Some things just go together; peanut butter and chocolate, beer and pizza, Telltale Games and Borderlands. When I heard that Telltale was taking on Gearbox favourite Borderlands in one of their signature episodic treatments I nearly dropped a skag turd in my shorts. Being a huge fan of Telltale’s previous work, especially The Wolf Among Us (yet to be finished mind you), I couldn’t help but think of all the possibilities available in the Borderlands canon for them to work with. Sitting down at a behind closed doors demo at E3 this year I learned a little bit more about the game and saw some of the new twists that developers have created for a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else.
First and foremost the developers are being one hundred percent faithful to everything Borderlands. The distinctive art style, the previous story lines, the signature humour and the colourful cast of characters are all present. It’s obvious that the team working on this game not only respects its source material but loves it too.
Now I don’t want to give too much away as I saw the first 30 minutes or so of the game itself but I’ll fill you in on some of the details I picked up. This time around the story centres around two main characters and takes place after the events of Borderlands 2. Both characters will be playable as they explain their own versions of the truth for the same story. First is Rhys, voiced by Sam Witwer (Being Human, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed), an employee at the Hyperion Corporation and the second is Fiona, a con artist Pandoran drifter. After a brief introduction by Markus (of course) the demo opens up with the two characters being brought together by a mysterious stranger in the hull of a junked out old spaceship.
This leads to a flashback to a year previous and the gameplay jumps into Rhys’ shoes to start off. He’s a Hyperion employee who has just lost his bid for the VP position to one Hugo Vasquez, voiced by the ever present Patrick Warburton (HIGH FIVE… perhaps only old people will get this joke), and if I can say so the guy is a right proper SEE-YOU-NEXT-TUESDAY (another joke perhaps only old people will get). Over the course of this opening stretch you get to see Rhys use a bionic eye implant to scan intel around the room. This is a new mechanic that gives players another way to interact with their environment that we’ve yet to see in a Telltale game. Eventually Rhys catches on to a plan Hugo has to buy a vault key for the low, low price of one million dollars. Like any good story this leads to Rhys hatching a plan to get the key for himself with the help of a couple of friends, Vaughn and Yvette.
Fade to Pandora and we find Rhys and Vaughn beginning their quest to snipe the vault key. Driving into a standard Pandoran crap hole of a town we get a taste of what other gameplay mechanics will be employed in Tales from the Borderlands. Firstly is the fact that Rhys is able to loot bodies and crates which in the world of Borderlands only makes sense. Loot, loot and more loot is kind of a motto for the franchise. The looting only results in cash, from what we were shown anyhow, so the introduction of a retail system is highly likely. Secondly we see Rhys get himself into a bit of a bother with some bandits and rather than fight himself he calls down his trusty loader bot to fight for him. The battle is longer than anything we’ve seen in a Telltale game to date but still employs the familiar QTE style navigation.
After dealing with this minor annoyance Rhys enters the ‘World of Curiosities’ which is to be the site for the transaction. He meets August, the seller, and his girlfriend Sasha. The deal goes sour and the scene ends with the best glamour shot I’ve seen in basically forever. Rhys violently punches out August’s heart which prompts Sasha to come and loving lean on Rhys’ shoulder. Top it off with Vaughn making it rain on Rhys and everyone in the room was having a good laugh. Too bad it’s all untrue as the scene flashes back forward and we see Fiona immediately calling bullshit on Rhys’ explanation of things. The final scene heads back once again to the key deal but this time in the shoes of Fiona and quickly ends with Zer0 busting in and fades to black.
The 30 minutes flew by as I was wholly entertained by what I was seeing. A few surprises with a couple of new mechanics we’ve never seen as well as the standard fare of making decisions, people ‘will remember things’ and intriguing story all look to add up to a unique way to dive into the world of Borderlands. My only question at this point is if the story will eventually be a part of official Borderlands canon. Perhaps when we see the inevitable appearance of Borderlands on current gen consoles the decisions made in Tales will influence the story moving forward? I’m alright with that I think because if there’s one thing I’m confident about it’s the fact that Telltale isn’t going to screw this up.
Confirmed for last gen consoles, not quite for next gen consoles (wink, wink said the Telltale staffer) we should be seeing episode 1 of Tales from the Borderlands by the end of summer.