Tales from the Borderlands Zer0 Sum

Well, I liked it… I hadn’t expected to, particularly seeing I didn’t like the original FPS Borderlands, but here I am, ready to throw love over the Tales version. That’s how it is, and I’m OK with that. Who wants to play bad games anyway?

The first episode, “Zer0 Sum”, starts vaguely LeChuck’s Revenge like, with one of the two main characters, Rhys, telling a rather exaggerated version of what has happened up until that point. Really, if you like throwbacks to old LEC games (intended or otherwise), you’ll find a lot to like here. Small details are sprinkled around, and particularly Full Throttle seems to have been a source of inspiration for certain parts.

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"We need elTee to play this game… Add some Hunter S Thompson!" - Telltale design meeting (probably)

But I digress.

You control the two main characters, Rhys and Fiona, through what has to be Telltale’s funniest game since the third season of Sam & Max. Devil’s Playground is still one of my absolute favorite adventure games, and any comparison to it is about as a grand of a compliment I can give. (Feel free to print that on the box, Telltale!)

The story has a decidedly noir feel to it, with that neo-bend the Coen brothers often skew into. Derivative, definitely, but it works well, and the universe gives the story a lick of paint that makes it feel a bit fresher than it probably is.

Borderlands… Again, never cared for the game, but it’s apparent the setting lends itself to fun stories. The world of Pandora is beautifully bizarre, and the characters you interact with are perfectly over the top. This is not a subtle game, and that’s fine — going that route would’ve been pointless here.

The one thing I can think of, that you may miss out on, is the use of Rhys’s bionic eye. It’s needed to solve some “puzzles” — you know what to expect from Telltale by now — but its true usefulness comes to show when visiting less important locations. Use it to pull up information about the surrounding environments, and you’ll be treated to a few chuckles. Nothing that’s too important to the story, but still amusing.

As for the now standard Telltale puzzle-action sequences… They’re there, and they’re fine, but nowhere as heart pounding as The Wolf Among Us or as tense as those in Walking Dead.

And to loop this back to the references: Deus Ex seems to have its grubby fingerprints all over “Zer0 Sum”. I’m OK with that; who doesn’t like themselves some Human Revolution? Even the music has traces of it.

One episode in, and this is all looking promising. Very promising. The humor is great, the setting is bizarre, and the story is intriguing. The theme song might be Jared Emerson-Johnson’s finest work yet. Totally my kind of game — as opposed to the actual Borderlands.

With the cliffhanger twist, I’m very curious where this will be going.