When Tales from the Borderlands was released in late 2014, I didn’t really care about this game. I’d been a fan of the previous Telltale-Adventures that I had played (The Walking Dead Season 1 and The Wolf Among Us), but I thought the newer IPs they had acquired, Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands, seemed pretty uninspired. However, I am an addict to Steam and PS sales, which means I inevitably picked both of them up for my PS4. Which is good, I can say for TftB at least!
Like all Telltale games it’s an episodic adventure in 5 parts. Adventure is a generous term, because you shouldn’t expect to find tricky puzzles. Tales from the Borderlands is action-packed, with a ton of Quicktime-Events, and fast dialogue decisions that may have consequences about the survival of some characters. The good ol’ Telltale principle. Either you like it or you leave it.
Return to Pandora
As the name of the game suggests, the game is set in the zany world of the Borderlands games, which makes the genre somewhat post-apocalyptic science-fiction. The graphics use the same Cel-Shading style that the three previous Borderlands FPS have, with the same crazy, black humor that the shooters also use. The tone of this adventure is over the top right from the start, very funny. The plot is set after the events of Borderlands 2. A group of vault hunters just defeated the evil head of Hyperion Corp, Handsome Jack.
We have two protagonists in this game that in turn get to control. First, we have Rhys, an employee of Hyperion Corp who comes to Pandora in order to get revenge on his archenemy Hugo Vasquez, who saw to it he was demoted to janitor at Hyperion. The second character we control is Fiona, a con artist. She works as a team with her mentor Felix and her sister Sasha. Their current project is to sell a forged vault key for a lot of money, and that’s how Rhys and Fiona meet. That’s basically the plot of episode 1, and the story takes off from there.
The story is told in flashbacks, because a strange man/machine has taken Rhys and Fiona prisoner and wants to hear their tale in detail. It’s a story full of contradictions, because both have a flair for exaggeration or untruth, especially Rhys, who’s kinda a loser who you just have to like.
Until you learn the truth about the kidnapper in episode 5 and then create a team to enter the Atlas vault, a lot of crazy things happen. A wild race event against midget psychos and bandits, exploration of an old Atlas research station, infiltrating Hyperion’s HQ on one of Pandora’s moons, and a battle of a titanic robot against the vault security.
So many characters
If you have played any of the Borderlands games, you will meet familiar characters. Scooter the Mechanic, Zer0 from Borderlands 2, Athena, and so on and so forth. It’s really the characters that make this game great. Rhys and Fiona, Sasha and Vaugh are fun. The dialogues are witty, especially when Rhys and Fiona interact. The humor is black, if you loved that about the shooters, you’ll feel right at home. Besides, Tales from the Borderlands has the two best robots ever. Sorry, Claptrap, I’ma let you finish, but Loader Bot and Gortys are the best Borderlands robots of all time!
What’s possibly missing is that you don’t really feel the consequences until the final episode when you have to create a team to storm the chamber. For example, a bunch of characters were greyed out for me, because of decisions in previous games. You get no hint this would be an option. So, my advice: if you like an NPC a lot, treat them well, hah! That’s about the only consequence that really matters throughout the series.
I want to remark on the exceptional quality of all voice actors. They really brought some top stars of voice acting on board. It was a bit strange playing Uncharted 4 first, and then come to a nearly identical main cast in TftB: Troy Baker as Rhys, Laura Bailey as Fiona, Nolan North as August, etc. For RPG fans, you get to listen to two cast members of Critical Role, with Laura Bailey and the outstanding Ashley Johnson as voice of Gortys. Really stellar performances all around.
My ranking of episodic games is currently as such:
- Life is Strange
- Tales from the Borderlands and The Walking Dead Season 1
- The Wolf Among Us
- The Walking Dead Season 2
If you enjoy episodic adventures and do not mind an abundance of relatively easy Quicktime Events, I highly recommend TftB. Especially the last episode really rocked, tons of fun. As it is a Borderlands game, it’s more action-packed than other Telltale games, which means time just flies by. Thumbs up!