Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One – Zer0 Sum

it’s looking like Telltale are onto another winning formula…

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When they announced Tales of the Borderlands, Telltale managed to hook in two sets of gamers. On the one hand you had  the fans of their episodic adventure game style, those who had previously enjoyed series such as The Walking Dead, Back to the Future and The Wolf Among Us, who saw an opportunity for a blossoming genre to get into bed with a huge and very popular franchise. Elsewhere, Borderlands players had another angle, finally getting a chance to enjoy more of the humour and great storytelling which made the “normal” Borderlands games so much fun to play. But without the looting, levelled weapons and intense shootiness of the main games, could it be that this might be a challenge too far?

Well, no. Definitely not. It’s already brilliant.

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Tales of the Borderlands is an entirely new story in the Borderlands world, and helpfully doesn’t require you to have played any of the previous crop of titles in order to enjoy it. This time round you take the role of two characters as the story flicks between their differing ideas of how they ended up in the awkward position we find them at the start of the story. Rhys is a Hyperion employee, close to reaching his goal near the top of the company and Fiona, a con artist who (up until this point) had been having reasonable success ripping people off. They’re both great characters and play off each other very well, occasionally pointing out the apparent inaccuracies in each other’s stories before going on to tell their side of the tale. These two are clearly the main characters in the story, but there are other notable characters too which add to the enjoyment and humour. And as for that humour, there’s a lot of it. I laughed a lot at this opening episode, and if the others carry on in the same way it’ll be a very fun ride.

That’s not to say this is an overly crazy story with too much funny stuff to keep you hooked; the story is already building emotions and connections to the characters ,and there are several moments throughout when you’re worried about how someone or something will be affected by your choices.

Ah yes, choices. The focal point of all recent Telltale games, used with fantastic effect in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. This time round the choices seem to be shaping personalities every bit as much as future story events. Rhys is clearly a bit of a bumbling idiot much of the time, but it’s how you interact with others which is up for you to decide through your decisions. Some choices will clearly make a difference further down the road, and obviously at this point it’s quite tricky to determine exactly how big those changes will be, but everything is definitely set up for Telltale to bring back your choices to bite you on the backside. The intermingling stories of Rhys and Fiona work well too, with your previous conversation selections being played out during the other person’s version of the story, which while not giving any long term changes by themselves, do a great job of making you feel from the very beginning that you’re already shaping how the story will pan out.

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The cell shaded visuals which Telltale have come to like also fit in perfectly with the same style used in the Borderlands games, with characters and locations looking like they were lifted directly from one of the main games. Voicework is excellent too, with characters being treated to some excellent voice acting from most of the characters. In fact the only thing that I was hoping to see which didn’t make an appearance was Claptrap, but with four episodes still to arrive there’s still plenty of time for him to make an appearance.

So far then it’s looking like Telltale are onto another winning formula with Tales from the Borderlands. It’s already a genuinely funny game with some potentially interesting storylines to look forward to, and while the opening episode isn’t particularly long, it’s often the case with these series that later episodes are a bit longer once the story is more established and the twists and turns start to turn up. Fans of either Borderlands or the Telltale games should already own this, but if you don’t then I’d very strongly suggest that you do, you won’t regret it.

 
 

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