Life is strange for Borderlands fans. Not just because of whatever must be going on in their minds to adore the series (this is coming from someone who has a card game of it on his shelf) but because of the life the franchise has had since Borderlands 3.
On one hand, the gameplay of Borderlands 3 was phenomenal. Every detail was sharpened and refined, the new characters played beautifully, the boss design was incredible and it was great to see so many more enemies. But the story was unimpressive. There were golden moments, of course, but much of the cast was underutilized or misused.
Meanwhile, the Handsome Collection found its way to the Nintendo Switch and was promptly snatched up by newcomers to the series and old fans who wanted a chance to replay it on the Switch. Some Switch owners were disappointed, however, when they dove into the series, only to learn that there were no plans to add the third entry to the console.
As if guided by an angel, good news arrived. While Borderlands 3 might not come to the Switch, Tales from the Borderlands would. It dropped on March 24, 2021. And, quite frankly, I think every one of you should go play it.
Tales from the Borderlands
Okay, maybe not every one of you. Pandora is a rough place, and not everyone gloms with the gallows humor there.
But the fact is, Tales from the Borderlands is an incredible game. It’s not just a cash grab or a side piece to the original series. The game is its own animal, which manages to capture the tone and humor of the world and deliver a unique, well-written story that pulls you in and keeps you there. You’ll come for the laughs, fall in love with the characters, and stick around to see the end of the drama.
If you’re unaware, Tales from the Borderlands is from Telltale Games, a studio that specializes in story-focused games that play like interactive, choose-your-own-adventure movies. Gameplay is done through quick-time events and by allowing you to choose dialogue and story options. No running and gunning here.
Of course, this made some people wonder why they would pick a game world like Borderlands in which to craft a series. Borderlands had a unique world, tone and sense of humor, but it wasn’t about to win any awards for storytelling. So, why would a studio who usually picked series known for their strong storytelling make a tale in the world of Borderlands?
The simple answer is that they saw some potential in that world, tone and sense of humor that they knew they could pull out and strengthen. And they were right.
Tales from the Borderlands shines by building a strong story around the narrative elements fans loved about the original series. Somehow, Telltale managed to capture it perfectly. The brutal world of Pandora, the clash between amorality and ethics shown by its inhabitants and the dark, crass humor of its characters all take center stage in a story that ditches everything that’s unnecessary.
The cast is brilliant enough to make you care about them completely by the end of the first “episode” of the game. If you thinkyou can’t become emotionally attached to a basic loader robot, you are wrong. By the end of this series, I was more interested in the characters of Tales from the Borderlands than I was in most of the cast from the rest of the series. Those series regulars, however, did make some lovely appearances throughout this game, with a member of the pre-sequel crew featuring prominently. Seeing them in a more story-focused environment, created by strong writers, really made me double down on my attachment to these old favorites, as did seeing them in a different context.
Tales from the Borderlands also gives players a much stronger sense of what it’s like to live on Pandora too. Part of this is seeing it from the viewpoint of an outsider and a native who isn’t a vault hunter. These characters aren’t fighters; they’re brains and con-artists. So, you’re forced to live out the life of someone who’s just struggling to survive like everyone else.
And the humor? Don’t get me started on the humor.
No, seriously, don’t, because I’ll spoil stuff for you. I finished episodes with my face hurting from laughter. Where Borderlands had to fit in its humor where it could, often in the background, Tales from the Borderlands has the luxury of doing real jokes with real setups. It’s the difference between an easter egg and a comedy routine, and I’m stunned at how well they managed to capture and translate the game’s sense of humor.
But what caught me the most off guard was the quality of the story. It isn’t just a funny romp through a familiar world that I wanted to know more about. Very quickly, the game sneaks in emotional weight. There are real stakes here. Not shallow “live or die” stakes but things these characters care about. Flaws that damage their relationships. These characters do not leave the game the same as they went in. They develop, change, and undergo trauma.
In other words, this story, alongside the humor and brilliant characters, can really make you feel something. Even if you aren’t a fan of Borderlands, it’s well-worth playing.
Tales on the Switch
The Switch seems incredibly well suited to this game. You can sit in bed and play through the story while relaxing without having to worry about squinting at stuff on the screen. You get all the fun of a game with all the laziness of watching TV in bed. The game has aged well, and the time spent with these characters is well worth it.
For those on the Switch who wanted more of Borderlands, for old fans disappointed by the third entry or who were curious about some of the additional cast and even for gamers who just want a good story, Tales from the Borderlands coming to the Switch is a gift from an angel.