June 12, 2014 by Paul Curtin
When you think of cel-shaded games, the first two most recent and popular games that come to mind are Borderlands and The Walking Dead. 2k Games’ Borderlands series is known for its FPS variety and games from Telltale like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us are known best for the amount of variety in their storytelling. A game that combines the strengths of the developers’ best franchises and offers the best of both worlds would be amazing… and Tales from the Borderlands is shaping up to be that game.
Impressively, Telltale has been able to capture the exact look and feel of the Borderlands series. From the cel-shaded characters and locations to the menu’s colors and font choices, everything feels exactly like a Borderlands game. 2K’s games were never heavy on story or character development and more focused on being FPS dungeon-crawling loot grinds. With how unique the world of Pandora is, Telltale really has their work cut out for them in terms of not needing to spend any time creating a base and instead just have to focus on doing what they do best by creating a great story with already established interesting characters.
In our hands-off demo of Tales, we learned that the story will consist of two main characters, Rhys and Fiona, both of whom aren’t really good people, but who are so charismatic that you can’t help but like them. With two main characters, Telltale is able to tell different versions of the same story. Telltale explained that the story is what you make it, and sometimes choices you make in the game will directly change how the story is told. For example, in the demo we saw Rhys told his story first, then Fiona pointed out that he was lying and told her own version. Players are given the options that can change the way Fiona tells the story and in turn change the game’s story.
In the story, we’re also introduced to other new characters voiced by industry vets like Nolan North and Patrick Warburton, whose character has taken over Hyperion since Handsome Jack’s downfall in Borderlands 2 and plays the role of the typical arrogant boss that makes for a few good laughs. After so many serious games, Telltale is finally getting their chance to have some fun, and they’re not wasting it. The writing and humor doesn’t skip a beat, and in some cases was actually even funnier than the previous games.
With Borderlands being all about the combat, we got to see a little of how the fighting will work in Tales. Similar to their other games, a lot of the scenes restrict the user to a single flick of the controller in one direction to move and dodge incoming threats while aiming to pick up nearby items or target enemies. One of the best moments of the gameplay we saw involved Rhys calling down a Loader Bot to do the fighting for him as he commanded it where to go and who to attack. After helping Rhys escape, the bot was eventually taken down by the attacking bandits in which the player is given the chance to command it to try to run away or self-destruct. Of course, we got to see the sweeter self-destruct option play out, which Rhys hilariously responded to by saying, “I will name my first child Loader Bot… probably not.”
Although we did get to see a full fight sequence, what we didn’t get to see was how loot or cash will be used. Both can be collected in similar fashion to the series by opening up crates or scavenging off the dead. We weren’t shown exactly how items can be used, but Telltale promised that they will be revealing more info very soon.
Tales of the Borderlands was exactly what you would except if you’ve ever seen Borderlands and one of Telltale’s previous games. Borderlands fans who are looking for a pure shooter might be disappointed to find how most of the action has been replaced with conversions between characters and cutscenes, but those looking for diving deeper into the interesting world of Pandora that sets up future games that are also part of the same universe shouldn’t be disappointed. Telltale clearly knows what they’re doing, and they’re giving the franchise exactly what it desperately needs: better storytelling and character development.