Hi readers, watchers, and listeners! It’s Mod Zan with a game review for your reading pleasure. I already talked about how my game of the month was Tales from the Borderlands, but since I’ve finally finished it up I felt that it was time to sit down and give it a thorough review so that you can decide whether or not it’s something that you want to pick up for yourselves!
In my review, I’ll cover Visual and Audio, Gameplay, Story, and then give you my final thoughts. All of these will be coming from a feminist perspective to give you the most accurate overview of the game.
Visual and Audio:
This is a telltale game and a Borderlands game. Therefore, the graphics aren’t going to be mind-blowingly realistic and unrealistically beautiful. However, seeing the two games come together was incredible, particularly since their styles are so similar. The art style was a perfect combination and made me feel like the game I was playing really mattered in the scope of the Borderlands universe. The game also preserved the feeling of the Borderlands universe in its backgrounds and its character models, which worked well.
From a feminist perspective, the characters were all well-made and didn’t have a lot of the usual issues that often come with female characters. Borderlands is better than most about including well-made ladies but isn’t immune from the design flaws that often appear in their costumes.
In this game, the costumes all made sense and didn’t show a ton of skin just for the sake of it, though I might add that Moxxxi was absent from this game for the most part short of a brief voice-only cameo.
And speaking of audio, the soundtrack to this game was nothing short of excellent. I ended up downloading many of the songs that they played during the intro credits for me to listen to on my own time. Overall, they did really well with the design and graphics for this game and it all worked together really nicely with a few exceptions that I’ll mention later in the game.
The gameplay is a classic for a telltale game. Choice based, occasional combat but mainly operates through quick time events and button mashing prompts. To go into some more technical aspects, I’d like to say right now that I started attempting to play this on my Xbox 360 with my roommate. The game glitched so intensely by episode 4 (and not to mention all of the glitches that skipped dialogue and exposition in earlier episodes) that it was completely unplayable. I was only able to play it on my PS4, where I didn’t have any issues. If you are going to buy this game, don’t get it for the last gen because you will be wasting your money.
Telltale historically has had problems with glitchy games before, and this one is not an exception if you’re purchasing for last gen. It’s pretty unacceptable, and I haven’t seen any attempt from their end to solve this problem, which is disconcerting at best. Regardless, the gameplay was well integrated with the story and made for an excellent experience when it worked.
And here we are, at the big player in this game. The story is integral to this game as it is with every telltale game. Borderlands and Borderlands 2, however, are usually not games that are renown for their epic storylines as standalones. When you put them together, along with the Pre-Sequel and all of the DLC you get an intense (but somewhat convoluted) epic story that spans multiple parties of people and even planets. Tales from the Borderlands is by far one of the best stories that I’ve seen so far out of all of the Borderlands games I’ve played. The characters are incredibly endearing and have distinct personalities that all work very well together.
Fiona and Rhys both being playable was a wonderful method to the game and gave you some variety in a story-based game that could be easy to stagnate. There was consistent action throughout each episode, and it was well-paced. I never wanted an episode to be over so that I could finally get to a new point in the story. I loved each character, and they never prioritized the male characters over the female characters. There is a canon gay relationship, and it’s two of the most dangerous/skilled women in the game. In intense emotional scenes, the relationship between two sisters is portrayed as the deepest.
It’s a perfect culmination of action, adventure, friendship, romance, and humor. That being said, the representation in this game from a feminist perspective has its good points and bad ones.
The main villains are (as always) Handsome Jack, a man with complete confidence in his moral and personal superiority regardless of how many horrific acts he commits, and Valerie, an older crime overlord who lugs around a giant rocket launcher and has no problem murdering whoever she needs to get what she wants. It’s nice to see an older woman represented in a game with her age, weight, and appearance never being mentioned in a negative light.
However, when it comes to racial representation the game is sorely lacking. One of the main characters who is white has dreads (and granted, she could be a black person with incredibly light skin, but I think that’s a bit of a long shot.) There are only two people of color that I can recall from the game, and one of them turns out to be a backstabber, and the other worked for an evil corporation and now lives in one of their derelict facilities in hiding.
Though the game has good gender representation and some representation in sexuality, its racial representation has a lot to be desired. Though I loved this game, I hope to see a lot more from Telltale in the future when it comes to representation as well as the mechanical functioning of their games.
Overall, Tales from the Borderlands gets a 7/10 overall: a 10/10 on Story, 9/10 on Visual and Audio, and a 3.5/10 for Representation. If you can pick it up, you should while it’s still free. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!
– Mod Zan