This is a game that has been “requested” by bot Max and friends of the site. And yes, requested does need the quotes. When I finished Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I began to look over my list of games and warm up my dice to pick the next one, but this plan of action was not meant to be, as (admittedly playful) death threats began to appear in my personal facebook page from pretty much everyone involved. The motivation was simple… they wanted me to be ready for an eventual Borderlands 3. I still am not sure this preparation warranted such drastic actions, but the game was known to be fairly short, so I indulged them. Was it a good idea? Come on inside.
Story: This has not been a good day for Rhys. A company man, he’s used to an office, some coffee, and maybe a bit of a hassle if the others he’s working with don’t feel particularly cooperative. Today, however, would prove much nastier then that. Instead, he found himself punched out, tied up, and dragged feet first through the Pandoran wastelands. Today has indeed been a very bad day. And it wasn’t going to get any better when he found the young lady he was trying to reach out to (Fiona) tied up and waiting for them when they got to this stranger’s camp.
But that’s when things got interesting, for this stranger’s plans involved bringing the both of them somewhere he refused to say, but he seemed a lot more interested in events prior to this moment… events that brought the two of them together in the first place in a race to help a little robot find the parts it needed to build itself.
This is the format the entire game will take. Most of the game will take place in the events of that adventure as Rhys and Fiona retell them for this stranger with occasional jumps to “right now” as events unfold around our traveling trio. The end result is a very well told plot divided between the 5 episodes that tell of adventure that really could happen just about only on Pandora in the Borderlands universe and feels incredible natural in that spot. And the writing, both in general, and the character dialog are absolutely incredible for this outing.
The only marring point I can look at for this game’s story is the ending. I will not spoil it for you, but the absolute last second of the story sets up a point that needs to be addressed in a “to be continued” style for the next game. True they did finish the story arch here effectively, but it would have been better had the story ended just 10 seconds earlier. Still, it isn’t much worse in that regard then anything done for Borderlands 2 or it’s expansion that I just had to play, so it’s easily a forgivable detail in a rather great package.
Graphics: To go with a fantastic plot, you will find yourself looking at some great visuals as well! Telltale Games did a remarkable job holding onto the Borderlands style of graphics, letting Pandora, Helios, and every point in between absolutely shine (or grime, as some of the locations are indeed messy and gritty… this is Pandora, after all). Bright and colorful, take it all in in it’s quasi-cell-shaded glory.
The people within the game also hold up very well in much the same way for the most part. I have to say most part because occasionally the 3D shading used, while looking nice, make it more obvious then not that it is a 3D model with the outlines added around them. However these scenes are fairly rare, and most of the game looks like you could pause them and make a high-end comic book out of them. In short, it fantastic… usually.
Occasionally, this game does have some technical issues, however, with some renderings quivering rather then remaining with stable outlines. Usually, when this happened, it was with character’s eyes and while it looked a little odd, almost looked like someone thought it was an interesting art style and as such can be looked over fairly easily. When it happens to things like the back of your car, (or in one scene the ENTIRE thing as the scene literally vibrated it along) however, that’s a lot harder to do.
Sound: A game all about it’s presentation, the music is no exception. Much like the rest of this series, the game has some stuff in the background, but really shines in the music department when you stumble into a scene with something licensed, usually during the integrated opening credits and end credits. In this case, you will get a full set of five such scenes, one for each episode, and you will enjoy it all.
But it wont be the main thing you look forward to for sounds. That goes to the voice acting. Simply put, between the writing mentioned prior and the talent put forward for these characters, rarely was I playing without a smile on my face. I’m willing to bet you will be charmed as well. Enjoy this one.
Gameplay: Sadly, however, this is where the game’s real weaknesses lie. When Telltale Games first made themselves known to me, it was with an episodic point and click series known as Sam & Max. Each episode of the game was independent of the others, telling a small tale about some crazy detective story that played a part in an over-arching story, but the game relied mainly on those point and click mechanics with corresponding puzzles you needed to complete to win the game. Tales from the Borderlands is not like this at all.
Rather, in this adventure you will only occasionally have a room you will wander through with a mouse interface to click on things, and even then rarely is it actually a puzzle, but more just something you can look at to get more background on what is going on… and then it’s over and you are back at the main portion of the game: quick-time-events.
This game basically is made of them, making it less of a game and more of an interactive movie where sometimes you will need to succeed to go on, but just as often you will just change how the scene plays out, letting Fiona or Rhys look cooler in the process. Don’t get me wrong, it is very possible that those small changes have some long-distant effects, but to explain them is to ruin the surprises down the line. It doesn’t ruin this game to say the least, but if you came in expecting anything close to a traditional game and not something you do more to watch then experience, you are in for a disappointment.
Bugs: Overall, this game ran absolutely fantastic, but it did not run flawlessly. In fact, there were three bugs that occurred.
- Jittery graphics: As mentioned during the graphics part of this review, there were times when things like the iris of character’s eyes or the back of a car didn’t keep solid geometry, but rather kept a weird jittery edge to them. This is sadly, not entirely uncommon in TellTale games but thankfully, it doesn’t happen often or get in the way when it happens.
- What was floating in front of Loaderbot? This issue was also minor, but not new to the Telltale games scene for me. There is one scene where Loaderbot flies off with Rhys, but for some reason, an odd half-orb was floating about 2 yards ahead of them. This one is a lot more rare, but I think has to do with their inhouse engine as the last time I saw this was Sam & Max season 3.
- I can’t stop scanning… nor can I start! This issue is a bit more serious then the others, as when it happened, I was fairly certain I was going to have to force the game to turn off. There is a scene early in the game where our heroes are trying to break into a building to get something stolen by some marauders. In order to plan their way in, Rhys uses his augmented eye to scan the area and find a way. The problem is half-way through a cut-scene plays, and at this point for a short while I found I could not leave this mode, nor could I click ANYTHING, leaving me wondering if the game broke. Eventually it gave me control again, but for a moment, I was concerned that the game had a game-ending bug. I’m still not convinced this won’t require a reset for other gamers!
Overall: Tales from the Borderlands was a very entertaining title… much more so then I honestly expected. But it is so due more to what you see and hear then what you play by far. If you came in looking for engaging gameplay or challenge really of any sort, I’m afraid you picked the wrong game. However, if you just want to put your feat up and watch a flick that requires you to click the buttons often to control how it plays out, you just may have found that perfect game for you.
Source’s Listed Requirements:
- 2Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo or equivalent
- 3 GB RAM
- AMD or NVIDIA Card with 512MB VRAM
- 3 GB hard drive
- Windows XP SP3 or higher
- AMD FX 8350 (8 cores) running at 4 Ghz
- 16 GB RAM
- NVidia GeForce 960 GTX with 4 GB VRAM
- Windows 10