loot as you can and make out like bandits?”
That’s why the Borderlands franchise was created, and that’s why I love Telltales Games’ contribution, the five-part series Tales from the Borderlands, which I played late last year.
Over the course of 5 episodes, we follow two antiheroes across the surface of Pandora: Rhys, a salaryman for the Hyperion Corporation, and Fiona, a talented con artist. Despite their initial lack of trust, they find themselves thrown together with their companions on a quest to reclaim 10 million dollars, avoid the wrath of bandits, and follow the trail of the Gortys Project to a mythical find: the Vault of the Traveler. Along the way, they gather allies and enemies, from the hustler August to one very loyal Hyperion Loader Bot. And in true Borderlands fashion, it’s easy to see how Handsome Jack’s influence still lurks over the landscape in unexpected ways.
Seriously, this was one of the best games I’ve had fun with in a long time. Every little bit of commentary and dialogue is hilarious, especially with so many of Handsome Jack’s asides or propaganda thrown into the mix. And then, of course, there’s Gortys, the cutest little robot in the universe with a childlike sense of wonder.
But the gameplay itself was quite fun. I know a lot of gamers don’t enjoy Quick Time Events when they’d rather be traversing the landscape themselves and getting into proper fistfights and shootouts, but this setup worked for me quite well. I got so immersed in the storyline that I really did enjoy the way I’d be scrambling for the keyboard buttons once I got a prompt to pickpocket someone or drive a caravan underneath a Rakk Hive so it can get blown up by a moonshot (Yes, that actually happened, go play it and see for yourself).
Extra points go to the game for its use of licensed music in the episode intro sequences (I especially loved the openings for Episodes 2 and 3). It has the same devil-may-care vibe that I got from watching Guardians of the Galaxy: a bunch of outlaws and scavengers hit the trail in a beat-up vehicle to some classic Earth tunes.
If I had to nitpick any of the game’s quality, it’d be that some of the prompts for character interactions or dialogue don’t always pop up right away. This can be a little frustrating when you want to go through every option or cool side thing before moving on with the main plot.
If you’re looking for a game with a lot of comedic value, cool wasteland action, and a cast of surprisingly likable characters, then Tales from the Borderlands is for you. It delivers with all the satisfaction of unlocking a Vault.
Bibliography: Tales from the Borderlands. Developed by Telltale Games. Published by Telltale Games. Directed by Nick Herman, Jonathan Stauder, Ashley Ruhl, and Martin Montgomery. Produced by Sara Guinness, Adam Sarasohn, Mark Dickenson, Cody Murry, and Bryan Roth. Written by Pierre Shorette, Adam Hines, Jeremy Breslau, Chuck Jordan, Justin Sloan, Eric Stirpe, Anthony Burch, and Zack Keller. Telltale Tool (engine).