Will this be the last time I have to type ver. 1.22474487139...? There are so many numbers, please save me from the numbers, I'm so scared of the numbers.
After over hundred hours into both mainline titles, you couldn’t convince me the Borderlands series could host a good, funny story; and yet here we are. After almost a year of episodic releases–some farther apart than normal–the first season of Tales From the Borderlands has come to a close. The TellTale Games formula creates a good narrative stocked with well written and memorable characters big and large–a difficult feat for the normally anemic series. Does this originate from the beloved series or the writing and voice work put into this outing? I’d say a little of both.
Tales feels like the first chance to analyze and enjoy the world through the eyes of everymen characters. Pandora has always felt like it could be a dense and interesting world despite the nature of its parts. While a fine open world in both of the loot-and-shoots (as well as the criminally meh Pre-Sequel recently released) there hasn’t been a chance to chew the fat of the political and social systems presented. There was always talk of corporate scheming and planetwide bounty hunting, but this was always backdrop to give players a thinly veiled excuse to carry on.
In Tales you take on the role of two normal but driven people-Rhys the Hyperion pencil pusher and Fiona the Pandoran con artist. These two encompass the traits that bring people to Pandora in search of danger and reward–they’re conniving and selfish in all the right ways. They’re both backstabbers, and they climb their respective ladders in their own way. It’s funny to see the similarities between a corporate lackey and a street urchin playing out as they move up in the world. Rhys relies on his corporate connections, and Fiona has mastered sleight of hand, but both use their silver tongues to manipulate and use people close to them. It’s a good dichotomy of origins and motives not seen in the Vault Hunter characters from previous games-it’s nice to be given a better reason for completion compared to a gun that shoots swords or a new character skin.
Supporting cast is as strong, if not stronger than in the main games, and funnier throughout the chapters, providing great responses to both circumstances and dialogue choices. Every choice made by players is a fine balance of trying to get what the main characters want and begrudgingly working together to get it. Throughout the course of the game, the party can grow closer and rely on each other or maintain selfish attitudes, both bearing repercussions on how the story plays out as well as how the players are viewed. The game does its best to highlight both Rhys and Fiona, but gives plenty of screentime and motivation to the secondary characters, villains and cameos. Familiar faces in the form of formerly playable Vault Hunters enter the story at various times; interactions with them range from coincidental run ins to full on joining forces depending on your choices. This is an excellent nod for fans and at times these cameos produce some of the best dialogue these characterts speak-miles ahead of the character barks heard in the Pre-Sequel.
The question many may ask is how well the modern adventure formula works for a previously shooter based series. Given how well thought out and funny the entire arc was, it’s safe to say this was my favorite TellTale and Borderlands game to date. While it doesn’t build a world lush with lore like the main titles, it uses an already established universe to tell an intimate but potent story. I’m glad they were able to focus on two characters and highlighted their differences and similarities-that’s where most of the best laughs came from. I was left wanting for more by the stinger of an ending-hopefully the second season will offer an even better roller coaster ride and reward returning players.