Playstation 4 Reviews

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 1: Zer0 Sum Review – Comedy is Hard

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Tales from the Borderlands marks a nice change of pace for Telltale Games. Both of their previous standout efforts of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us have been pretty straight laced, almost completely composed of suspenseful twist, and moments of heart-wrenching drama. Naturally, taking on the world of Pandora means that Telltale is now aiming for your funny bone.

Fans of the Borderlands series are in for a fun ride, but Tales from the Borderlands is harder to recommend if you have little attachment to the previous games. This connection to the series is both a blessing and a curse for Tales from the Borderlands. There are so many small nods and tidbits that make it feel like the entire experience could literally have been pulled directly from the Gearbox titles. Recurring characters and themes are abundant but more importantly Tales feels exactly like Borderlands, all the way down to the interface and “loot drop” at the end.

Tales from the Borderlands focuses on two main characters, Rhys and Fiona. The story is told in retrospect as an unknown captor interrogates both characters over the events of a shady deal involving 10 million dollars and a vault key. Rhys is a Hyperion employee who’s trying to leverage his way to a promotion, while Fiona is a con-artist trying to make a quick buck wherever she can.

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With two distinct characters and clever writing I constantly found myself choosing dialogue options that felt right for the character rather than projecting something onto blank canvas, leading to many fun interactions. That being said it does lead to the main divisive issue with the game: its comedy ultimately depends on these choices, where some are amusing, but others land with a thud. Unfortunately there seems to be more of the latter than the former in this first episode. Whether that’s Telltale trying to get their sea legs in a genre fairly new to them, or the emphasis on choices leading to inconsistent humor, but it is not nearly as funny as I’ve come to expect from the Borderlands franchise.

That being said Tales from the Borderlands is still a great ride throughout. The story is interesting, the new characters are great and the fantastic voice-acting we’ve come to expect from Telltale is still present. All of the new characters are great across the board but oddly the main recurring character in this episode (Zer0) is the one who fell flat most often. The emotionless character who only spoke in haiku in Borderlands 2 just doesn’t deliver the same type of wit here, although his emoticon-displaying helmet gets several good laughs. By far the best new character in the game is Loader Bot, whose dryness and robotic comments are the source of the majority of the comedy.

Action in this first episode is also on the light side, which makes sense for the number of characters and depth of story that needs to be set up. When the action does come in (which coincidentally also usually includes Loader Bot), it’s back to your traditional Telltale QTE that works so well.

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Tales from the Borderlands is not going to be for everyone. It relies heavily on previous knowledge of the source material — far more more than any other title Telltale Games has tackled. While this is going to be a huge boon for fans of Borderlands, it also means that non-fans are going to be completely lost in references to Hyperion, Vaults and Handsome Jack. While it might not hit the high humor of Borderlands, it has the tone and style down perfectly and sits as another solid first entry into what, with a little work, is sure to be another great series for Telltale.

SCORE: 8.0 out of 10

A copy of  Tales From the Borderlands was provided to Pixel Related for review.

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