NYCC 2014: You’ll Want To Hear These Tales From The Borderlands
Do I use force to get my point across, or do I blow this guy's mind with logic?
That's the climactic choice Tales of the Borderlands presented to me before wrapping up the demo I played during New York Comic-Con last week. Rhys, one of two protagonists in this tawdry tale, needs to convince a man named August to follow through with the agreed-upon deal and trade his Vault Key for Rhys' briefcase stuffed with a million dollars. I had seen the "use force" option at E3, so now it was time to blow this guy's mind. Rhys launches into a speech straight out of an action movie, letting August know that the deal was legit, that August was a "winner," and that this deal would make him even more of a winner. Suddenly, there's an interruption:
"Bullsh--! That's not what happened at all!"
I'm then thrust into a completely different scene where Rhys stands with a masked man, both staring at Fiona, the other half of the protagonist puzzle, as she objects to Rhys' side of the story since she was there to, hiding in the shadows.
The back-and-forth between these two characters is easily the most interesting part of Tales from the Borderlands. While Telltale games have always thrived on unexpected twists, here the unpredictability is heightened by not knowing who's lying and who's telling the truth. I'm getting two sides of the same story, one painting Rhys in a spectacular light and the other knocking him down a few pegs, but which of these two malcontents do I believe? That is the beauty of Tales from the Borderlands, and that is why it could be the most intriguing game in Telltale's library yet.
On the surface Tales from the Borderlands is a Telltale game: walk around and investigate areas, interact with people and things by pressing a button, choose one of four dialogue options with one of the four buttons on the controller, etc. However, the Borderlands influence serves as a new foundation, injecting the trademark sarcastic humor and lots of action sequences into the Telltale formula. One section of the game had me customizing a fighting mech to drop down to the surface and help me against attacking bandits. Should I load it out with massive firepower, or should I focus on its defensive capabilities? I loaded it out and it ended up getting destroyed, but if I had given it a riot shield perhaps I could have returned it to Hyperion unscathed. I won't know until the real game comes, but the possibilities are intriguing.
Despite being a brand new game, Telltale also shows that it's thinking about its fans who may not have played Borderlands in the past, throwing in plenty of facts and references to games past. Just before meeting August with the Vault Key Rhys walks down a hallway in The World of Curiosities lined with stuffed mannequins, each one representing a past Borderlands enemy. As he passes each mannequin, a light shines on the former foe and a disembodied voice explains who that person is and what their role in the Borderlands world entailed. It's a great way to introduce Borderlands to the Telltale faithful that aren't familiar while also pulling in the Borderlands fans that may not have tried a Telltale game before. I hope references like this are all over the game, obvious and subtle, so fans of both sides have plenty to look forward to.
While I haven't really met Fiona outside of one dialogue choice, Rhys is the best kind of smug smartass, making him a perfect fit into Borderlands lore. I can play him as a sarcastic smartass trying to get a rise out of people, or I can make him a smartass for the sake of comedy trying to get a few laughs, but there's no getting around that core smartass nature. [So, you're saying this guy is a smartass?- Ed.] He serves as a perfect bridge between Telltale and Gearbox, with the personality and depth of a Telltale character and the wit and humor of someone from the Borderlands, giving me high hopes that the entire game will be that way too.
These Tales of the Borderlands will be full of fish stories and tall tales, and it will be up to us players to weed through the bullcrap and find the truth behind what's going on. There will be Borderlands-style gunfights, there will be Telltale-esque quandaries, and based on this demo it'll be a perfect hybrid experience that fans of both sides can appreciate. I still don't know for sure when Tales of Borderlands is coming, but after this taste, I hope it's soon.
Tales from the Borderlands will be available on a multitude of platforms later in 2014.