Given its current status as one of those developers that can seemingly do no wrong, it should probably come as no surprise to hear that Telltale Games had one of the nicest off-floor meeting room set-ups at E3 this year. It had great air conditioning, really comfortable seats and free beer, and there’s really nothing else you need to enjoy a video game presentation.
In any case, Telltale didn’t cut any corners with its space, and it carried the same mentality over to what it showed journalists and other attendees of Tales from the Borderlands. Other studios might show a few minutes of footage. While cautioning everyone on hand that some parts of it, including the opening title montage, was in a very early stage, Telltale rolled out an impressive 40 minutes from its episodic game based on the popular Borderlands console and PC series.
At first blush, this might seem like an unusual match between material and developer. The Borderlands games are heavy on action to go with their trademark humor and distinctive visual style, and it’s a fair question to wonder how they would translate to a more story and dialogue driven-approach.
If what was shown at E3 was any indication, the answer to that question is “pretty well.” Tales from the Borderlands focuses on two characters, both of whom the player controls. One is a man named Rhys, a (possibly former) Hyperion employee looking to make a name for himself after the death of series stalwart Handsome Jack. He begins the game embroiled in company politics but quickly learns any scheme to get ahead that involves setting foot on Pandora could quickly get him in over his head. He’s got a cybernetic eye, handy for scanning people and beasts and hacking technology.
The other primary protagonist is female con artist Fiona, looking for one last big con so she can get herself out of the grifter life for good. The way the two main characters interact is a big part of the fun, as the game revolves around Rhys and Fiona telling their own versions of the same situations in an effort to one-up each other with “Big Fish” stories. Choices made by the player will help determine whose take on the truth is correct, or at least less fabricated.
Tales looks like a Borderlands game, doubtless because of Telltale collaborating closely with Gearbox software. The laughs are definitely there too. Loot is also very much a part of the game’s fabric even though Rhys and Fiona are no Vault Hunters. Intriguingly, the developers say that loot will work in concert with weapons and gear found in previous games (and even the forthcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!), though they didn’t elaborate on exactly how that would work.
A bevy of recognizable voices bring the characters to life. Chris Hardwick is Rhys, Nolan North plays an ambiguous sort named August, and Patrick Warburton is unmistakable and perfect as Rhys’ sleazy boss Hugo Vasquez. And with five episodes planned in all, it’s quite possible more familiar names will be involved before it’s all said and done.
Fittingly, the Tales from the Borderlands presentation ended in a cliffhanger, just before Fiona had a chance to give her account of Rhys’ initial misadventures on Pandora. It was a lot to digest, and yet still left you wanting more. Possibly enough that it didn’t even matter that information on platforms, pricing and the exact release date of the first episode is still to come.
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the plush theater or the beer that made me feel like Tales from the Borderlands is going to do right by the brand.Even if you don’t trust me, Telltale has certainly proven it deserves the benefit of the doubt.