Available for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Android and iOS (reviewed)
Time was, the kind of decisions your average video games would throw at you revolved around pinning down whether it worth jumping for those extra rings on a risky platform in Sonic the Hedgehog, or which order to take down the hordes of aliens heading your way in Halo.
Games, however, have changed in recent years and, arguably post Mass Effect, there's been a desire by many developers to make the player feel as if they have a direct bearing on a game's storyline. It's a fairly simple science: if you can make the player feel more engaged in the process of play, the likelihood of them tapping on your app icon or buying your game again in the future is fairly high.
Some do this more successfully than others, of course, though leading the pack with an array of titles – most notably The Walking Dead and the new Game of Thrones game spin-off – has come Telltale Games, now plying its plot-based trade with Tales from the Borderlands.
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As you might expect, the studio's latest is designed to tie in with the wider Borderlands series, though this is no FPS-cum-RPG. Instead, what's on offer is Telltale's typical fare of point-and-click meets 'interactive drama' - if that isn't too loose a phrase. As prescribed, the bulk of Tales from the Borderlands centres around conversation – picking one answer from a selection of responses when question are posed to you.
With each reply defined by a timer that hastily runs down, Tales from the Borderlands encourages you to pick the right response from your gut, with the premise that every answer you give could change the course of the game later on. Whether engaging in conversation or swiping or tapping the screen as directed during action-based QTE sections, it's this focus on pace that defines Telltale's latest, but is it adding a sheen to gameplay that's otherwise found wanting? Arguably, yes.
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What Tales of the Borderlands does better than other games from the same Telltales stable is wit. Right from the off, there are lines within play that will make you howl. This first episode in the series – dubbed Zer0 Sum – focuses on space-based salaryman Rhys as he misses out on promotion thanks to the appointment of his new boss. In revenge, he decides to try and usurp his superior by heading down to the nearest planet Pandora to steal a deal from their clutches.
Playing both as the aforementioned Rhys and co-conspirator Fiona in two different plot lines that, as you might expect, eventually come together, where Tales of the Borderlands suffers is the feeling that the game's story is pretty much set in stone. Case in point: though responses to questions in conversations tend to include an angry reply, a conciliatory reply and one that sits somewhere between the two, often there seems to be very little difference between any of them, meaning that your success seems only limited by the number of times you might die during the (somewhat lengthy) action sequences. Indeed, at some points it's hard to tell just which response you opted for based on what follows.
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Despite the game's lighter moments script wise, we felt ourselves breezing through some parts of play more than in any other Telltale title we've taken on, simply because we felt a little bit like a spectator. Though Tales from the Borderlands is never anything less than entertaining, it also feels a little half-baked gameplay wise, and doesn't really boast the same amount of mystery and suspense as the The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us series.
Indeed, it's perhaps this association with glories past that does Tales of the Borderlands a slight disservice: whatever franchise the game in question happens to be associated with, there's an undoubted level of expectation that comes with any Telltale adventure game that, in this case, means players may feel a touch short changed.
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Justifiably or unjustifiably, Tales of the Borderlands feels like the lesser kin of some great games – echoing a model that Telltale has mastered in recent years, but perhaps without giving it the creativity and drive it needs to stand out on it own.
Entertaining and delivered with the level of sheen we've come to expect from Telltale adventures, Tales of the Borderlands offers a more action-focused fiesta than The Walking Dead, but lacks the focus and originality it needs to look like anything but a slightly inferior mirror of all the studio has published before.