E3 2014: Talking Your Way Out of Fights in Tales from the Borderlands

Gearbox made a name for themselves with the Borderlands franchise. It was a unique shooter with charm that came when we had mostly military shooters on the market. The flashy, colorful and downright comical series has become so popular that Telltale is looking to take a chunk out of it by better expanding the universe. We were able to sit in on a lengthy presentation, showcasing what the San Rafael-based studio will be bringing to the table.

The first episode in the five part series is told as a recollection from both Rhys and Fiona’s perspective. These two are the main characters of the story, one who likes to talk a lot, and another who stalks around in the shadows, waiting for her chance to pounce. This demonstration was almost entirely from Rhys’ egotistical mouth, making him out to be much more suave and heroic than he is in person. He’s basically a younger Handsome Jack in that respect. Fiona on the other hand is a con-artist who plays the role of someone who just happens to stumble across a deal gone bad. Both offer different perspectives to the story, making this a rather intriguing tale to be told.

TalesfromtheBorderlands-E3Image1

The plot is simple enough: an old friend of Rhys receives a hefty promotion, but his boosting leads him to reveal that he’s looking to acquire a vault key. This catches Rhys’ interest, and thus begins his journey as he travels from his cozy Hyperion spaceship, down to the desolate planet of Pandora to purchase the key for himself. This inevitably becomes a whole mess of trouble as he’s met with bandits, on-edge sellers and even familiar faces along the way. It just wouldn’t be a Borderlands game without you getting into a firefight, and based off of the first ten minutes, it looks like it’ll happen a lot.

The mechanics are very similar to what we’ve come to expect with a Telltale game. You are able to move Rhys around the environment to interact with items and people. While there weren’t any puzzles shown, you can expect putting two and two together to be a key part of progression throughout the campaign. Outside of that, though, dialogue branches will be the primarily focus, with whatever you say taking effect on the different characters. That’s not to say the story will have various conclusions, but there will be many branching paths along the way.

TalesfromtheBorderlands-E3Image3

Combat has been somewhat altered when compared to past Telltale properties. Outside of poking at everything in the environment and talking high and mighty to the sad, pathetic bandits, there are various combat scenarios to be had. It’s almost entirely quick time events, as you’ll be avoiding bullets and incapacitating enemies on a frequent basis. Unfortunately, because this was being played by the development team on the final day of the event, meaning they knew every split second command, they didn’t show us what would happen if you messed up a quick time event. It more than likely makes little difference until multiple errors are made, but it would have been nice to see the outcome of a botched scenario.

Fortunately, these mechanics aren’t copy and paste as there are some new elements at play. Like branching dialogue options, there are some branching combat scenarios, as well. For example, Rhys calls down a robot ally, which I believe is a Loader model, which can be equipped with whatever is available. Shoulder rockets mixed with a shield? Why not. Depending what is picked, the scenario may play out slightly different, but it will all end in a similar fashion. There are some physical alternate paths to take, as well as, during the presentation, Rhys was met at a crossroads to go either right or left. Going left led him to a dead end where he is met with bandit wielding a stun rod. How varied these choices may be is still up in the air, though.

TalesfromtheBorderlands-E3Image2
The presentation concluded with Rhys and the seller fighting over the vault key when fan favorite Zero rips through the walls. The forty-five minute long presentation was something to behold as it was incredibly well-written, visually stunning and contained improvements over Telltale’s formula that hopefully will be implemented in future games. This seems like the most appropriate way to branch off the Borderlands franchise as Telltale is doing a bang up job introducing a coherent story. Tales from the Borderlands will be out later this year on undisclosed platforms.