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E3 2014: Telltale walks us through Tales from the Borderlands
By Matthew Diener 15 June 2014
Game Name: Tales from the Borderlands | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad | Genre: Adventure
The Borderlands games are no strangers to unconventional gameplay.

After finding great success for their unlikely mixture of RPG elements with first-person shooter gameplay, Borderlands is now poised to make the jump into the cel shaded, episodic world of Telltale Games.

We had a rough idea of what to expect from Tales from the Borderlands, but we had the opportunity to have Telltale walk us through the first 40 minutes or so at E3 with plenty of explanations - and teases - for what follows.

We'll keep the run-down as spoiler-free as we can, but there's a good chance you might learn something relating to the plot events of the first chapter if you keep reading past the image below.

Consider yourself warned!



While it'd be easy to describe Tales from the Borderlands as "just another Telltale game", there are actually quite a few innovations that make it stand out from its predecessors.

For starters, its story is told from two different point-of-view characters - the failed Hyperion corporate climber Rhys, and the con-artist Fiona.

While Telltale didn’t dive too much into specifics about how Rhys and Fiona's storylines will affect one another, we were told that it's ultimately up to the individual player to decide which one of the two is telling the truth.

Right, but we're jumping ahead already.

Events kicked off when Rhys and Fiona are summoned by a mysterious masked man with designs on opening a vault.

Both Rhys and Fiona have had prior run-ins with the vault key the man possesses, and a flashback sequence kicks off in which Rhys' history is laid out for the player.



Following the death of Handsome Jack, Hyperion was thrown into chaos as legions of middle managers struggled to establish themselves as the heir apparent to the company.

Rhys was one such aspirant, but his reach exceeded his abilities and he was ultimately outmaneuvered by his rival - the slimy "Corporate Jerk" Hugo Vasquez, voiced by the inimitable Patrick Warburton (aka Brock Sampson from The Venture Brothers).

Still reeling from the sting of his recent defeat, Rhys soon learns that Vasquez is making a back-room deal to buy a vault key on Pandora.

Rhys quickly hacks into Vasquez's computer using his signature cyber-eye and hand combo and concocts a plan with his friends Yvette and Vaugh to swipe the key out from under Vazquez.

If the cyber-eye sounds cool to you, you're in luck - Telltale assured us that players will use it later in the game to analyze NPCs and gather information.



Things go according to Rhys' plan for a while, until Vaughn and Rhys are ambushed by a gang of marauding bandits on Pandora.

Thinking quickly, Rhys finds a way to (mostly) save themselves from the fracas - but he's soon cornered and has to pull out a stun baton.

To take a moment away from the action here, the morality-based decision system in Tales from the Borderlands follows the model popularized by The Walking Dead insofar as character will remember slights against them and it sticks to the "every decision counts" mantra.

The swipe-based combat, however, pulls a page from The Wolf Among Us - although Telltale noted that it's been "evolved" - which is to say "improved".

From what we saw, it definitely looks pretty crisp with swipes to dodge, duck, and attack all adding a nice bit of tension to a scene in a way that selecting "duck" from a menu of options text options never could.

Sure, it smacked a bit of a QTEs - but it looked like a good bit of fun all the same.



Without going too much into the rest of the plot, Rhys and Vaughn survive their scrape and make it to the point of negotiating for the vault key.

At this point, the narrative jumps to Fiona - but, sadly, our demo ended here.

We walked out of the room with a keen sense of anticipation for Tales from the Borderlands' release along with a genuine smile on our face from the humour that runs beneath the narrative.

All of the voice actors are spot-on with their delivery, and the writing is genuinely funny where it needs to be.

Many exchanges are necessarily tense and serious, sure, but this backdrop makes the isolated moments of absurd comedy shine all the brighter.

In the end, we can't sum up Tales from the Borderlands any better than Telltale did when it started off its presentation.

"You're not a vault hunter, this isn't a first-person shooter, but it's 100 per cent Borderlands."
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