Tales from the Borderlands season review

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2015-10-25_00002The fifth and final episode of Tales from the Borderlands released last Wednesday, officially finishing out the first season with a bang. Unlike other TellTale Games series, Tales from the Borderlands embraces humor, heart and adventure from beginning to end.

[CAUTION: Spoilers for Borderlands 1 and 2 mentioned ahead.]

The game’s events take place after all three Borderlands entries, in which Hyperion executives are locked in a power struggle for who gets to take over after the death of their charismatic and evil leader, Handsome Jack. Players get introduced to Rhys first, a middling Hyperion executive attempting to climb his way up the corporate ranks, and then to Fiona, a Pandoran con woman struggling to finally snag a big score. Both serve as two sides delivering the large, adventurous story behind Tales, and thus two different characters to play each episode.

Tales from the Borderlands departs from TTG’s usual grim repertoire and embraces an action-comedy nature.

Rhys starts off at the mercy of an office rival for a promotion, comes up with a plan to snag a big Hyperion deal out from his superior, and eventually ends up on a dangerous hunt for an elusive Vault with Fiona. Together the protagonists meet several familiar faces from prior games as events unravel, but thankfully none of the cameos feel like they completely overshadow the new characters Tales is introducing. In addition to Rhys and Fiona, brand new characters including Fiona’s sister Sasha, Rhys’ buddy Vaughn, Sasha’s boyfriend August, friendly protector Loader Bot and many more give a substantial contribution to the story of Tales.

2015-10-25_00003The game play sticks to the tried and true TellTale formula in that it’s generally a point-and-click adventure with tons of dialogue choices and quick time events. There are some opportunities for more complex elements such as computer hacking (Rhys’ expertise), but it doesn’t quite get as fleshed out as one would hope. Regardless, the decision trees for dialogue and paths are much more robust than in prior seasons.

In contrast to the irreverence for choice consequences found in the first season of TTG’s Walking Dead (which many gamers griped about), Tales from the Borderlands feels like it gives players plenty of choice without hobbling them at the finish line. Indeed, some characters can be killed off or certain encounters can be skipped entirely depending on what you choose. The important thing that Tales manages to accomplish is that it still gives players the full story, but certain choices can impact how well you understand the characters that play into said plot.

2015-10-26_00008The writing is wonderfully on point, successfully seeping up the off-kilter but still hilarious tone of the first Borderlands entries and incorporating them into Tales. Of course you still get the over-the-top dregs from bandits and psychos, but a lot of the laughs is found in the situational humor. TellTale managed to nab a good dynamic, making scenes such as Hyperion workers getting into fake finger gun fights or Fiona imitating ‘bro’ speak an honest laugh-out-loud treat. All of which is delivered by a stellar voice cast including Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Chris Hardwick, Nolan North, and many more.

Tales from the Borderlands has shown that TellTale might have just mastered their formula of adapting series into this format. For anyone who played the original Borderlands entries, Tales will satisfy your love of the canon and style of the game. For those who haven’t played the past titles, Tales from the Borderlands will still take you on a fantastic futuristic adventure and make you laugh the entire trip.

Score: 5/5

Tales from the Borderlands is currently available on Steam, Playstation Network, Xbox Live, iTunes, and Android.

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Christen Bejar
Christen Bejar is a freelance gaming writer who started the local blog The Pause Button while studying at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. For Nerdvana, Bejar reviews video games and also previews, recaps and photographs many local events from a gamer's perspective.