Borderlands is one of those gaming franchises that I desperately want to love, but just can’t get into. I dig the series’ cell shaded graphics, twisted humour and sci-fi western setting… shame then that I cannot stand the gameplay. When it comes to aiming my sniping skills rival those of a Stormtrooper, so I have always had an aversion to first person shooters. The traumatic memories of humiliating Halo multiplayer losses still keep me up at night, which may explain why I have never owned a Microsoft console. Thankfully the folks at Telltale Games have come to my rescue by releasing Tales from the Borderlands – a rib tickling spinoff adventure that forgoes fiddly gunplay in favour of delivering one of 2015’s finest video game narratives.
Tales from the Borderlands is told from the perspective of Rhys (Troy Baker) and Fiona (Laura Bailey.) Rhys is an office worker based at Hyperion’s space station whilst Fiona resides in the desert world of Pandora, where she ekes out a living by swindling lowlifes with the skills taught to her by a master thief. When the game begins Rhys is reeling at the news that his new boss has demoted him to the position of assistant vice janitor. Determined to prove his worth to the company Rhys uses some creative accounting to “borrow” ten million dollars from the Hyperion coffers, which he intends to spend on purchasing a precious vault key. Unfortunately for Rhys the key is a counterfeit being peddled by Fiona and her sister Sasha. I knew there was something amiss about that alien artefact, after spotting the phrase “made in china” stamped on the underside.
A moment of serendipity exposes the sisters’ deception to Rhys, but he still ends up losing the Hyperion funds when bandits raid the establishment where the deal is taking place. Rhys and Fiona are forced to form a temporary alliance in order to retrieve the pilfered monies. As the story progresses the pair band together with other wasteland misfits including a lesbian mercenary, adorable androids and a redneck mechanic who likes cars, women and cars (in that order.) The adventure culminates with the group unearthing the location of a bonafide extra-terrestrial vault. Securing the lucrative treasure stored within should fix their financial woes faster than you can say government bailout. First however the group will have to evade the unwanted attention of Hyperion’s upper management in addition to criminal syndicates who are hot on their heels.
I think Borderlands fans will be satisfied with how Tales turned out. Not only is it a fine game in its own right, but it also features cameo appearances by popular Borderlands characters including Zer0, Athena and Handsome Jack. The space cowboy setting should also appeal to players who enjoy TV shows such as Firefly. Gameplay wise it follows the Telltale blueprint for video games to a T. Strictly speaking Tales is a point and click adventure, although the scarcity of brainteasers makes the whole thing feel more like an interactive movie. Quick time events are used to resolve combat situations whilst dialogue choices determine the direction of the story. The interactivity may be limited, but it’s still a blast to play. The only real fault I can levy at the game would be the odd graphical glitch and frame rate dip, which mostly occur during the fifth chapter.
My final rating for Tales from the Borderlands is five stars. As was the case with The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, the team at Telltale Games has once again taken another company’s property and turned it into a stellar game. This time round however they have delivered a lighthearted heist caper instead of a gritty adaptation, proving that the Telltale writing staff have not lost their talent for penning hilarious comedies. I had so much fun with Tales that I ended up completing the whole thing in a mere two days. It’s one of those titles that is hard to put down once you start playing. How some gamers had the patience to download each of the five episodes, as they periodically came out over the course of a year, is beyond me. Then again I am the type of guy who complains that Pop Tarts take too long to toast!