Tales From the Borderlands Episode One – A Freakin’ Hell of a Ride
Tales From The Borderlands: A Telltale Game Series is the much anticipated Telltale Games translation of the previous videogame series from Gearbox Software and 2K Games that was released in 2009. Even though I have not played the original titles much, I can at least say that this version, at $5 an episode, has moved me to go pick up the other original games.
Protagonists Rhys and Fiona share the limelight in these new tales, and despite coming from two seemingly different backgrounds, both characters merge to more connected fates as the stories progress. Each character’s story overlaps at key points with the other that uncovers hidden truths in each plot line. Through character dialogue options and branching choice paths, Telltale offers high replay value to gamers. My opinion about Telltale’s ability to construct a strong narrative through a sprawling story tree has not changed since my review of Telltale’s vision of Game of Thrones. While players can never branch out too far from the linear progression of the storyline, at least Telltale excels in making the journey varied, emotional, and satisfying.
This story somehow goes from the Imperion Corporation in orbit above a planet of miners and other nasty folk, to droid summoning, and finishes off in the slums of this mined planet complete with clandestine meetings, swindling, and even a death race. In the end, both Rhys and Fiona will wind up in a much different place, whether mentally or physically, than when their crazy journey began.
Telltale offers up a story made even better through their trademark art style, spot-on voice acting, and amazing soundtrack. Over-the-top characters voiced by greats such as Nolan North and Troy Baker, feel completely appropriate to the zany atmosphere the Borderlands franchise has embraced.
As a player with only minimal gameplay experience, but familiar with the story and other titles in this series, I found the episode to be an entertaining adventure anyway. As it does well to stand out on its own as a side adventure from the original series, I found no real need to know the complete other story from previous titles in order to enjoy it. Others feel similarly in this regard and one suggestion is that the change of pace in this episode from chaotic to less chaotic in design is a nice and welcome element.
Telltale also has another key area of good game design – episodic releases that allow designers to focus on each episode as a whole, allowing for more refinement and polishing and better gaming in smaller chunks. Players are hooked as cliffhangers whet the appetite for future episodes. Luckily, gratification is not put off too long as these episodes have short wait times of a month or two until release.
Telltale Games have managed to create a recognizable system and pattern that allows for excellent storytelling regardless of the source material, and Tales From The Borderlands is certainly no exception.
Benjamin Pope is a Game Design and Art/Animation student at the University of Advancing Technology working toward giving something back to the gaming industry through great, deep and addictive game titles.