Telltale Games tells Tales from the Borderlands at SXSW

Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon from The Indoor Kids moderated a panel at SXSW this weekend, unveiling the first details for the upcoming collaboration between Gearbox Software and Telltale Games, Tales from the Borderlands.

Kevin Bruner, president and co-founder of Telltale Games, sat down with Harrison Pink (Lead Designer of Tales), Matthew Armstrong (Borderlands Franchise Director), and Anthony Burch (Lead Writer of Borderlands 2) to give the audience some details about the newest addition to the Borderlands mythos.  Telltale Games is expanding the world in ways that the writers at Gearbox thought would be hard to achieve through the first-person shooter medium.  We will get to learn more about Pandora and its inhabitants in a much more in-depth way that will put to use the unique style for which Telltale is rapidly becoming famous.

Tales from the Borderlands will be set on the world of Pandora, and takes place after the events of Borderlands 2 and all its DLC has wrapped up.  The panelists confirmed that some characters from the previous games will make appearances, but they were not so forthcoming as to who we might see.  Tales won’t focus on the heroics and amazing abilities of the Vault Hunters, but rather lets players take control of some of the colorful residents of Pandora.  First off we have Rhys, a cyborg hacker in the employ of the weapons manufacturer Hyperion.  As you can see from the still above, Rhys can use his abilities to take control of Loaders to do his dirty work for him, however not much else was mentioned about his character.  The second character you can play as is Fiona, the fast-talking scam artist who has run out of unsuspecting innocents to con.  She uses her slippery tongue and fast wits to talk her way into – and out of – tricky situations to get what she wants.  Both have their own secrets to keep and agendas to complete, which you will find out as the game progresses.  Through controlling these two characters, you will see one story from two sides.  We get to see the story unfold using classic unreliable narrators: neither tells the truth exactly, but they aren’t exactly lying either (maybe just embellishing a little how much they really contributed).  According to the panelists, you never play the “real” story of what actually happened, instead you make up the story as you go, and we will find that the truth actually lies somewhere in the middle of the two tellings.

Like Telltale’s previous game The Walking Dead, you will still have to make choices to progress in Tales.  Unlike The Walking Dead, the game won’t be about making morality-based choices and having to deal with the consequences, but rather you will choose who to swindle, pickpocket, and backstab in order to survive on Pandora.  Keeping in line with the understanding that greed is what drives many of (okay, all of) Pandora’s inhabitants, the idea here is that the choices are based on how you will be greedy in order to take care of yourself, and these are the choices that underlie the story.  And what’s even better is that you are “rewarded for trying to lie, cheat, steal, step on someone’s back to get ahead.”  These choices lead to humorous and unexpected outcomes that stay true to the dark comedy tone found in the world of Borderlands.  I think a good summary was when Harrison Pink stated that “The Walking Dead sort of presents you with two choices and you don’t want either of them, and Tales from the Borderlands will present you two choices, and you’re upset that you can’t have both.”  Bruner and Pink both mentioned how excited they are for Telltale to move away from the heavy sadness that was The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, and back to their comedy roots.  They are really excited to explore the contrast of the game’s humor with its darkness, but they will “definitely trying to stay within the expected level of humor of the Borderlands games and…bring a Telltale angle to it as well.”

The final fifteen minutes of the panel consisted of a Q&A session.  Most of the questions were not about Tales or expertly avoided, but there were a couple good questions about their writing process and how the collaboration came about.  One audience member also asked whether or not there would be a multiplayer facet to the game, to which the answer was unsurprisingly no.  If you’re interested, check out the entire panel below, which totals to about 47 minutes and change.  Pink confirmed that, like their previous games, Tales will be episodic (but not word on how many episodes there will be total), and that the fist episode is definitely coming out this year.  They wouldn’t talk about which platforms the game would be available for, but I expect we will almost surely see it out for PC and Mac at the very least.  We will continue to keep you up-to-date as more details come out!