Tales from the Borderlands

This one was Telltale done right. Really good. Compared to Game of Thrones, I felt like I was far more involved. For one thing, there’s a lot more freedom to act in the Borderlands world, both in terms of licensing and in tone. I know they won’t kill off Ramsey Snow, but they could always go kill Moxxi. You can act out and get away with more. And it became clear at the end that some of the interactions I’d had with certain characters could’ve gone down a lot differently.

I’d be hesitant to replay the game, especially with no option to skip lines of dialogue, or to set the controller down without having to frequently rapid-tap some button to pretend I’m participating in a cutscene. The QTEs would be a lot better if they were only in there when they provided options. Are there really any Telltale players who wouldn’t be alright with just watching a movie until it’s time to talk again?

Still being a Telltale game, there are some occasional hiccups and areas that could’ve used a quality pass, but it’s really not too bad this time.

The Borderlands series isn’t for everyone. I’ve watched a couple friends get burned out on those games. In the flagship shooters, the storyline has just sort of been there. And I’ve personally felt that the forced attempts at being wacky fall flat a lot, in the same way I thought the Lego movie was sort of charming but not funny at all (see “Everything Is Awesome”). We get it: Torgue likes explosions. But there’s a lot of extremely funny stuff, too, and the Telltale collaboration is the cream of that crop. It’s got a fairly classic but polished story structure, and makes good use of the multiple protagonists/perspectives (including having a conversation with yourself). And it’s twisted: if you’re going to do a QTE, it may as well be to peel a psycho’s face off.

If there was a standard Borderlands shooter that kept the stuff that really worked, like neat builds and cooperative skill synergy, but where they dropped a lot of the MMO questing loop stuff and had players take turns taking action with Telltale-style choice mechanics outside of combat, that could be quite amazing.

There was great use of a money-spending mechanic, generally for cosmetic purposes, but which let you show some personality throughout your run. And while I haven’t played The Pre-Sequel, I liked a lot about how the existing characters were used: the existing Vault Hunters are fearsome figures whose actions (and the size of their bounties) completely dwarf yours. Even Borderlands 2 couldn’t manage to do that, where your low-level characters made the original heroes look like fools. It’s a nice touch.

Oh, and the soundtrack! Leave it to Borderlands to put the Dub in the Steppe, and leave it to Telltale to license some fantastic stuff for each episode. The orchestral menu theme really stood out for me, too. It’s really hard to come away from this displeased.

This game was thoroughly enjoyed by the reviewer. It is an excellent game that may be too simple or not ambitious enough to be a 5, or there are design flaws meaningful enough to prevent it from enduring as something truly beloved. Highly recommended.

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