Telltale always pulls out all the stops for their booths whenever they have a game to show at a convention. Like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us before it, Tales From the Borderlands had an enclosure designed and built to look like it came straight out of the game being shown. In this case, a run down, Mad Max-esque tin shack. Telltale shows even more care to the games it develops than the elaborate stages it constructs to show them off, and the planned five-episodes of Tales From the Borderlands are no exception.
Tales takes place after the events of Borderlands 2, so obviously the big bad Handsome Jack is no more. In the wake of his death, Hyperion has been in a constant state of flux, with different parties rising to power then getting kicked out of the airlock. The game starts with one of the two protagonists showing up to a scheduled meeting about buying some land. Rhys is his name and he’s working for Hyperion and striving to be the next Handsome jack is his game. Next, we are introduced to Fiona, a con artist who has been on Pandora for a long time and is looking to make good her escape. There’s some unresolved hostility between the two characters, and the mysterious person who brought them together has to constantly threaten them to get them to stop arguing long enough to answer their questions.
Rhys starts explaining the story of how they met and what caused the two to hate each other. Here is where we discover his story and how he came to be on Pandora; he is looking for a Vault Key to get rich and become the head of Hyperion and the heir to Handsome Jack. As he gets to a certain point in the story, Fiona interrupts him and says that he’s making it up. Then she starts to tell her side of the story. This interesting he said/she said mechanic is the backbone to the game. Gamers will never quite know who is telling the truth, or even if either of them are. The main benefit to this is how many branching paths this can open up. At one point Fiona demands that Rhys tells the truth and four options to choose from pop up on the screen. One involves a Bandit King ambush and the other involves a certain silent cyborg ninja from Borderlands 2.
The gameplay is exactly as can be expected with a Telltale game; you search the environment for objects or people to interact with. However, there are two major changes to the formula to make it stand out from the herd. Both Rhys and Fiona have abilities that alter how you change the game. Fiona’s abilities weren’t revealed but Rhys has a robotic eye and a cyborg arm. The eye allows him to hack computers and investigate people while his arm allows him to project holograms and call down a Loader Bot (who steals the show with his well-timed pop culture quotes). The next change to the game is the inclusion of loot. It is unclear if this specifically meant weapons, cash, or a combination of the two. Rhys is shown looting a crate and picking up some money so that may just mean cash.
This entire game feels like a way for Gearbox to fully flesh out the world they’ve created with the Borderlands series which, until now, has been a little lacking. So far, I’ve been burned by the Borderlands franchise but this may be the game to get me to fully buy back in. If nothing else, maybe Gearbox can pick up a few pointers on how to properly work on world-building.
Tales From the Borderlands Episode 1 releases at some point in the next few months.