WOTH: Platinum #31 – Tales From the Borderlands

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Telltale Games, ever since I first played The Walking Dead when the complete first season was released. I didn’t know what to expect, but after playing it, I felt equal parts utterly moved by the story, and also terrible for all the seemingly wrong choices I made, leading to death.

But where The Walking Dead dealt with hopelessness and mortality; and The Wolf Among Us dealt with conspiracy and inner demons… Tales From the Borderlands has a much lighter tone with it’s absurdity and comic value. That doesn’t detract from the game, though, as this is easily now my favourite Telltale game to date!

From the title, you’d be right in guessing that this takes place in the Borderlands universe, developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. They were gracious enough to lend the IP, even so much as making sure that Tales is completely canon to the franchise. More on that later.

This game starts off some time after the events of Borderlands 2, where you meet Rhys. He’s you. A Hyperion lackey, working away on Helios, that giant H in space. A promotion doesn’t go to plan, so he finds himself on the run while trying to screw over his manipulative new employer. Eventually, while down on the bandit-ridden planet Pandora we all know and love, me bumps into Fiona, the con-artist (also you). They, each with their sidekicks, run into deeper trouble as Rhys comes to terms with the evil living inside his head, and Fiona keeps everyone alive. You meet a lovable LoaderBot, see some very familiar faces, and travel to familiar places.

I’m keeping this all purposefully vague, as the story is simply the best one I’ve seen in a long time, with brilliant cliffhangers set up at each of the 5 episodes. I’m not ruining a single thing for you. The dialogue is incredibly witty and unmatched, with very high profile voice actors in the mix. The choices you make here are very real, and there never was a time where I didn’t like any of the lines given to me.

And if you’re familiar with the well-crafted opening credits from the original Borderlands game – they’ve done the same for each episode of Tales, but even better – they’ve knocked them out of the park! Seriously some of the best cinematography I’ve seen, and it pairs well with the music track playing in the background. You know that, after playing some time in a new episode, and you hear some funky tunes kicking in, things are about to get badass.

While there is some incredible humour, they don’t ease up on the serious side of the story either – not all of those you meet come out of this alive, and it’s good to know that the poignant scenes are strongly written too. It is a roller coaster though, and you might find yourself completely grief-stricken only to be smacked in the face with laughter straight after. It takes a gifted team of writers an artists to pull that off.

Because several of the events permanently affect the Borderlands universe in a big way, it’ll be interesting to see how they weave what happened in Tales into the upcoming Borderlands 3 – whenever that arrives.

As with most Telltale games, trophies are secondary to the story experience, as they just happen.

If you’re a big Borderlands fan, a Telltale Games fan, or even a fan of brilliant writing – this is definitely for you.

 

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WOTH: Platinum #18 – The Wolf Among Us

“You’re not as bad as everyone says you are…”

The Wolf Among Us is an episodic Telltale game, centred on the enigmatic Bigby Wolf, perhaps better known as the Big Bad Wolf from the old fables. He’s somewhat unrecognisable from those fables, since he along with every other fable character, moved to an area called Fabletown in the Bronx in the mid-80’s, and needed to blend in with the local population by appearing human. For some characters, such as Snow White or Ichabod Crane, that’s pretty easy. For others like Mr. Toad, or the trolls, it requires the constant and expensive use of glamours – a method of appearing human via magic.

Bigby, the Fabletown sheriff, stumbles upon an argument which later turns into a gruesome murder. As he digs deeper into the case, with Snow White at his side, he uncovers an intricate web of corruption and deceit. Almost nobody can be trusted in this unique spin on an old detective noir genre.

Very few video games capture my interest as much as The Wolf Among Us  did, for two major reasons. First of all, this is an immensely interesting universe that has been created – answering the question of “What if the old time fables coexisted in the present day? How would they interact?” And wrapping this premise up in a genuinely thrilling detective noir plot makes it all the better. This gives countless chances to meet new characters, but characters that you faintly recognise from old fables you’ve read as a child. It brings me great pleasure when Bigby mentions someone, for me to go “oh man, I know who that is!”

Secondly, Telltale’s story-driven and narrative choice gameplay really shines here. Looking back at their major game The Walking Dead, that focused more on your emotions when faced with life or death choices. It’s mostly heart-breaking to know your choices affect the mortality of your friends, but there are some rare happy moments. With The Wolf Among Us however, it is less about mortality and more about deciphering what is ultimately a continuous morally grey area. Are your actions just? Do you know enough to accuse individuals of crimes they may or may not have committed? And are the punishments fitting for what you know at the time? After you’ve dealt justice, only to learn new facts about the accused, that makes your choices all the more painful.

Morality and justice are very subjective topics, and they are handled extremely well in this game. Are you the type of person who acts first and thinks later, setting an example for others? Or do you play the long game, waiting until you know more before accusing people? The ending is crafted particularly well, forcing you to scramble and decipher what the very last and unexpected piece of the puzzle means, especially after you’ve already acted upon what you thought you knew.

This is definitely a good game to pick up, especially if you enjoy narrative-driven games. There are also many quick-time action events, to break up the dialogue. I only suggest you play this on the PS3 or PS4, since the PS Vita version struggles to run smoothly, and it might break the experience.


Currently playing:

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4)
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (PS4)
  • Borderlands 2 (PS4)
  • Lemmings Touch (PS Vita)

What are you playing?

WOTH: Platinum #13 – The Walking Dead (PS4)

In this episode of the Well Overdue Trophy Hunt…

Telltale Games, the makers of The Walking Dead game, certainly know how to tell a gripping story. When this first came out, there were doubts whether this really was a game at all, instead of simply a set of dialogue choices and quicktime events.

To me, it doesn’t matter what the classification is. Many more games have been released since The Walking Dead’s first season, and quite a few of them have had even less interactivity than Telltale’s dialogue heavy games. What it tells us, is that fictional experiences sit on a spectrum, and there’s a place for everything. Movies, TV and books fall on the passive side, then as you include more player/reader involvement, you come across Visual Novels, Dialogue-tree style games, your free-to-move FPS or Action-Adventure games, then finally games which rely solely on the user to make up stories, like Minecraft.

So as an experience, The Walking Dead is an incredible one. Protagonist Lee stumbled across little girl Clementine, both scared and confused of the new zombie-addled world they’ve found themselves in. As they move along, they come across other survivors, and try to determine a plan for survival.

All the characters you meet are amazing, and are fleshed out quite well. It makes it all the more difficult, then, when you must make difficult choices regarding who you side with, or even who lives and who dies. Trust me, when things go wrong and it’s because of a seemingly innocent choice you made earlier, it hurts.

The choices you do make throughout the 5 episodes have long lasting impact, too. Saved someone at the cost of another? They will still be actively involved several episodes in, and add to the story in very different ways, depending on who’s still around. And when you’ve tried to say something innocently only for a notification to pop up saying “X will remember that”, you worry just how much impact your statement has made.

Regarding the platinum trophy, there isn’t really anything to be said. It’s one of the easiest to obtain, simply because one playthrough is needed. No trophies are miss-able, except for a couple in the DLC which aren’t needed for the platinum. I had played this on the PC, but I enjoyed it even the second time around on PS4, just to see the impact of different choices I could make.


Still on the platinum list:

  • Dark Souls III (PS4)
  • Split/Second (PS3)
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4)
  • The Wolf Among Us (PS Vita)

What are you playing?