Written by Lucas P. Jones
Telltale Games have become a household name in the video game landscape, bringing their unique take on many classic franchises, including The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones (review coming soon), and, Borderlands. Their five part series, Tales from the Borderlands, digs farther into the rich Borderlands mythos to give us the story of a new group of vault hunters, set during the aftermath of Borderlands 2.
As far as the game mechanic goes, I’ve been totally suckered in. I’ll be the first one to admit to being skeptical of this format when it first came out. “What’s the point? It’s just a linear story, why not just make a movie?” Well, past tense Lucas P., the point is that Telltale is able to tell a rich and detailed story not found in modern gaming. You get attached to characters, robot and human alike, and feel genuine concern for them when they are in danger. The fantastic voice acting is a big part of that, especially on the part of Loader Bot and Gortys, and they help to humanize these digital personas.
The story across all five episodes managed to hold my interest, and make me want to continue playing, which is huge for a game that relies on episodic content. Cliffhangers were well spaced at the end of each episode to generate interest, but not feel like anything was being intentionally held back. The diversity of environments and plot lines allowed the game to not feel stale or lazy at any point. The writing also switched back and forth between serious moments and humorous ones, which captured the essence of Borderlands games really well. My only gripe with the story and the writing as a whole, is that the ending “big twist” was obvious for a while, although it did set up a great end battle that felt satisfying, and features several visual gags that will make your inner nerd squeal.
Now, onto the last bit. The choice mechanic. Telltale games live and die based off the choice mechanic. You are put through conversations and situations, and you have to choose a response that will affect the gameplay; sometimes in little ways, sometimes in big ways, sometimes not at all. I understand the difficulty inherent in this set-up. You can’t write unlimited endings to satisfy every action tree; that would be ridiculous. So, at a certain point, the divergences in the story will have to resolve so that the story can progress to one ending or a small set of endings. While I will not fault the devs for this flaw which is inherent in this type of game, I will say that it felt VERY obvious where these choices began to happen more and more frequently. And there are some differences in the ending based on what you’ve done, but certain parts felt very transparent. However, I would implore you to continue playing to the end, trust me, it’s worth it.
The writing and characters really grab your attention, and sometimes your emotions. If you love Borderlands as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to pick this series up and play through it. I could give away some tips to reveal a late game secret, but I won’t spoil it for you. One tip I will give, is not to play this game to get the “right” ending. Play it based on decisions you would make in those situations, and you will enjoy it a lot more.