Tales From The Borderlands

Telltale Games must have story-weaving wizards.

The company’s games have received a lot of shout-outs and hype over the past year or so, and it isn’t due only to the fact that they’re using some of the most beloved properties for source material. If anything, it should be a great sign that the games based on properties such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have received critical and public acclaim, given how defensive fans can be when it comes to “spin-offs.”

And really, that’s where Telltale is shining. Their writers are doing an incredible job telling their own stories within an already-established universe. Tales from the Borderlands somehow manages to transform the popular first-person shooter Borderlands into a choose-your-own-adventure with all of the vibrant character of the original series.

For those unfamiliar with Telltale Games’ typical game format, the gameplay harkens back to the golden days of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. While there will be some action in the form of quick-time events and clue-gathering, you’re going to be doing a whole lot of watching and talking. Characters will discuss something with your main character, and it’s up to you to select one of typically four options to guide the conversation. You can play it as the nice guy, or you can be a total jerk and backstab just about everyone you run into. Since each game is released over five episodes, you’re going to really regret some of your choices later on. It’s a ripple effect, and it’s FASCINATING.

It’s a refreshing thing to see this format used in Tales from the Borderlands, where all the grit and harshness of the universe is pitched through the narratives of a couple characters who aren’t quite used to Psychos shooting at them every waking moment. That isn’t to say any of the rough nature of the universe is lost – far from it. Minor spoilers ahead!

The first chapter begins with the protagonists Rhys and Fiona, captured and recounting their story to their captor. Rhys (voiced by the silky-voiced Troy Baker, best known as Joel in The Last of Us and Booker in Bioshock Infinite) is a smooth-talking employee of the Hyperion Weapons corporation. When his story begins, his nemesis Hugo (voiced by Patrick Warburton, of course) has just killed Rhys’ former boss – the boss who was about to give Rhys a huge promotion. Not content to continue working under the employ of his nemesis, he gathers a tight group of friends to try and cheat Hugo out of millions of dollars.

Fiona (voiced by Laura Bailey, known for Lucina in Fire Emblem: Awakening) is a Pandoran con-artist who gets entangled in Rhys’ stolen deal – in fact, she was planning to con Hugo the entire time. Money gets stolen, both realize they’re after the same thing, and a wild chase for riches and glory ensues.

Fans of the Borderlands series will find a home in Tales from the Borderlands. Conversation is mixed alongside some intense action that requires some fast decision-making. It’s not for twitchy FPS players, but they’ll still find some of that action they crave in the atmosphere.

Though only two of five planned episodes have been released to date, it’s clear they have major plans. Most of the choices I’ve made are already proving to have made quite a ripple effect, and there are some choices I’m already regretting. Fiona has a pistol with a single shot, and in the heat of the moment I fired without thinking in the first episode.

I’m really going to regret using that shot later, aren’t I?

All is not perfect in this storytelling paradise, as the game retains many of the perpetual flaws that have plagued Telltale’s other games for years. Occasional choppiness, stuttering characters and heavier-than-expected load times when transitioning from scene to scene are all problems to be found, especially on older systems. The PS3 will choke as it loads a scene, but once things roll for a moment, the experience is much smoother. That said, these problems are at most an inconvenience and most definitely not a showstopper.

Episode Three has not been given a solid release date, but it was around a three-month lapse between One and Two. Hopefully we’ll have more to look forward to come June, and I’m just itching to see how many bad decisions I’ve made.

If you need me, I’ll be off replaying their other fantastic work, The Wolf Among Us.


4.5 stars out of 5