Tales From the Borderlands is an episodic, story-based Telltale game based on the Borderlands series of shooters.
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3,Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, Windows PC, Mac OS
Telltale’s Tales From the Borderlands fifth episode came out this week, marking the end of the series. After a slightly lackluster penultimate episode, the finale brought it all together, and I can officially say now that Tales From the Borderlands is one of my favorite games of all time. Top five, at least.
I fell in love with Tales pretty early on. I’m a Borderlands fan in general, but always wanted more story and character development from the series. Not that the gameplay isn’t great, but I always felt like there could be so much more in terms of getting to know these characters. It’s the kind of series that sparks your imagination but never quite gives you enough.
Tales From the Borderlands, on the other hand, is exactly the story I’ve been longing for for all these years. It’s still totally silly and irreverent, but there’s heart under it all that the main Borderlands series always teased at but never quite unearthed. Also? I don’t think a “serious” game has ever made me laugh so hard. The game’s cast did an incredible job with the material the writers gave them, and that material is magnificent.
Tales From the Borderlands starts after Borderlands 2 and before the present-day sequences in Borderlands: The Presequel. It isn’t important to have played any of the main series, though. I have friends who aren’t familiar with the Borderlands universe, and they still had a great time with Tales.
The series follows dual protagonists Fiona and Rhys, conwoman and corporate middleman, respectively. Neither are particularly good people, but both are wonderfully likable nonetheless. There’s also Fiona’s little sister, Sasha, and Rhys’s best friend, Vaughn. And then there’s Handsome Jack, Borderlands 2’s antagonist, who was killed at the end of that game. Yep, he’s back-this time as a hologram stuck in Rhys’s cybernetics. Rhys-who idolizes Jack-is the only one who can see or communicate with him, leading to a delightful web of lies and poor decision-making.
You’ve also got several robots, an extremely violent ex-boyfriend, and Patrick Warburton doing what he does best. Athena, Scooter, and Janey make a return to the series as well, bringing with them some satisfying character development. The cast is pretty diverse-three of the main characters are women of color, two are men of color, and Athena and Janey are dating after flirting during Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
And of course there’s a whole plot about tracking down an alien Vault, because that’s what everybody does in Borderlands. It’s kind of an Ocean’s 11 heist story with a hefty amount of Mad Max thrown in, and some Serenity-inspired futuristic corporate mystery-solving for flavor.
Above all, though, Tales is about friendship.”So-and-so will remember that” is Telltale’s signature move, and this game brings it out in full force. This is also where Tales differs from Telltale’s other games. It’s sillier. It’s a lot more slapstick. At first you might think the stakes are lower, but you’d be wrong-the stakes aren’t lower, they’re just a different kind of stake. This isn’t the constant ‘choose who to save’ kind of decision-making we had in the Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us.
The outcome of your choices might not be losing somebody, but rather losing somebody’s trust. Or even just hurting their feelings-the look on Vaughn’s face, if you neglect to have Rhys meet his fistbump, is utterly heartbreaking. (Which isn’t to say that there isn’t any loss of life or limb involved. It is Borderlands, after all.) Your relationships with your buddies are key, and you’re walking a fine edge with all of them.
The main storyline follows the same beats no matter what happens-you’re not going to drastically alter the course of events-but your choices dictate whether you’re going in as friends, as frenemies, or as nemeses. And believe me when I say the game makes you care about that distinction.
Reviews From Around the Web
Gamespot, Alexa Ray Corriea - 9/10
Tales from the Borderlands’ writing is smart, thoughtful, and laugh-out-loud hilarious in places, but it’s also highly effective-through both gameplay and story-at making you, the player, genuinely care about a bunch of jerks. It’s reminiscent of developer Telltale Games’ inaugural season of The Walking Dead, which emotionally loaded you up only to take it all away suddenly, sadly, and horribly. But Tales from the Borderlands doesn’t end on the same somber notes. Rather, its conclusion offers a deep retrospective on what it means to be a hero and the dangers of power, along with hopeful notes about life, love, friendship, and having cool stuff.
GamesRadar, Ashley Reed - 5/5
Dying is easy, comedy is hard, and a whole lot of both goes on in Tales from the Borderlands. But as difficult as comedy can be, Tales from the Borderlands pulls it off without breaking a sweat. Staying consistently funny for ten-plus hours, maintaining an engaging story, and being enjoyable to play is about as easy as juggling flaming chainsaws, but Tales from the Borderlands pulls it off with as much grace (and as many explosions) as you could possibly hope for. Basically, it’s brilliant, and it’s what other comedy games should want to be when they grow up.