I’m a big fan of Telltale Games and have yet to meet one of their releases I didn’t like. Ranging from the heartbreaking peril of The Walking Dead to the dark fantasy of The Wolf Among Us, via memorable excursions into the Batman and Minecraft universes, for me, everything the studio touched turned to gold. Sure, they are not the most demanding of playthroughs, but sometimes that’s just what I need; a release from life and death, twitch driven shooters or punishing third person adventures (take a bow, Remnant from the Ashes). And with the release of Tales from the Borderlands back in 2014 this, on paper, would be the best of both worlds. One of my favourite game universes, combined with one of my favourite game developers has to be a marriage made in heaven, right? Well, I’m going to gaze back through the mists of time to 2014, to a time when the adventures of Rhys and Fiona were brand new. So feel free to join me as I “Catch a Ride!”…
The idea behind Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands was born out of a night at a games award ceremony, where Telltale and Gearbox happened to be on adjacent tables. Yes, at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards, the idea that would grow into this game was conceived, and then fleshed out over the following two years, culminating in release. Telltale and Gearbox had worked together previously, when Claptrap was a character in Telltale’s Poker Night 2. Set in the aftermath of Borderlands 2, Gearbox were interested in having their universe fleshed out, as first person shooters are not known for their character interaction, so with this in mind Telltale, with their emphasis on story and story driven games, would be an ideal partner.
The story in Tales from the Borderlands is a new one, set in the wake of Borderlands 2. With the Vault open and Handsome Jack gone, the discovery is made that there are other Vaults in the universe that remain to be opened; the hunt is on for a Vault key. One of the main protagonists is Rhys, a Hyperion employee who has been working his way up the system for years, and with the absence of Jack, sees an opportunity to take over. He is thwarted in this by Vasquez, who has a plan in motion to buy a Vault Key. Rhys takes it upon himself to foil this plan, and with the aid of a stolen briefcase full of money, he heads to Pandora to try and buy the Vault Key first. However, the other lead character, Fiona, has made a fake Vault key with the aid of her sister Sasha and mentor Felix, this is what Rhys has come to buy. Many things transpire (I’m not going to go into spoilers, in case you haven’t played the game) and the upshot of it all is that Rhys ends up with a hologram of Handsome Jack that appears and talks to him, much to the consternation of the rest of the party.
The best thing about Tales from the Borderlands is the return of characters that we’ve met previously in Borderlands games. The original voice actors returned for this project, so Handsome Jack, Moxxi, Scooter and Athena all sound like those we’ve known for a long time. Can you imagine the travesty that the game would have been if someone else had tried to be Scooter? The mere thought makes me shudder. The new characters that we meet, like Rhys and Fiona are not outdone here either, as the voice talents of Troy Baker and Laura Bailey are much to be admired. Even Nolan North manages to get in on the action, although I think it’s actually a by-law in Video Game Land that if a voice over is required, you have to ask Nolan North first!
So, a rollercoaster ride of a story follows, including one of the most emotional scenes ever involving Scooter (if you’ve played it, you’ll know what I mean, if not, what are you waiting for?). Other standout scenes involve a finger gun shootout on the Hyperion Space station, finding and opening a Vault, trying to see that Handsome Jack gets his comeuppance and many many more. Interestingly, the episodes got better, both in my opinion and that of games critics as the series went on, despite the manpower on the project being reduced. It appears having a skeleton crew that really believes in the project leads to a better conclusion.
I always lived in hope of a second series of Tales from the Borderlands, but with the sad demise of Telltale in November 2018, it seems somewhat unlikely. However, all hope is not lost. As of May 2019, 2K Games expressed an interest in bringing Tales from the Borderlands back to the digital storefronts, from which it was removed following the liquidation of Telltales assets. There was talk, in the wake of Borderlands 3, of interest in a new season, but nothing has come of it yet. I have my fingers, toes, arms and legs crossed that they do pick it up however.
So, looking back to 2014, Tales from the Borderlands stands up to the test of time, and is still one of my favourite Telltale experiences to this day. The seamless blending of the genres and universe led Gearbox to treat Telltales games as canon for the series, and the last DLC for Borderlands 2, Commander Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary, is actually set in the aftermath of the end of the Tales series of games.
But did you play the games? What were the best bits for you? Do you feel inspired to play them if you never did? Let us know in the comments.