At long, long, last, New Tales from the Borderlands has finally been released! I never thought I’d see the day, especially given the 2018 closure of Telltale Games and the less-than-stellar sales of the previous entry.
While I’m sure I will get to my thoughts on New Tales eventually, right now I’m more interested in looking back on its predecessor–Gearbox and Telltale’s 2014 collaboration Tales from the Borderlands–one of my favorite games of all time. A choice-based action-adventure spin-off of the Borderlands series, Tales was extraordinarily well-received critically, and it deserves every bit of the praise it got. From the story to the characters to the absolutely bangin’ opening music videos, Tales will have your attention for every second of its 11-ish hour playtime.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the Tales cast is anything but fantastic. It follows Rhys–an ambitious businessman and Fiona–a sly con artist–who are brought together by a scam gone wrong for a sprawling space-Western adventure. Telltale’s signature style is uniquely suited to have great characters given its focus on the story rather than fast-paced gameplay. Its characterization is at the forefront of the player’s experience, as opposed to fitting it in between sidequests and shooting galleries. That’s not to say that the mainline Borderlands games don’t have fantastic writing: they do. But Tales’ gameplay loop gives it a unique advantage, which it uses to the fullest. Rhys’ arc is an absolute masterpiece of character writing, Fiona is instantly likable from her first moments on screen, and the supporting cast of Vaughn, Sasha, and robots Loaderbot and Gortys never fail to make me laugh. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a single unfunny joke in Tales.
Furthermore, Tales has the best take on Handsome Jack, the most iconic Borderlands villain. I know, I know, it’s blasphemous, but hear me out. While Jack has absolutely earned his spot in the pantheon of best video game villains from his role in Borderlands 2, I think he’s at his best in Tales. We get to know him on a far more intimate level than ever before through Rhys, fully experiencing a vulnerable side of him that we only caught glimpses of in Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel. I will happily die on the hill that this scene (spoiler warning) is the best in the entire Borderlands franchise, as well as in gaming as a whole. Trust me, you are doing yourself a massive disservice by not playing this game. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll peel the flayed face off a sleeping bandit (this is a Borderlands game, after all). It’s a great time. I should also mention that you don’t need any prior knowledge of the Borderlands games to hop into Tales! It helps but is by no means necessary. You owe it to yourself to give this game a shot. Available now on Playstation, Xbox, PC, and Nintendo Switch.