Combine a looter shooter as crazy as it is adrenaline pumping with a graphic adventure? It can, and Tales from The Borderlands returns to Switch to prove it.
Originally released in 2015, Tales From the Borderlands for many it represented the pinnacle of the “Telltale” formula, a graphic adventure graced by a particularly inspired writing able to involve the player from start to finish, accomplices of particularly successful playful grafts and a malleable narrative structure. Today, with the rebirth of Telltale Games thanks to LGC Entertainment, and the promise of new projects, 2K Games tries to have its say by re-proposing the adventure born from a rib of the popular looter shooter on Nintendo Switch. Is there still room in today’s landscape for the adventures of Rhys, Fiona and the Vault Hunters?
An unlikely marriage
At his announcement Tales from the Borderlands he was greeted with some skepticism from the audience. After all, the Gearbox FPS seemed as far as possible from the Telltale productions, and it was difficult to imagine how a graphic adventure in an episodic format could have done justice to the narrative universe set up with the first two episodes of the shooter.
Yet Tales from the Borderlands succeeded in this difficult undertaking by putting together a frenetic and funny narrative but above all respectful of the original material, able to perfectly capture the ironic and hyper violent essence of the raids on Pandora (if you want to rediscover the saga, read the our review of Borderlands The Handsome Collection). Although the story presented in the five episodes is considered canonical and takes place between the second and third installments of the series (the Borderlands 3 review, in this regard, is just a click away), Tales is a game that requires absolutely no knowledge. previous. Narration and characters have been created ad hoc for the graphic adventure and, apart from a few well-known faces and the familiarity of the environments (which will delight looter shooter connoisseurs), the whole adventure is also enjoyable by newbies.
The stories of Tales are told by two protagonists, Rhys and Fiona, through some flashbacks: the first, a Hyperion employee, finds himself with his best friend Vaughn embroiled in an illegal trade on Pandora in an attempt to make shoes for his rival and new boss Hugo Vasquez; Fiona, a professional scammer, is instead striking a heist with her sister Sasha, which could bring them a whopping 10 million dollars. The story stages precisely the meeting between the two protagonists and the way in which their paths have intertwined, in a continuous sequence of misadventures and daring situations.
In a way very similar to what we saw in the recent Immortals: Fenyx Rising (at this link you can find our review of Immortals Fenyx Rising), the two narrators are far from reliable and will do nothing but distort the story from their point of view. , often taking each other back and altering the real course of events. A solution that, in addition to being particularly fun and successful, goes perfectly with the heart of the gameplay of Telltale productions that have always placed the player’s choices at the center of the playful experience.
The direction of the story
Also in Tales the narrative presents a strongly non-linear structure, able to adapt and fork to every decision made or when we do not perform an action correctly within the time limit imposed. Although the backbone of the plot remains substantially unchanged without particular upheavals, each choice can heavily affect the development of individual episodes, often leading to dialogues and situations otherwise impossible to see, unless you decide to start a new game or rewind the chapters to change your approach: a gimmick that can drastically increase the overall longevity of the title, which – the first time – will take about ten hours to get to the credits.
In Tales from the Borderlands, which makes its characters and dialogues its backbone, all five episodes flow at a good pace without particular problems: there is never the feeling, unfortunately present in many other Telltale titles, that some sections are excessively slow or take a long time, or that some passages are superfluous.
This balance was made possible thanks also to successful action phases, able to break the static nature of the multiple choice dialogues. These are simple sequences in QTE that certainly do not require who knows what active participation on the part of the player, but which, through the use of a particularly inspired direction, manage to involve as much as the funniest exchange of jokes or moments of the most full of pathos.
In short, it is clear how much the Telltale developers have worked hard to do justice to the world of Borderlands far beyond mere narrative. The action sequences are only the most blatant element, but the gameplay of the graphic adventure is constantly inspired by the trademarks of the looter shooter, presenting a playful depth so far unrelated to the team’s productions. Rhys and Fiona properly embody the two pillars of Borderlands: for example in the sections dedicated to the first, equipped with the advanced Hyperion technology, the experience will take on a more investigative slant, thanks to the possibility of scanning the environments through its cybernetic eye, while in the moments in which he takes control of Fiona, the game will marry more the Western aesthetic of the FPS.
There will therefore also be the possibility of rummaging through the levels to find loot and money to then invest in the customization of the protagonists and vehicles.
On the one hand, therefore, the typical Borderlands humor is fully centered, while on the other the narrative is therefore continuously supported by a rudimentary but well-studied gameplay that elevates, and not a little, Tales from the Borderlands above its much better known predecessors of the likes of The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us.
The Telltale legacy
The problem of an operation of this kind, which limits itself to making the adventure in its entirety available again, is the evident technical backwardness of the game engine. If the Telltale Tool showed its side to criticism already in 2015, today the situation has certainly not improved even on a hybrid console like the Switch, where certainly the graphical rendering is not among the user’s priorities.
Between Spartan models, fluctuating quality textures, polygonal interpenetrations and woody animations, the glance is certainly not the best. The cartoonish feeling of the engine fits perfectly with the cel shading typical of the series and in general the artistic direction is able to overcome the obvious technical limitations of the production, yet it would certainly have benefited some kind of adjustment to the overall quality. weight is represented by removal of the screen placed at the end of each episode which indicated how players around the world had expressed their opinion on every single “important” choice. These were simple percentages that were able to excite a lot and add a social edge to the whole experience, an omission that takes away some of the magic that characterized Telltale titles.
Tales from the BorderlandsNintendo Switch Analyzed VersionTales from the Borderlands is a game that shows all the years that have passed since its first release, yet the particular hybrid between a point and click and a looter shooter still retains an undeniable charm today. Thanks to the high-level writing or the ability to combine such different play worlds in a simple and immediate way, Tales from the Borderlands is a graphic adventure that, despite everything, is recommended both for lovers of the genre and for Borderlands fans, in the hope to be able to welcome, sooner or later, even a second season.