The Borderlands series is an immensely popular franchise featuring stellar combat, unprecedented levels of customization, interstellar and exciting locales to explore, an intense and heart-racing multiplayer experience, a truly remarkable villain in Handsome Jack, and some of the most genuinely fun gameplay there is to be had in gaming. Borderlands is beloved and rightfully so. The folks at Gearbox Software have given gamers a new canon that they can love and adore for years to come. That being said, however, I believe that the next installment in the series, the upcoming Tales from the Borderlands, will be the best iteration of Gearbox’s massively successful IP to date.
What I neglected to mention about Borderlands before is that it sets an absolutely perfect tone between absurdist comedy and old-west action, and its whip smart writing is supremely smart and engaging, while also being riotously funny. Borderland’s writing and characterizations are completely brilliant. The original Borderlands gave us Claptrap, a character that managed to be, simultaneously, an intelligent and superior smart-alleck with a sarcastic and domineering streak, and a self-deprecating simpleton who was beyond help, while being packaged into a charming and cute little robot. Borderlands 2 (and the recent and absurdly titled Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel) introduced Handsome Jack, a cunning, charming, and sadistic antagonist. Handsome Jack conjures images of Heath Ledgers’ Joker or Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa, in that, like them, he’s such charming SOB that, we, as the protagonist, forget that we’re actually not really supposed to be rooting for him. Characters like these and the razor sharp wit that the writers bestow upon them are the reason why Tales from the Borderlands will be the best game in the series.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the Borderlands series. I love these characters, and the writing and interplay between them is top-notch. I’ve also always been disappointed that the characterization, as good as it was, always took a back seat to the gameplay. Combat mechanics and weapon customization always seemed to take precedence over the relationships that the characters were developing between each other. In the process of playing Borderlands, I found myself wanting to know more about the world around me, wishing for longer cutscenes, wanting more elaboration and backstory on these truly engaging and unique characters. Instead I was bombarded with countless grenade mods (no pun intended) that didn’t add anything to my experience, or a new pistol that wasn’t quite as good as the one I was carrying, or an overpowered rifle that offered up one hit-kills but the bullets were amputated fingers of Honduran orphans, or some kind of ridiculous trade-off like that. Tales from the Borderlands will dispense with that useless garbage and focus on the best part of the Borderlands universe: the world in which the story takes place and the characters within that world.
Tales will be developed by Telltale Games, who are currently the best storytellers in the gaming industry (Bioware and Bethesda pull up a close 2nd and 3rd place respectively, if you were wondering). With Telltale’s track record of taking IP’s that are not their own and giving them a totally unique vision and truly amazing depth, Tales will be able to explore the characters and expand upon the humor to a much larger extent than the previous Borderlands games have been able to. This is because the traditional run n’ gun gameplay will be out the window and the whole focus of the game will be to present a new more fleshed out, more rewarding, and for lack of a better word, better Borderlands story than gamers have yet seen.
I’ve noted my unadulterated worship of Telltale before. I utterly adore their recent Walking Dead games and The Wolf Among Us is, in my opinion, arguably the best gaming story ever conceived. I went into both of those games with little to no knowledge of the worlds that they occupied or the characters with which they dealt (Since playing The Wolf Among Us, I have begun to read Fables series, on which it is based. I suggest you, dear reader, do the same.) This is not the case with Borderlands. I have played both Borderlands games (although I haven’t made my way to the Pre-Sequel yet). I know the world in which this game will take place. I know these characters, and I know this canon. And while I also know that the game will focus on new characters Fiona and Rhys, I know that the comedy that can be extracted from the Borderlands universe is matched only by a handful of gaming companies (Double Fine being the best example, off the top of my head). I am absurdly excited about this game because it’s giving me exactly what I’ve always wanted from Borderlands: a longer look at the characters and a more story focused experience. The lack of buzz around this game has surprised me, especially given the track record of Telltale Games. That aside, Tales from the Borderlands will be, if not a remarkable achievement, then at least a hilarious more in-depth look at the franchise that has endeared itself to millions of gamers. Now if only we could get a release date.
To whet your appetite if you’ve been awaiting this game for months like me, or if you’ve yet to hear of Telltale’s newest effort, check out the trailer below.