There’s been a lot of games by Telltale games. Way too many, I’d say. And that’s one of the main reasons I’ve stopped caring about the games they make. They started with pretty average and often boring to play (but fun to watch) adventure games with 3D controls and a lot of classic point and click adventure elements in. That didn’t work out well. Then they tried switching to “interactive stories”, and it didn’t work out at all (with the Jurassic Park game), yet the second try was much better and their Walking Dead series, based on the comic book series of the same name, won several awards and were lauded as a story-driven evolution of adventure titles. So they did what a lot of studios do after they find a success formula that works and made, mechanically speaking, the exact same game over and over again for the past 6 years. Sometimes, based on franchises that don’t even make any sense (Story-driven Minecraft? Really?). But I heard good things about Tales from the Borderlands, and last time I heard good things about the Telltale game, it was about The Wolf Among Us, and that game was really good. So, how about the Borderlands game without the bazillion guns?
First thing to mention would be, of course, that the game is still exactly the same as the rest of Telltale’s games. Barely any walking and point and clicking, huge focus on talking, unfortunate focus on QTEs and lots of non-interactive cutscenes. With all the old problems – no way to skip anything, no way to save mid-section if you need to leave, the usual occasional visual and animation bugs, the fact that some choices make little to no impact and the game still railroads you down certain paths… If I was judging this purely on the technological/mechanical side of things, I’d hate the game.
But then, we remember that this is an interactive story. And what a story, Mark, what a story, haha. It’s fantastically directed, perfectly edited, funny, full of great characters and situations that make you laugh, smile and care. It might be the most enjoyable game from Telltale I’ve ever played, in fact, having much more charm and punch, than even The Wolf Among Us had. Then again, unlike the fairy tale grim noir of Wolf, this game is about having a quick paced, full of incredible events adventure. And the almost perfect execution of it, is what makes it work so well. It’s all about the witty writing, with now bullet-sponge enemy shooting in between.
Now, of course if you never played or played and didn’t like Borderlands (especially 2), this might be a problem. Borderlands humor is crude at times, often trying to balance between horrible and funny, absurd and believable and Tales capture that in a fantastic way. But even for me, a person who actually feels quite invested in the world Borderlands managed to build, there were moments where I felt that the game was pushing a bit too much into the absurd or just gross. But wow, how the game even managed creatively insert the purely gameplay features from the “main games” into the story and solidify them as part of the world lore, as weird and stupid as it may sometimes be. All while managing to never push the absurdity so far, that it undermines the stakes or the serious parts of the story.
Should you play the game if you’ve never played Borderlands? Yes, you should still give it a go. You will lose some context and some jokes, and the world would be a bit harder to get into at first, but it will probably grow on you. If you love the world and characters of Borderlands already? What are you waiting for – this is probably the best story-driven thing you will ever get out of the series. If you’re into shooting bullet-sponge enemies and grabbing loot, well, there’s loot and some shooting, I suppose, but I guess you won’t be interested in this game -_-. But in general – highly recommended.