Tales From The Borderlands Ep. 1: ZerO Sum
Welcome to the first part of our five part episodic review of the telltale game Tales From The Borderlands. Their is simply to much story and information, in our opinion to give all five episodes justice in one single review. So we’re going to take this one step at a time just like the game and only talk mainly about each individual episodes story in this case “Ep.1 ZerO Sum”. But before we do we’ll of course discuss a few details first.
Unlike the other telltale episodic games, you actually play as two main characters who each have half the episodes focused around them and their choices “Rhys” and “Fiona”. This is a nice change of pace from the other games that really helps give this game an identity. Again unlike most of the other telltale games this is not a separate story with the IP name, Tales from the Borderlands is a true sequel canon in the series, taking place a few years after borderlands two, and even is referenced in the Pre-sequel game (episode 3).
The game features your basic gameplay you’d come to expect from telltale games like quick time event cutscenes, clue/item/plot device hunts, mini games, and of course conversation choices that effect the outcome of the story for the next episodes. Like most telltale games the first episode is free, but you need to pay for the next four either separately or all together in a season pass.
Ok now the game throws you right into the story, as it opens on Rhys investigating some kind of signal that was used to call him…and than immediately getting caught by mysterious masked figure and dragged to his hideout, all the while being interrogated about something. This is when its established this is actually WAY in the future and the majority of the story has already happened when Rhys flashes us back to the very beginning.
Rhys takes us back to the Hyperion Corporation headquarters Helios space station floating in orbit around the game planet of Pandora. Without giving to much away Rhys explains how its started to come apart now that CEO and past villain Handsome Jack has been killed at the end of Borderlands two. Their has been many corporate power grabs, and the one sitting in the big chair now is Rhy’s hated rival Hugo Vasquez. And with his new found power he screws Rhy’s over and knocks him WAY off the corporate ladder, before kicking him out of his office.
Angered by this Rhys forms a plan with his best friend and sidekick Vaughn the accountant. They will sneak down to Pandora’s surface and buy (with 10 million dollars that Vaughn worked his accounting magic on to get) a vault key before Vasquez can, open a vault and plunder all its treasure for the company. So the two blast down to the surface and in classic borderlands opening sequence kill a Skag after doing so. After arriving in the town where the deal is to happen chaos breaks out and the two are almost killed.
Thats where Fiona comes into the story quite literally as she to in the future has been captured by the mystery man.
She begins her side at the moment she, her sister, and their con mentor Felix are fine tuning a scam. That will land them 10 million dollars, and enough to finally leave Pandora for good. Fiona just has to convince the middle man making the deal that she’s trust worthy and have the deal set up. And after memorizing a fake background and answering it back to him perfectly she does, and their in business.
Despite having to improvise because one of their marks has a robotic eye that can scan if their product is real or not the deal starts to go well…until they accidentally drop and break it, and to make things worse at that exact moment a bandit warlord called “Bossanova” comes busting through the wall being attacked by past Borderlands two player character Zero the Ninja. Stealing the case of money, before escaping from Zero.
Both groups than find themselves together and decide to work together to get the money back. Rhys even going as far as uploading a hyperion ID chip into his cyber implant to help track the case after his was locked out, the process works but also knocks him out for several hours. They eventually find the case is being held Bossanova’s death race arena with as a prize.
They split up to get the case back, Fiona and Vaughn sneak in as part of a racing team after buying Psycho masks to disguise themselves (this is a fun option between 3 different masks to buy). Quickly finding themselves in the middle of the death race. Where as Rhys and Sasha sneak in from an underground tunnel, and begin taking guards out…well Sasha does because apparently despite having a super strong/hard robot arm Rhys choses to knock his guard out with his human one instead and fails hilariously (get used to Rhys forgetting his arms a weapon). The two are than quickly saved by Zero who also snuck in moments before, and help him look for Bossanova. This leads to a drawn out fight between Zero and Bossanova, while Rhys and Sasha take on lackeys and try to nab the case.
After the smoke clears from the chaos breaks it ends with Fiona tossing Felix the case and him betraying her to keep it all for himself (you have the option to kill him by shooting or not warning him about a booby trap bomb inside the case but DON’T trust me keep Felix alive its worth it later), Zero killing Bossanova who moments before reveals he actually has a very HIGH nerdy voice he masked with a speaker, and the group finding a secret Atlas (evil company from first game now completely destroyed and replaced by Hyperion) base hidden underneath the arena.
There they find loot, weapons, a guy that they accidently mutilate/murder and two halves of a hexagon device that Rhys a Fiona put back together to reveal a holographic map of Pandora.
Then just as the end camera slowly backs out and before rolling the credits a single voice sinister disembodied voice laughs “this is going to lead us to a vault” than a slightly blurry Handsome Jack appears in between Rhy and Fiona with only Rhy seeing him in terror. Da dan dan da da!!!
Episode one was a great first chapter in this story, it introduced a nice collection of supporting characters, it had a good blend of action and narrative. It introduced our two main characters without making either more important than the other. Animation was great it really helped that telltales graphics engine they use in all their games already looked like the borderlands one to start with. It has a decent run time about 2 1/2 hours of gameplay which is pretty standard for telltale episodes. The music was amazing each episode actually has a custom opening credits song and the song Busy Earnin (credits) fit perfectly. And of course dat ending with Handsome Jack made for an amazing cliffhanger I’d give this objectively a 8.5/10.
One down four more to go now If you want to see it for yourselves and listen to some funny commentary heres our play through here.