So close you can taste the gunpowder
Telltalle has been a busy beehive lately. Having wrapped up The Walking Dead Season 2 and season one of The Wolf Among Us, this fall will bring us right into the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands. Darren seemed positive on the game when he saw it at E3, but for a series like Borderlands that built its name more on its genre fusion gameplay than it’s setting, I didn’t know what to expect or hope for going into this demo.
After it was over, I came out with confirmation that Telltale is still the best at what it does.
Tales from the Borderlands (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [preview], Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Telltales Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: Fall 2014
Tales from the Borderlands doesn’t stray from the formula seen in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. You move around the world, interacting with characters and making decisions that affect your story and how others react to you. The writing takes an interesting approach to player choice. The story in my demo was told through flashbacks, one from the perspective of the Hyperion agent Rhys, and the other from his cohort Fiona.
Playing as Rhys, we follow him and his coworker Vaughn on their way to purchase a vault key from a shady individual. While his side of the story starts out believable enough, it starts to get a bit fantastical as he rips out peoples hearts and makes a daring escape from Zer0, who also seems to be after the vault key. Eventually Fiona calls him out on his story, and she begins to tell her side, which is unfortunately where the demo ends.
The interesting thing is that Rhys’ actions during his flashback were all decisions that I was making. I could have ripped that man’s heart out, or I could have tried to be diplomatic. I could have told the group that I had to escape a Vault Hunter, or I could have chosen a more believable option. Considering that players will be making these choices in both present day and flashback sequences, I’m pretty excited to see how Telltale wraps up what could essentially lead to twice as many story threads. Of course, what I played is just a slice of episode one, so there is no saying that the entire season will use flashbacks.
The choices and consequences in Telltale’s game would not be half as meaningful were it not for the writing. Telltale seems to have little problem going from the dramatic Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us to the slapstick silliness of Borderlands. The game even takes small shots at its gameplay formula. Later in the demo, Rhys and Vaughn are looking to get through a locked door as one of them says, “If we randomly just found it someplace that’d be amazing.”
After finding the key (surprise, it was just lying around), we are reintroduced to Shade, the incredibly insane and lonely shopkeeper introduced in Borderlands 2‘s Pirate Booty DLC. As is his modus operandi, Shade has propped up the dead bodies of past Borderlands characters in his own museum-like showcase, complete with narrated bios. Commandant Steele, killed by The Destroyer. Boom and Bewm, defeated by the Vault Hunters. Professor Nakayama, killed by stairs.
So yes, Tales from the Borderlands is a Telltale game, and if you like their last few games there’s a good chance you’ll like this one. Though Telltale is handling the writing, the Borderlands humor is intact, and if you have been following the series there are a good amount of in jokes calling back to previous games. This is a trip to Pandora worth getting ready for.