Few companies have grown in size quite like Telltale Games. Since The Walking Dead exploded they seem to be taking on projects at an astounding rate, some would say they’re taking on too many. After all, how can they keep up the quality when they’re churning out game after game? Just this past month both Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones have been released. But, if the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands is anything to by, then we really needn’t worry.
Borderlands as a universe is one you either love or loathe. The madcap antics of vault hunters, bandits and creatures aren’t for everyone and Tales won’t change your mind, in fact, it might further cement it. From a company that clearly has such brilliant writers, it’s slightly disappointing that the humour misses the mark more than it hits. In fact, in the few hours playtime the game only really elicited a slight titter. This is not to say the writing is bad per se. When it’s not trying to make the player laugh it’s well written, enjoyable, contains plenty of memorable characters, with a story that goes from strength to strength.
Initially starting as your main male character of Rhys, voiced by Troy Baker (because of course he is), you find yourself being dragged by an unknown bandit and this is where Rhys starts to tell the bandit the story (a “Tale” if you will) about how he ended up in this current predicament. A story that stretches from space to the barren wastelands of Pandora. Not just being in control of Rhys, during portions of the game you will also get to control Fiona, a thief whose story is intertwined with Rhys’. Quite cleverly, as both are telling the same story there are often contradictions and embellishments, something the other character quickly pulls the other up on.
Gameplay wise, this is a Telltale game through and through. You get choices to make, QTE’s to beat and plenty of things to examine. It seems with each passing game it moves further and further away from the classic point and click formula. Remember puzzles? I don’t think Telltale does as what was once a staple of the genre has been all but eradicated, which is a shame, as episodes normally last around the three hour mark so something to stretch out the playtime a little would be most welcome. Bizarrely in the game you get an actual inventory, which at least in the first episode, seems pointless as you don’t need it for anything. There are a few moments that utlise the Borderlands setting, such as Rhys being able to use his artificial eye to hack computers and scan objects, but even these just rely on the player selecting an option and continuing to click on things. While the formula of Borderlands may be safe; it is however, the most competently made.
Telltale’s console output has had a few hiccups along the way. Jerky scene transitions, graphical bugs and save game issues were commonplace. Nothing like that can be seen in Borderlands. Moving from scene to scene is absolutely seamless with none of the stutter that became a major annoyance with The Walking Dead. And it’s a good thing as the action sequences are just incredible. Many times you’ll want to watch the background action, instead of concentrating on the simple QTE’s that appear. Amazingly paced, the way the game starts off small before ramping up to an epic final sequence makes the game really end on a high.
As an opening episode, Tales from the Borderlands is mightily impressive. Containing some of the best action sequences Telltale has put together, and the tantalising cliffhanger means we’ll see you back here for episode 2.