When videogame developers create a new game, they often have to conceptualize a new world, a new lore, and/or a new story. In 2009, an indie developer called Gearbox Software released a new first-person shooting game with roleplaying game elements, a novel game concept at the time. The game was Borderlands, and it became a huge success, receiving mostly positive reviews from game critics. Three years later, Borderlands gains a sequel as well as a pre-sequel that just came out last month.
One of the most successful aspects of the Borderlands series is the world Gearbox Software envisioned. The series is set on a planet called Pandora, a wasteland world somewhat reminiscent of the Wild West. Pandora is inhabited by bandits and mercenaries, a combination of human and alien life. Pandora is also a war-torn land as it is replete with minerals and treasures. One particular interest is the “Vault,” a supposed hidden cache of alien technology somewhere around the world.
The game gives a good background to those who have not played any of the other games in the series.
The Borderlands series is centered around finding that Vault. All three iterations of the series surrounds the intertwining stories of Vault Hunters, mercenaries who want to find the fabled Vault and the riches contained therein. The Vault Hunters are not the only ones after the famed treasure, as mega corporations who have hired their own mercenaries are also interested in claiming it. If this seems like the stories will be serious and somber, think again; Gearbox Software manages to make them lighthearted adding some frivolity every now and then.
So when Gearbox Software teamed up with Telltale Games, the beast of interactive dramas who created masterpieces such as The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series, The Wolf Among Us, and Back to the Future: The Game, to create a new story in the world of Pandora, it was a great collaboration. With Telltale Games’s storytelling and interactive gameplay backed by Gearbox Studios’ lore and graphic style came Tales from the Borderlands, an episodic adventure game that is set after the events of Borderlands 2.
Fiona and Rhys: the newbies of Borderlands.
The first (out of five) episodes, titled Zer0 Sum, was released a few days ago and introduced two new protagonists who don’t fit the mold of the typical Vault Hunter. Rhys is a corporate employee who decides to go to Pandora in order to screw over his insensitive new boss. Fiona is a local con artist who is working with her sister to score a big payoff. Like a good Telltale Games story, the two protagonists stories intertwine following botched plans regarding a Vault key.
Deciding on how to respond is such a prominent feature in most games from Telltale Games.
The gameplay is exactly like other Telltale Games’s games (see the gameplay of The Wolf Among Us): interact with objects, converse with other characters, and decide on choices to advance the story. The game heavily deals with dialogue, and it cleverly serves as a primer in introducing someone who is not familiar with the lore of Pandora. While minor elements of the story, such as the assassin Zer0’s origins, are not quite fully explained in this episode, it does not take much to do a simple search on the Internet to find those out. It might also be safe to assume that future episodes may address such gaps.
When the boss ain’t looking…
Use the ECHO eye to scan him!
A new concept introduced to Tales from the Borderlands is the assigning of the left shoulder button for Rhys’s special bionic ECHO eye implant. When a player takes control of Rhys, he is able to scan certain things with his ECHO eye using the left shoulder button. Scanning an object reveals analyses that, at least in the episode, only serve to advance the story. Hopefully, future episodes will utilize this novel concept further.
QTEs using a robot to kick some bandit ass?! Wicked awesome.
A segment in the episode also allows the player to decide on the specifications of a bandit-kicking robot and control it via Quick Time Events (QTE). The QTEs are the staple of most interactive dramas, especially the games of Telltale Games. There are many QTEs in this episode, and the failure of some QTEs may result in a game over. The QTEs keep the episode from being heavily encumbered in dialogue.
All in all, Tales from the Borderlands is a great addition to Telltale Games’s arsenal of interactive dramas. It takes into account Gearbox Software’s art style and lightheartedness that it almost feels like Gearbox Software created an adventure game in the world of Pandora. With only one episode released so far, subsequent episodes should follow the same suit, and hopefully improve on some little aspects.
A Trip to Pandora without Doing the Shooting
Gameplay - 9/10
Plot - 9/10
Design - 9/10
+Fresh stories to add on the lore of Pandora
+Story can be picked up with someone not familiar of the series
-Perfect collaboration of Gearbox Software and Telltale Games
-A little research to fill in some backstory