Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 1 – Zer0 Sum
I’m honestly not sure how much crossover there actually is between the Telltale and Borderlands audiences, but Borderlands in general is a lunatic enough universe to support an adventure game like this one. I generally get more of a kick out of reading the supplemental material for Borderlands than I do from playing the original games, so I’m probably one of the people for whom Tales from the Borderlands is meant for.
Tales‘s first chapter is basically a heist story. Rhys, an up-and-coming executive at the Hyperion corporation in the period following the end of Borderlands 2, gets screwed over by a rival and sets up a deal that will, if successful, turn the tables on his rival. Fiona is a con artist and Pandora native who, with her sister, is coming at the same deal from another angle. Naturally, nothing about it goes correctly or well.
The natural point of comparison, gameplay-wise, is to Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Tales is mostly played through quick-time events or dialogue choices, the latter of which will often influence Rhys or Fiona’s relationships with the other characters. It’s somewhat slow-moving in the beginning, but if you’re bored early on, it’s worth sitting through it for the action scene at the end.
My biggest problem with The Walking Dead, aside from the occasional crash-to-desktop bug (and its problem with erasing people’s save data, which never happened to me but was widely reported by others), was its unforgiving nature. There are several parts of Walking Dead where, by the time you figured out what button the game wanted you to push, something had already turned Lee inside out and was eating his pancreas. That problem doesn’t exist in Tales, and I managed to get all the way through the first episode without failing a quick-time event. The on-screen prompts are much more intuitive.
It’s also probably worth mentioning that Tales has a murderer’s-row of voice acting talent, featuring Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Nolan North, Patrick Warburton, Chris Harwick, and Keith Szarabajka, which helps to support a clever script. A big part of the early game depends very heavily on you getting invested in the characters as quickly as possible, and that wouldn’t work as well without a cast of this caliber.
The worst thing I can say about the first episode of Tales is that the opening section, as noted above, drags on a bit. It’s an irritatingly long time before you actually do anything, and it’s way more interactive movie than game. Even Walking Dead had a few sections where you were exploring on your own or actually had a puzzle to solve.
That’s mostly down to preference, however, and it didn’t actually stop me from enjoying what’s here. In the future episodes, I’d hope there’s more for me as the player to actually do, but Tales is a pretty good way to kill a couple of hours, particularly if you have some degree of investment in the Borderlands universe.
Reviewed By: Thomas Wilde
Publisher: Telltale Games
This review is based on a digital copy of Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 1 – Zer0 Sum for the PC provided by Telltale Games.