Tales from the Borderlands offers a new way to look at Pandora
Telltale Games has had a busy year. The company just wrapped up the first season of The Wolf Among Us, an adaptation of Bill Willingham's graphic novel Fables , as well as the second season of the critically acclaimed The Walking Dead. They’ve been slowly teasing tidbits about their Game of Thrones project after announcing their partnership with HBO, but their primary focus now is Gearbox: Tales from the Borderlands. Tales takes a closer look at the inhabitants of Pandora and what has occurred after the events of Borderlands 2.
When Tales from the Borderlands opens, Pandora is now functioning without Handsome Jack at the helm, which has put a few things into disarray. Deviating slightly from previous games in Telltale’s collection, Tales from the Borderlands puts you in control of two protagonists: Rhys is a data-miner who works for Hyperion, the company that Handsome Jack originally took over, and Fiona is con-artist. Using a framed narrative, Rhys and Fiona recount prior events in the way they remember them—or at least how they want to remember them—and the player has control of how the events transpire. You’re also tasked with finding out which character is telling the truth and who to trust.
The game uses Telltale’s tried-and-true conversation tree structure as the core of the gameplay. There are also action breaks in between conversations to bring you back to the gunplay Borderlands is known for. Telltale has also borrowed action mechanics from The Wolf Among Us. One example is an action sequence where Rhys goes one-on-one with a few bandits, and he calls in a loader bot to fight for him. The loader bot has several weapon types to choose from, and you’re able to pick which target to aim at first, forming a strategic approach to the brawl. There is also loot available to collect, which you can use to bribe others for information. Telltale and Gearbox have confirmed that the loot collected in the game will be “available to use in other areas of the Borderlands franchise.”
Drawn in the same thick-outline comic book art style we’ve all come to expect from the Borderlands franchise, Tales looks just like its brethren, making the transition from Gearbox to Telltale easy on the eyes. During my time with the demo, however, I noticed a few issues with the fluidity of the character animations. Jagged animations aside, my most important concern is if Tales actually feels like a Borderlands game, which is known for having double the sass of your average video game. Fortunately, the thirty-minute demo I played was full of the characteristic Borderlands sarcasm and witty commentary.
The aspect that Gearbox is most excited about, and which Borderlands fans will enjoy, is how Tales from the Borderlands gives players the option to explore the already existing canon of Borderlands, a consideration most players miss in the FPS titles because they’re so focused on the action present in the series. Rhys and Fiona are not vault hunters, which shifts the perspective of how you interact with characters and the environment.
Tales from the Borderlands will be released episodically. Currently there’s no set date for the release of the first episode, but it won’t be long before we’ll able to explore the secrets of Pandora that lie in wait.