It might only be two episodes in to it’s run, but I’m already poised to call Tale From the Borderlands my favourite Telltale game series. Where The Walking Dead wanted to make you emotional and The Wolf Among Us wanted to make you a detective Borderlands wants only to make you laugh. And I find that utterly endearing. In the first two episodes Borderlands has embraced it’s mission to make players smile and worries about nothing else. Writing and characterisation hit the mark flawlessly, simply being on Pandora with heroes Rhys and Fiona feels great. If the rest of the five episode season retains this sort of quality then I’m convinced it’ll be Telltale’s best series so far.
Telltales most recognizable series have thus far been very straight faced serious, arguably grim and depressing. Of course in The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us misery is everywhere, the way Telltale built those worlds and allowed players to guide the stories of Lee and Bigby respectively deserved praise. Both heroes were well written and relatable. Borderlands embraces the Telltale approach to story telling and game design, there’s decisions to be made, branching story paths, and relationships to manage. But it does all those things with a new light-hearted spin that’s frankly incredible.
In the previous sombre Telltale series I’ve lived the life of the hero, inhabited them as they made gut wrenching decisions and built relationships with marvellously written characters. In Borderlands there isn’t that pressure. I don’t fell like I’m living the lives of either hero: slick business guy Rhys or con woman Fiona. Instead I’m the comedy director. I navigate the heroes through their journey, picking from conversation options that all result in different jokes. I’m writing their story using the gags I want to see, I’m fostering a relationship between the two that I enjoy. As result Borderlands is far less intense than the other series, this is a game you could relax playing after a hard day. I really appreciate that about it.
It helps that nearly every joke is immaculately written and delivered. In both episodes I found myself genuinely laughing, and if anything the second episode is funnier than the first – a promising trend. In fact, I’d seriously consider saying Tales From The Borderlands is the funniest game I’ve ever played. Whether it’s because of off-worlder Rhys’ ignorance, Fiona’s straight up attitude, wimpy Vaughan, or the antics of (spoilers!) Handsome Jack I’ve smiled through every second of this journey so far. Besides that the chemistry between the two leads, and the split perspective they use to retell each of their stories is marvellously used, and continues to get stronger with each episode.
On-top of that there’s the set pieces. Each episode has it’s fair share of explosive sequence. Each wonderfully choreographed and effortlessly fun to take part in, Telltale takes the lessons learnt from Wolf Among US action sequences and ramps them up a notch. Both episode’s opening credits sequences in particular and put together so slickly, there captivatingly cool – I can’t get enough.
One more thing, if you’ve never played Borderlands before don’t worry. Tales assumes you have no knowledge of the series and doesn’t rely on the flimsy plot devices of the core Borderlands games. Telltale Games will fill you in quickly enough then let you on your way.
If you want to see more on Tales From The Borderlands check out my reviews for: Episode One Zer0 Sum and Episode Two ATLAS Mugged. Honestly if you have asense of humour you need to play this series. I’m not joking when I say it’s easily on track to being Telltale’s best series ever.