It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Telltale Games. I think the studio is making all the right moves and innovating in just the right way. This is especially true for a gamer like myself, who has been waiting for a text-based choose-your-own-adventure styles game for many years. Now, it seems there are a plethora of them to choose from. Tales from the Borderlands is one such adventure. Tales from the Borderlands follows two protagonists, Rhys and Fiona, caught up in some “get rich quick” antics. The storyline immediately follows the events of Borderlands 2 and includes some well-known Pandoran characters dropping in both as cameos, and to play slightly larger roles in your particular branch of the story. (NOTE: Since Tales from the Borderlands is released in five episodic installments, this review has been broken into several sections. The content and overall score will continue to be updated until the series is finished.)
Tales from the Borderlands has all the standard quirkiness and humor that fans have come to expect from the Borderlands series. There are plenty of hilarious, and often comically morbid, jokes throughout the first episode that place your characters into seemingly impossible situations. Along with the comedic elements, they throws in plenty of action, moral dilemmas, and unexpected plot twists. Through just one episode, I was already fully engrossed in the storyline and left salivating to bite into the next.
The fantastic story of Tales from the Borderlands is complimented perfectly by some extremely wonderful characters and exquisite voice acting. Troy Baker lends his voice to one of the leads, adding to his already seemingly endless resume of engaging roles in awesome video game franchises. The characters in TFTB have a chemistry rarely seen in games. They play off of each other with playfulness that's also deep with emotional background. I was thoroughly impressed with how interested I became in the different personalities as I was introduced to them.
Tales from the Borderlands has the typical graphic style of other Borderlands games, being cel-shaded and colorfully beautiful. The setting of Pandora is rich and chaotic, full of the creatures that Borderlands fans have come to love, while still being very open and inviting to new players. Additionally, the vaguely western music is perfect for the setting and gameplay, having a nearly cinematic quality. Pair that with simple and effective controls, and you have a fantastic experience for both new and veteran gamers.
If I had one qualm with this title, it'd be that some of the branches of choices along the story are a bit unbelievable and out of nowhere. I don't want to spoil anything by getting two specific, but there are certain “big” decisions that seemingly only have one option that makes sense with the characters and story. I like the idea of having to decide between two options in a good versus bad scenario, but with a character that has a specific personality, some of the options in the storyline become almost ridiculous. When the stats at the end show that 98% of players lean a certain way, I think it's safe to say the other option isn't much of a choice.
Episode 2 - Atlas Mugged Review : The Adventure Continues
There's always a bit of worry when a gamer plays a follow up to a great, immersive experience. I had just slight apprehension when booting up episode two of Tales from the Borderlands, but I quickly found it was unnecessary concern, as the second episode picks up right where the first left off and skyrockets even further into a brash world of guns, gadgets and massive amounts of fun.
This second installment of Tales from the Borderlands really ramps up the action and character development. We get more depth and background to the story, while moving the plot along an equally interesting path. I continued to be impressed with how engrossing the scenes are throughout the second episode.
Honestly, the biggest improvement from episode one is the soundtrack. This isn't something I usually put too much weight into, but the scenery combined with the score and chosen music tracks were nothing short of cinematic. To put it simply, episode two of Tales from the Borderlands was exquisitely done, offering more of the same fast, fun gameplay combined with humor and a few touching moments. I couldn't ask for anything more out of a game.
Episode 3 - Catch a Ride Review: A Heart of Gold
After completing two episodes of Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands series, I knew I was in for something special. My hesitations had been erased and I embraced the quality of the series with open arms. After finishing the third episode, I can see I made the right decision. This episode maintains the high level of quality and integrity of previous episodes while continuing to up the ante in terms of storytelling and character development. I would venture to say that each episode has been better than the last.
In episode three of Tales from the Borderlands, the player is faced with many dilemmas that explore the complex relationships of everyone involved in the story. Interactions take many twists and turns while posing many questions about where these crazy adventurers are headed. I think the best part of this most recent chapter is that the choices become more interesting and increasingly difficult. There are less “black and white, cut and dry” choices in this chapter, leaning more towards subtlety and relying on an intimate look on the web that the player has weaved.
This addition to the Borderlands catalog maintains the high bar set forth by previous installments and leaps right over it. The only unfortunate circumstance is that I have to wait patiently for the next episode. I venture to say that the result will be worth the wait.
Episode 4 - Escape Plan Bravo: New Heights
In Episode 4 of Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands, the story of Rhys and the gang continues. This much anticipated chapter continues to impress, much like the episodes prior. Of all the episodes, this one hits the note particularly well. It shifts tone beautifully and creates an engrossing atmosphere for the player. The characters continue to be likable and relatable. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why these characters hit so close to home, but playing as them is interesting and comfortable on a level that isn't achieved by many games. They experience moral dilemmas with realism, while maintaining interesting banter. They all operate like a vaguely disjointed family, and that unique series of relationships perfectly intertwines with the story as their paths collide forward.
Without spoiling anything specific, this game has both the most poignant moment in the series, but also the most ridiculously funny. In Episode 4, they seem to explore how far they can push the envelope while still maintaining integrity. I can personally vouch that this is done to a point of near perfection. I laughed out loud more than a few times, but I also sat back in awe during the delayed opening credit sequence.
As previously mentioned, the Telltale games aren't on the cutting edge of graphical achievement, but they create a style that fits the narrative, and that's never more evident than in this episode of Tales from the Borderlands. I honestly don't have anything bad to say about Episode 4. I was engaged and entertained throughout. I can't ask any more from a few blissful hours of gaming. Now I must wait patiently for the conclusion of the episodes. Although ending such a fun story will be bittersweet, I'm sure Telltale will do it with the same proficiency and flair as they've shown in all the installments so far.
Aside that tiny criticism, I have nothing bad to say about Tales from the Borderlands. There were times as I played that I forgot I wasn't watching a movie. I got so caught up in this fantastic experience, I felt my heart drop as I finished the episode. I longed for the action to continue forever. For my playthrough of the first four episodes, I award Tales from the Borderlands a rare Adonis Immaculate on the Game Awry Review Scale. This is how games should be made. This is how characters should function. This is how a franchise should reward it's fans. Tales from the Borderlands is beautiful yet simple, and an experience I recommend for not only fans of Telltale Games and Borderlands, but any gamer out there who wants a purely fun game to pass the time.