Tales from the Borderlands Review (XONE)

Tales from the Borderlands art
Tales from the Borderlands art. Telltale Games

Tales from the Borderlands is arguably Telltale Games' best work yet because instead of your choices being mostly pointless (Spoiler: Everyone dies no matter what you choose in other games), your choices in Tales from the Borderlands are usually driven by comedy rather than drama.  This is both a refreshing take on the tried and true Telltale formula but also a new perspective on the Borderlands universe as well.

  The result is one of the best Telltale games in quite a while.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Telltale Games
  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Pros:  Awesome presentation; very funny; choices are actually rewarding instead of feeling arbitrary
  • Cons:  Still a janky Telltale game

This review covers the full Tales from the Borderlands experience.  Why?  Because reviewing individual episodes is freaking dumb (this applies to TV shows too, for the record).  You're still going to experience the whole thing regardless of whether a single episode or two is lackluster, so assigning separate scores is pointless.  Okay, rant over.

Story

Tales from the Borderlands is the story of Rhys - a Hyperion middle-manager trying to move up the corporate ladder in the vacuum after Handsome Jack's death - and his friends, along with Fiona - a conwoman  - and her associates, as well as a number of new faces they meet along the way.

  The story starts with a deal for a Vault Key gone bad and just sort of goes nuts from there.  You end up traveling all over the planet of Pandora in one wacky adventure after another. 

While this is a Borderlands game, you don't really need prior knowledge of the series to understand the story.  The cast of characters are extremely likeable and their motivations for what they're doing are easy enough to understand that newcomers can still easily appreciate it.

  You certainly do benefit from being a Borderlands fan, of course, because the game is crammed full of references and fan service that longtime players will recognize. 

Gameplay

The backbone of Tales from the Borderlands is comedy, after all, and while occasionally self-referential, many of the jokes are pretty easy for anyone to understand.  The cast is just amazing from main stars Rhys and Fiona down to surprising scene stealers like Loader Bot and Gortys.  You'll love the whole cast almost right away, which is something you can't say about Telltale's other work (man, screw Kenny ...).  The trademark Telltale choices are still fully in place, but usually you're picking which funny way you want a scene to play out or what ridiculous direction you want a conversation to turn rather than morbidly selecting when and where some beloved character is going to bite the big one.  There is still drama here, just not usually the soul-crushing kind like we've become used to with Telltale. 

For the most part, Tales from the Borderlands plays like any other Telltale game.  You awkwardly explore small areas, interact with everything you can and talk to everyone, and then the next scene triggers and you move on.

  It is still very much a modern take on the point-and-click-adventure.  There are a couple of changes here, however.  Rhys has a cybernetic eye that lets him analyze various things around him (but you have to remember to use it) and a hacking ability that is pretty handy.  Action scenes still have you largely mashing a button to fill a meter or keeping a watch for QTE prompts to pop up so you can dodge out of danger in the nick of time, but there are some new takes on action sequences here and there that are a ton of fun. 

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is particularly impressive as it looks and sounds exactly like one of the mainline Borderlands games.

  Now you're seeing the world from a slightly different perspective and you aren't always being shot at or attacked constantly.  It is a neat new way to experience the Borderlands universe.

The sound effects are pure Borderlands, so they're great, and the music fits in fantastically well too.  The real star is the voice cast, which includes a huge number of great actors like Patrick Warburton, Nolan North, Troy Baker, and my favorite, Laura Bailey.  They all do a great job.

Bottom Line

In the end, Tales from the Borderlands is among the best work Telltale has ever done.  It is still a Telltale game, so it is a little glitchy and janky at its core and plays just like every other Telltale game, but the characters are fantastic and the writing is amazing and the presentation is just absolutely perfect, which all combine to make this an excellent experience from start to finish.  The first episode can be downloaded for free, but you have to pay for the other 4, which you get in the season pass for $15.  Borderlands fans will love it, Telltale fans will love it, even newcomers will feel right at home.  Tales from the Borderlands is highly recommended.