Even though it was a hands-off preview of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed the demonstration of Tales From the Borderlands at E3. Tales was playable on the PAX Prime showfloor and even though I knew how the beginning of the first episode would play out, I still enjoyed my time with the game.
The demo picked up about 20 minutes into the game, where one of the protagonists, Rhys, is meeting with a dealer named August to purchase a Vault Key. Playing through the same demo as was shown at E3 should have been tiresome, but instead I found myself excited to be able to make the decisions for the rascal-y Rhys. The magic of the Telltale games is how you can superimpose your own morals and decisions on these characters that couldn’t be any more different from yourself.
Exploration and dialogue choices are central to the gameplay experience, but more than any other Telltale game, Tales From the Borderlands seems to embrace action as an integral part of the gameplay. A large chunk of the demo was an extended combat scene between Rhys, the best Loader Bot ever, and a huge swarm of bandits. To provide some context, I got a chance to quickly play Alien: Isolation on the PAX showfloor, and nothing in that game scared me more than what happens after making it to the meeting point with Rhys and his friend/coworker Vaughn (voiced by Chris Hardwick).
Telltale seems to understand the charm and humor of the Borderlands universe much better than Gearbox. The idea shouldn’t be to bludgeon players with meme reference after meme reference, but to sprinkle them throughout the game for maximum effect. Tales has a very smooth and fluid sense of pacing and hits humor notes and pulls back at the perfect time.
Throughout the demo, the Telltale humor that was evident in The Wolf Among Us shines through, and to compliment it, Borderlands‘ traditional pop culture references are sprinkled here and there. For example, as the Loader Bot is about to be destroyed, it gives Rhys a final thumbs up a la the T-800 at the end of Terminator 2. Unfortunately, the demo ended before switching POV to the other protagonist, Fiona, but the beginning of her section can vary as each of the dialogue options available to her are completely different.
Tales From the Borderlands looks to be another jewel in the crown of Telltale and will be available to enjoy sometime this fall.