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Tales from the Borderlands “Zer0 Sum” review for PC, PS4, Xbox One


Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

With both the second season of Telltale Games The Walking Dead, and the first season of The Wolf Among Us now well behind us, I was more than ready to dig into the first of two new series debuting this year from the same developer. This entry, Tales from the Borderlands Episode 1: Zer0 Sum, doesn’t disappoint. I’d argue that the humor is pretty hit or miss, but the overall mechanics and dual-perspective storytelling make for a pretty compelling first entry in what should be an entertaining series.

Obviously, if you have some love for the lore of Borderlands, you’ll get a bit more out of this than most. But I’d also argue that having absolutely no knowledge of the source material doesn’t really prevent you from missing much. The basics are easy enough to pick up, and there’s enough optional information found by looking around the various environments to help give you some understanding of the world of Pandora, the denizens within, and the evil corporation behind it all.

tales_rhysfionaLike other Telltale titles, the story is the main focus here. You’ll have direct control over two characters, Rhys and Fiona, taken from opposite ends of the story spectrum. Rhys hails from the corporation Hyperion, essentially the bad guys of Borderlands lore. Rhys isn’t entirely unlikable of course, but he’s also very career driven, at least until he gets screwed out of a promotion, which in turn spirals into the out-of-control situation he finds himself in throughout most of this episode.

Fiona, on the other hand, is apparently born and raised on the often perilous surface of Pandora. As a resident of the outlaw world, she’s all too familiar with the seedier elements of the populace, and what it takes to survive. She’ll clash early on with Rhys, and will provide a very different perspective when it comes to certain events.

tales_fionadialogueThe story here switches between both characters at different points, sometimes intersecting with various embellishments given by both characters. There’s not a huge difference in how either character plays, as most of the gameplay here is focused on choosing dialogue options to affect the outcome of events and conversations. Rhys does have a unique ability through his bionic eye, which can be switched on when free movement is allowed, adding the ability to scan certain objects for a bit of additional intel and humorous flavor text.

It’s also worth mentioning that this episode is certainly more action-packed than most Telltale titles have been. That certainly makes sense considering that this is Borderlands, but depending on how much you enjoy the QTE mechanics from The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, you might get little enjoyment out of how often you’ll need to quickly press directions or mash Q to proceed. I personally am not opposed to how these moments are executed here, and the prompts are easy enough to see and the sequences are forgiving if failed, but I realize that QTE’s are not for everyone.

The only real issue I had with “Zer0 Sum” was an odd problem with the mouse cursor on the PC version of the game. For whatever reason, I’d often lose track of it when it came time to choose a dialogue option. The cursor itself is somewhat dark, and blends in a bit too well with a lot of backgrounds. There’s no option to adjust cursor size or color that I could find in the settings. This led to me often defaulting to the “mute” option, which in turn led me to using a controller for the second half of the episode. Again, this is a pretty minor annoyance, but it’s certainly not a problem I’ve had before with other Telltale titles.

tales_zer0Again, I found the humor to be pretty hit or miss, but there are definitely moments that work. There’s a pretty great gag throughout the plays on the “so and so will remember that” which often pops up when you make a dialogue choice, and I’d urge you to pay attention to every one of those messages throughout. I found the overall story to be solid, and the voice acting is top notch, which it should be considering the well-known names behind the characters here. Overall, I think that Tales from the Borderlands feels different enough from Telltale’s previous efforts to be a worthwhile experience, regardless of whether you’re a Borderlands fan or not. I’m hoping that the humor clicks a bit more in later episodes, but I’m certainly on board for whatever this season brings.

Grade: B+

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