The folks over at Gearbox know a good thing when they see it, and when it comes to the Borderlands franchise they’ve got a good thing. Since the release of the original Borderlands game in October 2009, the series has expanded through Borderlands 2, Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, and now Tales From the Borderlands, an offshoot from the Gearbox brainchild via Telltale Games.
The entire Borderlands franchise is a DLC dream. This is Monty Haul crossbred with Seinfeld. The setting of Pandora, which is the central world of Borderlands, is unique, atmospheric, and enticing. In every instance, you want to get back into that world over and over again. With the game’s mix of story and action, cut scenes, role-playing, and adventure, the game far surpasses its status as a FPS, and moves into the realm of epic narrative.
In Tales From the Borderlands, the aesthetic realizes its full potential: in plot, characterization, humor, and playability. It is built as a cinematic presentation interjected sporadically with timed options for the player to choose a response to various prompts, mostly determined through banter between characters. This is choose-your-own-adventure at its finest. Every choice the player makes in response to a prompt determines the arc of the story-line. The responses even determine the development of character relations.
A third component of the game blends action and cinema to create a nearly seamless narrative experience. The player has a only a brief moment to react to combat prompts, usually intended to move the character out of harm’s way, before the character is smashed, shot, or otherwise killed.
No Shortage of Personality
The story centers primarily on Rhys, a Hyperion middle-runger hoping to climb higher on the corporate ladder. In short,Rhys finds out that his boss has been replaced by his nemesis, and that he isn’t getting the promotion he was expecting. Rhys and his friend Vaughn decide to make a trip from the Hyperion Space Complex to the surface of Pandora to conduct a little side business.
Rhy’s parallel story follows Fiona and her sister Sasha. Over the course of trying to make an exchange for a supposed vault key (the ever present motif in all of the Borderlands stories) Rhys and Vaughn get caught up with Fiona and Sasha and mayhem ensues. The writing is brilliant and the characters are unforgettable. The wit and flirtatiousness between Rhys and the female leads rounds the characters to form making every moment enjoyable, and it contributes to the player’s ever expanding understanding of the great Pandora and beyond.
All of the beloved trappings of the Borderlands universe are here: dingy, dangerous Pandora; sterile, corporate Hyperion; cameos by the mysterious and enigmatic heroes of the Borderlands Hall of Fame. The graphics maintain the signature art-comic style of all of the Borderlands products, and while the style has been off-putting to some users in the past, fans of the franchise have nothing to fear in terms of the consistency and enjoyment they’ve come to expect.