“Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 1: Zer0 Sum” is without a doubt one of Telltale Game’s most electrifying experiences to date.
For those not already familiar with developer Telltale’s previous outings, they tend to lean toward episodic content spread out over the course of several months. “Tales from the Borderlands” is their newest five-part epic, following in the footsteps of their award winning “Walking Dead” and “Wolf Among Us” series’.
However, “Tales from the Borderlands” puts more emphasis on it’s style and humor, while still pressuring you to make some rather tough decisions that may or may not affect the outcome of various situations throughout the game.
As long as the story is interesting, all of the mechanics that Telltale has honed over the years can come together to create a memorable experience. Luckily, this is exactly the case with “Tales from the Borderlands.”
“Tales from the Borderlands” is based on the Gearbox Software franchise, Borderlands. Long-story-short, in the far future, a planet known as Pandora was said to contain a number of vaults containing vast riches along with alien technology that far exceeds our own. As a result, bandits and “Vault Hunters” flocked to the dangerous planet to seek out these treasures for themselves.
You play as Rhys, a member of a weapons manufacturing company called Hyperion, based in a huge space station floating in front of Pandora’s moon. Hyperion’s reputation down on Pandora isn’t good, considering the previous head of the corporation, Handsome Jack, was killed for trying to become the dictator of the planet.
Rhys is looking to take over Hyperion, though his corporate nemesis, Vasquez, beats him to the punch and demotes Rhys to head janitor. Luckily, Rhys overhears Vasquez talking with a Pandoran client about acquiring a vault key. Armed with this information, Rhys and his friend Vaughn take off for Pandora to steal Vasquez’s deal.
Meanwhile, a Pandoran con artist named Fiona attempts to orchestrate the deal with Hyperion. Fiona also acts as your second playable character, making for conflicting viewpoints and takes on different situations.
Needless to say, each character is fantastically portrayed and voiced. Not to mention, the dialogue is absolutely hilarious from start to finish.
As previously mentioned, you’ll be asked to make different decisions throughout the game in order to progress through the story. During conversations, you’ll pick what Rhys and Fiona say as well as how they react to certain people or situations. The system works well, though it’s practically identical to Telltale’s previous games.
As for the graphics, Telltale is still working off of its old animation engine. Therefore, if you’ve played “The Walking Dead: The Game” or “The Wolf Among Us,” you’ll immediately recognize many of the facial expressions and gestures that characters make in and out of conversations.
This is disappointing, because the game can sometimes feel like it’s fighting against itself. Here, we have some truly interesting, hilarious and memorable characters, but when they make the same robotic movements that we’ve come to expect from the developer, it can take you out of the experience from time to time.
Luckily, you’ll be so enthralled by “Tales from the Borderlands” that you won’t care when the lip syncing is a bit off or when a glitch causes a character to repeat his or her line once over. The entirety of Episode 1 is undeniably Borderlands, from the humorous dialogue to the absolutely outrageous sense of schadenfreude.
There’s simply no denying that “Tales from the Borderlands’” first act is a complete success. It sets up a fantastic story with some memorable characters while still honoring the source material. If you’re looking for an amazing story, regardless of the medium, do yourself a favor: invest in Telltale’s trip to Pandora.