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Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum (PS4) Review

/ Dec 1st, 2014 No Comments

Well Vault Hunters… let me tell you a tale; Borderlands is back, but this time developed and published by Telltale Games.

Tales from the Borderlands is another episodic adventure from the bolstering company that serves as a pure sequel to 2K Studio‘s Borderlands 2. The first epsiode, Zer0 Sum, is the first of a five-part series that tells the story of what happens to the franchise’s popular characters after Borderlands 2. With Handsome Jack dead, the company’s many peons fight for control while life on Pandora trudges on despite the damage caused by Jack and his mad quest for vaults.

Rhys & Fiona

Gamers take control of Rhys and Fiona in Tales from the Borderlands; Rhys the Hyperion lackey and Fiona the con artist of Pandora. The game strategically switches between the two characters at opportune moments, with each building relationships with various Pandorians encountered throughout the game. The story picks up shortly after the events of Borderlands 2, and players are best off if they are familiar with the first-person shooter’s story. The vault hunters are off hunting vaults and other various trinkets while Hyperion attempts to recover the moon-base and Pandorian operations following Jack’s downfall.
 

Handsome Jack-off.

Handsome Jack-off.

Rhys serves as the Hyperion side of the story as gamers control him in a bid to become a head honcho on the moon-base. Meanwhile, Fiona tells the Pandorian side of the story as her plotline is less “goal-oriented” and more about simply trying to make money and survive. Both characters will strategically build relationships with those around them — including each other — as gamers can choose whether Rhys and Fiona work together or ultimately distrust one another.

Silence is a Valid Option

Gameplay in Telltale franchises typically involves making moral choices played out through quick-time events, and this approach holds true for Tales from the Borderlands. Players are asked to make quick decisions — dialogue options have a countdown for each decision — and even quicker button hits to win fights or avoid death. Dialogue options can usually be divided into several categories; one option will typically be ambivalent, another mean; another polite; and one being the sound of silence. While silence can be comical in many scenarios, choosing it consistently will lead to NPCs making assumptions about the player and taking choice out of gamer’s hands.
 

"Eat shit and die Patrick" is also a valid option.

“Eat s–t and die Patrick” is also a valid option.

While no major changes have been made to gameplay and interaction, Telltale Games has done some noticeable fine tuning, including cleaner animations and easier item interaction. The use of Rhys’ cybernetic enhancements adds a bit of flair, if for no other reason than gleaming more details about the world and increasing the suspension of disbelief as players become more immersed in the world. On the flip-side, Fiona has the option to use money at specific moments to buy better gear, bribe NPCs, and perform useful interactions, which adds another layer of depth.

The Colors and Chords of Pandora

As usual, Telltale Games hits the nail on the head visually with Tales from the Borderlands. While the game has the distinct Telltale Games look, it also maintains Borderlands’ art style. The game comes off less as an offshoot and more as just another part of the series, albeit with a different play style. The pseudo-cel shading gives the universe of Borderlands its distinctive appearance while also making it easy to pick out parts of the world during gameplay. Seeing the world of Borderlands at such a high definition on the PlayStation 4 is truly a sight to behold.
 

Beware The Grifter.

Beware The Grifter.

The music of Borderlands will never be played at grand opera halls with full orchestras (maybe one day you can be Zelda), but it serves its grand purpose of immersion. The distinctly simple western music holds firm in Tales from the Borderlands as it keeps the feel of Pandora alive.

What really sells the game is the voice acting. As in previous iterations of the Borderlands series, vocal talents are nothing short of top notch. Fan favorites such as Shade and Handsome Jack make their returns along with some colorful newcomers.

An Episode 2 Worth Looking Forward To

Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum teases players in all the right places, while still fleshing out the new characters it introduces. While fans of Telltale salivate over the upcoming Game of Thrones game, the Borderlands universe provides a new experience worth playing. Like most Telltales titles, the developer does an exceptional job of introducing the universe to player’s unfamiliar with the main series it has adapted to its unique gameplay style while also pleasing the franchise’s longtime fans.
 

"What is my purpose?" "To Kill Bandits." "I have killed bandits, what is my purpose?" "To Kill More Bandits." "Oh. My. God." "Yeah... welcome to the club buddy."

“What is my purpose?” “To Kill Bandits.” “I have killed bandits, what is my purpose?” “To Kill More Bandits.” “Oh. My. God.” “Yeah… welcome to the club buddy.”

The first episode of Tales from the Borderlands is available now at a price of $5 (a $20 season pass gives gamers access to all of the series’ upcoming episodes), which is low price for a fully fleshed out game. The episodic nature of Telltale’s Borderlands game ensures players will be using their time wisely, and the decisions give it unique replay value. Whatever comes next in these Tales from the Borderlands, make sure to grab a seat aboard.

 

Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson

Associate Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Greg is a Nintendo fanboy who would cry if they ever went third party. He writes news, previews and reviews at Gaming Illustrated.
Greg Johnson

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TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS: ZER0 SUM (PS4) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall90%

GAMEPLAY9

Gameplay holds true to Telltale's formula. Moral choices are varied, which allows for a dynamic experience that is truly decided by the player.

GRAPHICS8

Tales from the Borderlands looks amazing. Telltale merely needed to take a pre-existing art style and re-up it for the next generation, but the polish and work shines bright.

SOUND9

Telltale proves the ability to use a well tested formula in the music department, but the studios choice of voice actors is what really wins them points in this latest endeavor. Characters feel alive thanks in part to Telltale's writing staff, but also the exceptional voice talent.

STORY10

Great new characters, a story of intrigue, and the appearance of some familiar faces mixed with Telltales signature choose-your-own-adventure style make for an engaging experience.