I was as disappointed as anyone that Star Wars Battlefront didn’t have a story mode. The advertisements for the game emphasized the ability to play the game with your friends and recapture your childhood, but the game didn’t include any cooperative questing or a story of any kind. Add that to our disappointment about Star Wars 1313 getting cancelled and we’ve been really disappointed by our options for experiencing Star Wars in video games. That’s where Tales from the Borderlands fits right in. Borderlands may not have the Force, or Harrison Ford, but the game’s mix of violence with humor, the integration of technology and robotics, and the fact that the Pandora would fit right in with the list of Star Wars single-biome planets makes the game feel really familiar. If you’re looking to have a scripted Star Wars-style adventure, this might be the game for you.
Tales from the Borderlands takes place in a post-Handsome Jack future in which the Hyperion Corporation maintains a ominous presence over Pandora, whose residents increasingly resent the outsiders. You play as two protagonists: Rhys – a corporate hack hoping to swindle his employer – and Fiona – a local con artist whose devotion to her sister is as endearing as her devotion to ridiculous hats is irritating. The two characters and their friends are trying to find one of Pandora’s mysterious vaults which contain invaluable alien technology and horrifying guardian monsters. Like the other Telltale games you’ve seen, the game is a graphic adventure in which the choices you make impact the events of the story (to some extent). You switch between the two characters throughout the five episode adventure and the voice acting for both your heroes and all of the supporting characters is really top-notch. The five episodes tell contained stories (2-3 hours each) with some real highpoints sprinkled throughout.
As you can imagine, not all episodes are created equal. Tales from the Borderlands starts and ends really strong, but there’s a bit of a lag in the middle. Also, while the voice acting is amazingly good, characters themselves are kind of hit-or-miss. Rhys and Fiona never really resonated with me; Loader Bot, on the other hand, is an instantly memorable figure with a fun little character arc. Pardon the mild spoilers, but Handsome Jack is a still a presence in the world of Borderlands and he proves to be one of the most interesting recurring villains in games today. Outside the voice acting, the most surprising aspect of the game, to me, was the complete lack of puzzles. I remember guiding Clementine and Lee through some puzzles as well as making tough choices and surviving some quicktime events (QTEs). Borderlands is just the choices and QTEs. If you enjoy a good story and some tests of your reflexes, then this you’ll enjoy this adventure, but don’t come looking for anything to solve.
Borderlands’ – as I mentioned earlier – feels like a Star Wars movie, which means that the stakes are also a bit lower than the Walking Dead games prepare you for. You might die (and quickly restart) in the game but – in my experience – your friends won’t die as a result of your choices (aside from one memorable, unavoidable moment). In fact, the more you play these games, the better you get at seeing how choices might branch into different dialogue but those branches reconnect before any important events, meaning that you can make some small choices but the major events are coming no matter what you do. You have some choice about how things happen, but not much influence about what happens. The game does a good job of bringing back your choices in the end of the game as (SPOILERS) you assemble a team for a final battle against an impressive enemy, much like Mass Effect 2. The potential teammates available will depend on your choices throughout your adventure. As near as I can tell, your ability to win the battle is unaffected, but your battle gets much cooler if you have a cool team. (SPOILERS END) The game may be a bit uneven here and there, but it does have a pretty fun final battle.
The BEST PART
The story is pretty fun and definitely captures the feel of a Star Wars movie. I also need to mention how great the audio is in this game; the game’s music is surprisingly good and the voice acting is really strong (and who knew Chris Hardwick was a such a solid voice actor?).
The WORST PART
The story never hits the emotional highs that the Walking Dead was able to hit and the absence of any puzzles in the game mean that your essentially acting out a scripted story with the ability to shape the conversations. As an interactive movie it can be kind of fun, but there’s just not a lot of gameplay here.
OUR VERDICT: GOOD BUT SKIPPABLE
If this is your kind of game, then you should check it out. Borderlands fans, Telltale fans, and those of us looking for a Star Wars style adventure (instead of a Star Wars style slaughter) can have a good time with this game. Outside of that, it’s a good game but it’s not a must-have experience.