Review: Tales from the Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands is interactive fiction, existing somewhere on a continuum between video game and movie. The game is about its narrative rather than gameplay or game over conditions, though those exist as well.

There are five chapters in the Tales from the Borderlands series, each following directly from one to the next. Various dialogue and action decisions you make in each episode have repercussions both later in that episode and in later episodes. The game will inform you when a decision you make is noteworthy in this way, though there’s no direct indication when any given decision gets paid off. In theory you can play the game multiple times to experience different story beats, or you can enjoy the story as a bespoke narrative.

Since the game is so focused on story, it is well served by the fact that the story is quite good. It has a few cameos from all of the previous Borderlands games, but the two core characters and the supporting cast introduced here are all solid and serve the narrative well. You play as two characters, Rhys and Fiona, sometimes even choosing actions for both during a single scene. The game’s frame story allows for a lot of fun with the two characters, including some unreliable narration that can lead to highly amusing scenes.

The actual gameplay of Tales from the Borderlands takes a few forms, all of which are very straightforward. Often you’ll walk around, interacting with various people and objects in a style reminiscent of an old-school adventure game (albeit without the obtuse puzzles). During action scenes you may need to move in a direction or press a specific button, and failure to do so often results in your gruesome death followed by another chance at the last few moments. It’s certainly not a difficult game, though you do need to be on your toes at times.

As a video game, Tales from the Borderlands is somewhat lacking, but as an interactive story it is great. The writing is excellent, the visuals take great advantage of the Borderlands style, and each episode has a theme song that works better than it has any right to. Telltale Games was on point making this game, and having played it, I am sad that they no longer exist. If you’re a Borderlands fan, it’s worth checking out. The story even has several major effects on the status quo of the universe, and introduces a few characters who appear in the Fight for Sanctuary DLC for Borderlands 2, as well as Borderlands 3.

Review Score: B+

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