Tales From The Borderlands is a virtual choose your own adventure game that puts the Borderlands series in a whole new light. Instead of grinding out levels and doing side quests, you’ll spend this time on Pandora choosing dialogue options, participating in quick-time events and soaking up a good story (for once). This entry in the series is different and that’s a good thing.

Gameplay

The bulk of Tales from the Borderlands takes place in cutscenes, so the gameplay is limited to quick time events, dialogue decisions and short snippets of walking/looking-for-items. These events are few and far between, thankfully, as some of the walking segments are a bit tedious. The combat quick time events are simple and forgiving, but still manage to feel exciting. I usually dislike quick time combat (looking at you, Resident Evil 4) but these are probably the best I’ve ever experienced. What little input is required from the player serves the story and atmosphere well. While this entry is lacking in the co-op gun-slinging that the series is known for, the change of pace is lovely.

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Story / Personality

This game is essentially a miniseries set in the Borderlands universe and good god they nailed it. Set between Borderlands 2 and Borderlands 3, Tales From the Borderlands follows Hyperion executive Rhys as he learns about life on Pandora. The characters are well cast, well written and more lifelike than anything seen in a Borderlands game before. That is perhaps the best thing about this game: there is depth of writing and characterization that we just don’t get in most video game scripts, even the more story-driven ones like The Last of Us.

The gutter-mouthed humour that the mainline games are famous for is still prevalent, but the quiet moments are where this script shines. This entry serves the series as a whole with some serious world-building. For the first time, we see bandits as more than mindless monsters (the Psychos are pretty much the same) and Pandora feels more alive than it ever has. The story is sublime, the characters human and the world richer than it’s ever been. While it may not appeal to the median Borderlands player with this shift, they’re missing out if they’re ignoring this black sheep entry.

Graphics / Art Direction

Like the story, the graphics are pure Borderlands goodness. The cel-shaded art style is just as timeless as ever and goes beyond what the previous gen games ever managed. The character models seem to have been given new life and depth for this entry. I play the mainline games on my PlayStation 4 Pro, and every now and then I’ll stop and gaze at the beautiful scenery on Pandora. In Tales from the Borderlands, the entire game demands to be gazed at fondly and the pacing allows you to actually look at the beauty in motion instead of seeking a moment of stillness in a slew of bullets and explosions.

Music / Sound Design

The talent among the cast is amazing. Between big names like Patrick Warburton (Kronk in The Emperor's New Groove), an intelligent script and flawless delivery, this game is nothing short of cinema. Scripts in the mainline games often feel limited by the action-driven nature of the series but this entry is much more humane and deep, while maintaining the comedic timing and style of the series.

The music is minimal but for a game like this, less is more. The instrumental soundtrack, while subtle, is beautifully composed and pairs well with the tone established within the dialogue. In a nutshell, Tales From The Borderlands sounds just as good as it looks.

Final Score: 90%

This game is utterly fantastic - so completely that even among a AAA series like Borderlands, it stands out. While most games in the series are a cacophony of gunfire and agonized screams, Tales From The Borderlands manages to whisper an amazing tale. I’ve been putting off playing this game for years, because I didn’t think there was a layer underneath the chaos of the Borderlands status quo. I was wrong and I should’ve bought this game back in 2014 when it first released. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the series or you’ve never so much as beheaded a single Psycho, you need to play this game. This is a story that you should enjoy... like, right now.

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