Tales from the Borderlands, in itself, is a strange concept. Taking a first person shooter famed for its unparalleled ‘shoot ‘n’ loot’ gameplay and transferring that into a story-based point and click game sounds like nothing short of insanity.
Thankfully for fans of the franchise, Telltale Games have excelled themselves, producing an experience with an engaging story and a highly rewarding choice system.
While the story arc fundamentally begins and ends at the same places many other clichéd stories can be found, the gaps in between are where Tales makes its mark. Hilarious and insightful dialogue is brought to life by an all-star cast, including Troy Baker, Nolan North and Patrick Warburton, all of whom are surpassed by Ashley Johnson as adorable robot called Gortys. Dameon Clarke reprises his role as arch-villian Handsome Jack and is as wonderfully maniacal as we have come to expect.
The crop of new characters introduced throughout all five episodes bring much needed fresh faces as some of the original characters started to feel stale and overused upon completion of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. What’s more, Tales develops these new characters more in the 15 or so hours in this series than the rest of the Borderlands series has managed with the original cohort in three games.
One of the biggest advantages Tales has over its RPG-FPS cousins is that the connection between the character and the player is far greater. Main protagonists, Rhys and Fiona, are still both motivated by a lust for the material (aren’t we all?), however the player-directed dialogue means you live through the development of relationships (some romantic) rather than witnessing them via cut scenes, or Borderlands’ ECHO recorders. Equally, living through these relationships means you take their deaths even harder. The demise of Roland in Borderlands 2 was awful, but in Tales I found myself pining after a robot more than I did Roland.
Perhaps the crowning jewel of Tales is its preparation for the final act, in which you choose people to fight alongside. Who you can choose from is based on the relationships you built with characters throughout the series. You can choose from those who want to make amends, those who want to make money and those who just want to shoot something in the face.
Personally, the most enjoyable moment of each episode was seeing how my choices compared to other players’ and imagining the implications, so seeing the culmination of my considerations all in one place felt like Christmas.
Despite the positives, a few moments can feel a little jarring. Love and romance has been so devoid from the Borderlands universe that Tales’ amorous moments between Rhys and Sasha (Fiona’s sister) can feel more than a little alien.
Some sections of exploration in the earlier episodes can descend into aimless wandering if you aren’t concentrating and I only had the chance to shoot about four people (if you discount fictitious finger-gun shootouts) which, for a Borderlands game is not enough regardless of whether it’s a story driven format or not.
Hopefully, these faults – minor, admittedly – are nothing but teething problems. Should there be a second season of Tales, and there really, really should be, Telltale will have the chance to redress the balance and improve upon what is already a Game of the Year contender.