I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve never been a huge fan of the Borderlands games. They are fun to play with friends and feature a really cool setting, but I’ve always felt that they never quite took advantage of that setting as well as they could have. Pandora is an awesome, Mad Max-like world and the backstory to the whole Borderlands world is enthralling, but the games themselves are just about running through fetch quests and shooting galleries.
I’m not saying that is bad, I’m just saying that they tend to leave you wanting more.
When Telltale announced that they’d be doing a Borderlands game I was excited. In fact, I was very excited because there was clearly so much going on in Pandora that wasn’t being told or just being told in passing and I felt that Telltale could do a ton in the Borderlands setting and make the world come to life a little more. After just one episode of Tales From the Borderlands I think that is absolutely the case. Tales From the Borderlands tells the story of Rhys and Fiona, who get involved in a deal over a vault key. You play as each one as they tell their side of the story, which is a fantastic way to keep the morally ambiguous threads going from previous Borderlands games.
Unlike the Vault Hunters from previous games, Fiona, Rhys and their companions aren’t presented as the ultimate badasses who take up arms in a hostile Pandora and are out to tell their bloody tale of chasing fame and fortune. Instead they are flawed, powerless at times and have to rely on their wits and skills to get by in the cruel world of Pandora. It’s a great counter to the Borderlands games where it is all about shooting your way through every scenario.
What’s interesting is that, at least in this first episode, they made sure to present the Vault Hunters as these crazy bad asses that were revered (or reviled) by everyone. The first episode featured Zer0, the Assassin from Borderlands 2 and the impression that he made was a stark contrast to that of our heroes in Tales From the Borderlands. While Rhys and Fiona were fumbling around and having to avoid open combat, Zer0 was doing whatever he wanted. It was a fantastic way of reconciling the mindless, trigger-happy violence of the Borderlands games with the slower, less action-oriented story being told in Tales From the Borderlands.
It was one of the rare games that as soon as I was finished all that I could think of was how much I wanted the next episode to be out already and then I immediately played it a second time. It helped that they finally moved these games to current generation consoles (PS4/Xbox One) as well. While it wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, some of the awful, game breaking lag that occured in games on the last generation just aren’t there anymore, thankfully.
I can only assume that the second episode will feature another Vault Hunter at some point and I look forward to seeing that while exploring more of Pandora through the eyes of the lesser bad asses of Fiona and Rhys.