e3 2014

Tales From The Borderlands: Episode 1 - Zero Sum

Tales From The Borderlands Preview — Life After Handsome Jack
by Kimberley Wallace on Jun 12, 2014 at 04:07 PM
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Rating: Mature
Platform: Xbox One

Today at E3, we were treated to Telltale's next storytelling adventure, Tales from the Borderlands.

Tales of the Borderlands features two different characters with completely different perspectives and personalities. Let's just say, they hate each other and their conversations often end in arguments. You'll swap between both characters during the adventure and role-play them via the dialogue options. The game takes place after Borderlands 2. Our demo focused on Rhys, a Hyperion worker, looking to make his mark now that Handsome Jack is no longer around. He was hoping to take over his position, but an arrogant tool named Vasquez, who the game notes obviously didn't get enough attention in high school, is now in charge. Vasquez, voiced marvelously by Patrick Warburton, tells Rhys how it was destiny he got the job over him. "Bad things can happen when you swim against fate," he warns Rhys.

Vasquez then receives a strange call that makes him cagey. He immediately takes it off speaker phone, raising Rhys' suspicions. This is where Rhys' hacking skills come in handy. While Vasquez is busy with the call, he uses his cybernetic eye to decrypt information on Vasquez's computer. He finds out Vasquez is after a vault key and discovers its location. Rhys leaves the office feeling like he's got one over on his jerk boss. He quickly runs into his friends and coworkers: a nerdy accountant Vaughn and the calculated Yvette. They both agree to help him steal Vasquez's vault key, even if it means tampering with company funds to finance it.

Rhys and Vaughn hit the road, while Yvette stays at Hyperion to keep an eye on things. Dropping Rhys and Vaughn's car from the sky, gives us our first look at Pandora. Telltale does a good job at recreating the wild, desolate world. A dead bandit hangs from a signpost with his head in a noose and everybody has a watchful eye, yearning for more loot and forcefully trying to obtain it. Rhys and Vaughn hit a skag with their car and immediately freak out. This is a throwback to the video games; as many fans know, running over everything in sight with your vehicle is part of the fun... except we rarely think anything of it, so it was nice to see Rhys and Vaughn react to killing something. The two definitely have a "we're not from around here" vibe. They decide to stop at Prosperity Junction to ask for help. Here Telltale shows off how you can survey the area and search for green lockers to collect loot. Cash will be useful in Tales from the Borderlands, but sometimes greed can get you into trouble. As Telltale notes, somebody may be watching you, or it could be a trap, so it's up to you to decide what's worth the risk. Money can also get you out of situations, so it's good to have some on hand. 

It's not long before Rhys and Vaughn get into their first altercation. They find a man that they call "Grease Face," and ask for directions to The World of Curiosity. Grease Face spots Vaughn's briefcase and immediately tries to get his hands on it. As Grease Face points out, Hyperion ruined his town, so why should he be nice to them? He has plenty of backup to outnumber the pair, surrounding them completely. Rhys can equip various weapons like a machine gun, rocket launcher, and riot shield; he can even deploy a bot. The battle plays out with controls Telltale fans should be familiar with — clicking the stick in the correct direction to dodge attacks and pressing the correct button during a QTE to hit enemies. Rhys commands his bot during the fight, which also has QTE sequences. To use the rocket launcher, it's up to you to select all the enemies you want to fire at. Rhys can then decide if he wants the bot to self-destruct or evacuate after it takes a lot of damage. For this match, Rhys decides to sacrifice him. Telltale said it's striving to put more decisions in the action moments like this one. 

When Rhys and Vaughn finally get out of the tough fight alive, they head for the World of Curiosity. Here, they finally confront August, voiced by Nolan North, who owns the vault key. During the exchange, dialogue options present themselves, like if you want to see the vault key, or show him the money first. August's girlfriend starts to sense something fishy though, and calls off the deal. This leads to Rhys having to persuade August to give him the vault key. We see him perform this violent and badass move... but then the story segment gets interrupted. Fiona, the other playable character, says that's not what happened and there's more to the story.  As she tells it, Borderlands 2's Zer0 comes on screen, but the demo ends before we can find out Fiona's side or Zer0's role in the story.

So far it looks like Telltale has the Borderlands world down. We'd like to see a bit more of the trademark humor shine through, along with more varied combat that doesn't revolve around just QTEs. The shifting perspectives are something different for Telltale, so it'll be interesting to see how each character measures up against the other. Right now, we're still waiting to see if Fiona can top Rhys. I'll be honest - Rhys got a little too big for his britches for my taste.

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Tales From The Borderlands: Episode 1 - Zero Sum

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