The Borderlands series is pretty good, if you’re the type that likes to repeatedly shoot things in the face while being told butt jokes. Telltale’s games are pretty good, too, as long as you enjoy a good narrative and having your soul crushed by hypothetical decisions. While good in their own right, these two seemingly have nothing in common, besides a general dislike of people staying in one piece. Why Tales from the Borderlands works so well I’ll never quite understand; how it’s able to perfectly combine what makes both Telltale and Borderlands great is an even bigger mystery. I said it in my review for the first episode, and I’ll say it again: this game is bacon-covered chocolate. It’s an odd combination, but the end result is delicious.
Here’s what I liked:
So you want to hear a story — Unsurprisingly, the best part of this crossover is its phenomenal writing. The narrative focuses on two very different characters, Hyperion employee Rhys and con artist Fiona, recounting how they both got mixed up in the search for a vault. Their adventure takes them to all corners of the unforgiving world of Pandora, where practically everything is a potential threat. There are loads of amazing cinematic action sequences and an equal number of the quieter moments Telltale excels at. The story itself is a pretty thrilling ride, but it’s made so much better by how it’s told. Focus is constantly switching between the two characters as they tell their side of the story, and neither is a reliable narrator. Events are often embellished for effect, sometimes with the other butting in with a more honest retelling. This structure goes hand-in-hand with the game’s biggest strength: its humor. Despite being a tale filled with death, deceit and some truly emotional moments, it still manages to be laugh-out-loud funny. Jokes fly in from all directions. They sprout from the expertly written dialogue; they manifest as sight gags during the opening credits; and they’re woven into core decision-making gameplay. All five episodes are consistently engaging, extremely interesting and flat-out hilarious.
Best bros — Tales from the Borderlands has a stellar cast, both in terms of on-screen characters and the voice actors behind them. We got lovable nerds Rhys and Vaughn alongside the criminal sisters Fiona and Sasha, all of whom avoid the obvious clichés to become very memorable characters. While they’re all extremely likable, the most endearing characters are (surprisingly) their robot companions, Loaderbot and Gortys, whose hearts are the biggest of the bunch. Rounding out the cast is a slew of not-as-interesting-but-still-cool villains, most notably Patrick Warburton’s Vasquez and some great cameos by Borderlands regulars. Last, but not least in the slightest, is Handsome Jack. Despite being reduced to 1s and 0s, he’s back and better than ever. Every line he says is pure gold, and although he’s still a major player he never overshadows the rest of the cast. The game balances its ensemble perfectly; nobody ever hogs the spotlight, and you know you’ll be entertained no matter who’s on screen.
More like Tales from the Border-memes — Like most Telltale series, you can easily enjoy Tales from the Borderlands without knowing the source material. Unlike most Telltale games, which are usually just a side stories in their respective franchises, this series is actually an integral part of the overarching canon. Everything about the game just looks and feels right; it’s 100 percent all natural Pandora, right down to the smallest detail. There’s so many great but small touches tucked away throughout the game made just for fans. By far the most surprising aspect of the game is its importance to the Borderlands lore, as major events transpire that will no doubt affect future franchise entries. This game is an absolute must if you’re already invested in this world, and one amazing entry point if you’re not.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
All talk, no walk — In case you didn’t already know, this isn’t your average Borderlands game, and that’s mostly a good thing. The usual Telltale decisions are here in full force and are a lot more varied than their other series. Choices and their outcomes can be funny, tragic and everything in between. As always, there’s also some sections where you walk around and interact with the environment, and here they’re really interesting. This is due to how both characters play differently: Rhys is able to scan the environment using his Echo-Eye and receive data, usually in the form of cleverly written articles. Fiona can collect hidden money, which can be used at key moments for customizations and other surprises. These moments are cool, but they aren’t used enough, as most episodes only give you one chance to use either of their abilities. It would have been great to see more of this as it was a fun way to differentiate the characters without words. These moments are neat when they happen, but they simply don’t happen often enough.
I’m running out of adjectives to describe the greatness of Tales from the Borderlands. The game’s a notch above top notch. It’s extremely clever, endlessly funny and will make you experience every emotion imaginable. It’s easily among Telltale’s greatest efforts, and my personal favorite season they’ve done to date — and that’s coming from a guy holding out hope they’ll make a new Sam & Max.
Score: Buy It
Tales from the Borderlands was developed by Telltale Games and published on Xbox 360 and Xbox One by 2K Games. It was released October 20, 2015 for $24.99. A copy was provided by Telltale Games for review purposes.
This review is for the complete season of an episodic game. To find reviews for the individual episodes, check out the Tales from the Borderlands review hub.