On the second day of E3 I was led into a small, dark theater for a live demonstration of the first half hour of Telltale Games' Borderlands title. Here is what I saw.
Obviously, Spoiler Warning for the first 30 minutes of Tales from the Borderlands and for Borderlands 2.
Before beginning the demo, the PR team assured everyone that the game was about 85-90% complete in most places and that any awkward or stilted animations were due to the game being incomplete. With that, Borderlands as told by Telltale began.
Tales from the Borderlands begins with a clandestine meeting between main characters Rhys, Fiona, and a mysterious wasteland samurai-type character. Both Rhys and Fiona are surprised to see each other and initially refuse to work together until the samurai forces them to tell their respective stories. Rhys begins with his side of the story.
The Hyperion corporation has descended into a strange corporate bloodbath since the death of Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. Rhys is an eager corporate climber who has almost made it to the Handsome Jack's office. Unfortunately, his jerky acquaintance Vasquez (voiced by the hilarious Patrick Warburton) beat him to the seat of power. In a threat-filled meeting with Vasquez, Rhys happens to overhear that a deal for a Vault Key will be going down on Pandora in the next couple of hours. Eager to hog the glory a Vault Key would bring, Rhys and two of his friends concoct a scheme to beat Vasquez to the deal and purchase it for themselves. As anyone who has played a Borderlands game could tell you, plans made involving Pandora rarely end well.
At this point in the demo, a few things were readily apparent. Telltale has gone to great lengths to emulate the style of the Borderlands franchise; it really does look right at home next to Borderlands 1 and 2. However, while it has the look of a Borderlands game, it maintains the mechanics of traditional Telltale adventures like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The timed conversation options return, but this time there are also opportunities to examine objects, people, sounds, etc. with technology that Rhys has had embedded into his body. Though similar to more recent Telltale games, Tales from the Borderlands diverges in its tone. Whereas The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us are fairly dark and grim, Tales from the Borderlands embraces the series penchant for humor and I often found myself chuckling and outright laughing.
The plan to beat Vasquez to the Vault Key appears to go smoothly right up until Rhys and company try to interact with one of the Pandora-dwellers whom they affectionately refer to as Grease Face. Understandably, Grease Face doesn't take kindly to Hyperion employees calling him Grease Face. As a fight seems to be imminent, Rhys calls down a combat ready robot from Hyperion headquarters. There are additions to the gameplay that could prove interesting in later episodes. There are loot crates and money that can be picked up and used to bribe characters or buy items, though we never saw how this mechanic would work in-game. The robot Rhys calls upon can be outfitted with different weapons prior to being called down and player's decisions regarding its loadout will affect how the battle progresses.
After Rhys escapes the enraged Grease Face and his crew, he makes it to the meeting with the Vault Key dealers. After some tense dialogue and a standoff between the two parties, Rhys straight up rips a guy's heart out. At this point, Fiona interrupts to tell the samurai that Rhys' description of how the standoff ended was a complete lie. She begins to tell her version of the story and how she was there to see what happened and depending on her response three wildly different versions of events can be created.
With that, the demo ended. I'm still not sure that the five part Tales from the Borderlands will be able to deliver the same dramatic punches that The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us have proved capable of pulling, but that might not be an issue if it can sustain its level of comedy. Overall, I found Tales from the Borderlands entertaining. I'm still not completely sold on the concept, but I'm willing to strap myself in for another Telltale adventure when it releases later this summer on PC, XBLA, and PSN.