|System: PC*, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4|
|Dev: Telltale Games|
|Pub: Telltale Games|
|Release: December 3, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence, Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Strong Language|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
Tales From the Borderlands is the latest game from Telltale, the studio that brought you The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. You’d think this means that they were bringing us a serious game about moral choice where people will die based on tough decisions that you make. NOPE! This is the Borderlands universe! People die left and right and nobody cares. Heads explode, bodies are electrocuted, robots are torn limb from limb, and there is just so much murder you could use the corpses to build your very own meat bicycle. The big ten million bullet question here is does Telltale’s point and click cinematic choice based formula hold up when lives aren’t on the line, and the answer is… EXPLOSIONS!!!
Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 1 - Zero Sum puts you in control of two main characters--Rhys, a businessman from Hyperion that is looking to take Handsome Jack’s place after his demise at the end of Borderlands 2; and Fiona, a con-woman looking to make a quick buck off of Hyperion’s current disorder. Rhys is joined by Vaugh, a weedy little accountant who is just dying to screw over a rival Hyperion bigwig, and Fiona is joined by Sasha, her partner and sister in crime. The story follows the misadventures of this unlikely band of brothers as they search for fame and fortune (mostly just fortune) on the bandit ridden surface of Pandora.
And this is where I practically bite my tongue off to avoid telling you all the awesome spoilers I have rattling up inside my noggin.
HANDSOME JACK MAY BE MAKING A RETURN! There. I said it. No more spoilers after that. But seriously though, Handsome Jack fans will love this game.
In fact, the game itself is greatly enhanced by being a fan of Borderlands. The more you are a fan, the more the game appeals to you. Right at the beginning of the game you are introduced to Shade, who was a character from a DLC pack, along with Bewm, a beginning of the game boss, and the corpse of Professor Nakayama, another characters from a DLC pack. In fact, Nakayama is a serious plot point in this game so if you didn’t play his DLC, you actually kind of miss quite a bit. The plot itself makes references all the way back to Borderlands 1, bringing up some stuff that even I forgot about. You can enjoy the game without having played Borderlands, but it’s obvious that the ultra-fans will be getting the most mileage out of this series.
Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 1 - Zero Sum isn’t a mystery or a horror or a drama. It’s really more of an action comedy, with emphasis on the comedy. But this style of writing works perfectly in the Telltale formula. The whole tale is being told in the form of a story recap, much how Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was. Rhys and Fiona just so happen to be tied up, and a man with a rifle wants them very, very badly to tell them about something called the Gortys project. What the heck is that project? We don’t know! Actually… we barely care! And that’s the fun part!
Instead, the thing we focus on is how the story keeps changing. Rhys and Fiona keep lying to make themselves seem cooler than they actually are. So you’ll frequently find the game cutting, rewinding, and playing out differently as one corrects the other. This is one of the main sources of humor in the game and it works perfectly. Even death conditions utilize this storytelling device to great effect. “Then he swung a cleaver into your face and you died?” you might hear someone ask if you fail a quicktime event. “Well… yeah… I mean I could have died…” Rhys says, backpedaling.
Telltale went a long way to make this game look like the iconic Borderlands universe that we know and love, and for the most part it succeeds. You will travel to a lot of old and familiar locales, meet some familiar faces, and even have a heart to heart with bandits and psychos.