Weekly Gaming: Tales from the Borderlands (Xbox One)

As some of you may be aware, I started Tales from the Borderlands just over 2 years ago when the game was first released. As a Borderlands fan, I couldn’t wait to see Telltale’s take on the series, especially given how much I loved other franchises Telltale took on. The issue is, the game completely forgot that I had completed the second chapter, meaning it had lost all of my choices and decisions. Whilst some would say “Just select the third chapter and let the game randomise it for you!”, I felt this was horrendous – the whole point of a telltale game is to see the consequences and results of your actions, something that would feel contrived and wrong should I not have made those decisions myself.

Alas, I gave up. For the last 2 years I’ve proceeded to ignore the game even existed, Let alone see it through to its conclusion.

…. Until this last weekend that is, where I was meant to finally sit down and play FFXV, but decided to play a shorter game so that I could at least finish it before the weekend was over.

Looking through my list of games that I’m still yet to play, Tales from the Borderlands stood out as a game I actually wanted to see the ending of, despite it’s bastarding ability to delete my saves. So, getting some cups of tea ready and proceeding to hanker down, I decided to complete the remaining game within one sitting. Here’s my thoughts.

As I said in previous reviews of the episodes, Telltale have done a fantastic job in the presentation department for Tales from the Borderlands. Everything is crisp and sharp, with each character looking splendid. The cel-shading looks tremendous, even going so far as to make the world look more distinctive than before, making it look weirdly realistic as opposed to cartoony.

The presentation does wonders given the events that unfold in each of the episodes, with many characters being on display at once, and even large vistas that play to the cel-shading aesthetic even more. Animations also seemed to improve throughout each episode, with the last episode even going so far as to have an all out battle between your heroes and the crazy Vault monster. All in all Tales from the Borderlands was an absolute delight to witness, so much so I cannot wait until Borderlands 3 is released on this generation of consoles.

As for the story – overall it’s mediocre at best. Set on the planet of pandora, with all of it’s weird monsters and inhabitants, your main players, Rhys and Fiona, make their way across the planet searching for money and riches beyond their wildest dreams, all whilst avoiding all the trouble they manage to make in their path. It’s a basic set up, which has some nifty turns throughout, but overall fell flat if not for being pretty inconsequential in regards to the “lore” of Borderlands (if you could say Borderlands even has lore).

Characters themselves were fantastic, and fairly fleshed out, but I couldn’t help but feel a lot of their interactions between them were contrived, much to the point as to make it a detriment to the game. For example, in Episode 3 there’s awkward scenes (at least for me), where the Telltale team push heavily for your main character Rhys, and a side kick Sasha to get together. The issue was it come out of nowhere – there was no forewarning, no way to make questions lead up to the romance options, it was instead entirely forced upon me as the player of my own story. I felt so annoyed by this direction that I even proceeded to google whether there was anyway out of this romance, thankfully to find there was in the final scene of the final chapter.

That last paragraph may have sounded a little silly considering it was merely a romance in a game, the issue is all options within the game forced the romance, even when it wasn’t what I wanted. I felt like there was no way around it, a terrible feeling when Telltale games are renowned for making YOU feel in control of the events that unfold – both good and bad.

As for the gameplay, it’s the same as every other Telltale game – you proceed to walk around areas, talking to other characters, learning as much about the world as possible. Then take part in Quick Time Events (QTE’s), followed by long dialogue scenes, all with the signature “[Name] will remember that”. It may be harsh to say, but man oh man is the same gameplay time and time again getting boring. I know Telltale are meant to be about telling intriguing, new stories in established universes, but you’d think they’d mix the formula up a bit after doing sooooo many new games.

Comedy wise, Tales from the Borderlands actually manages to impress. The characters are so brilliantly written (by themselves) that the things they do in situations feels organic and got more than its fair share of laughs and chuckles. Should the narrative between the characters have been just as funny, I may have enjoyed the overall story more.

Regardless of my criticisms, was it worth going back to the game after 2 years? Meh, not really. Whilst Tales from the Borderlands has some key story elements which will be canon come the next instalment in the next franchise, I feel I could have skipped this entirely and got the jist of things in a simple note at the beginning of Borderlands 3. Maybe I’m still bitter about the loss of my save file, resulting in me playing the same episode again for 2 hours, but overall I found Tales from the Borderlands mediocre at best. It’s a shame I’ve failed out of love with Telltale game’s recent forays into franchises: some of my best gaming moments of the last few years was thanks to their pushing of the medium forward. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

3/5

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