A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tales from the Borderlands is a downloadable, story-driven adventure game. The bulk of play involves listening to dialogue and choosing responses. Most characters are criminals, and conversations frequently focus on illegal activities like stealing. Expect frequent strong language, including "s--t" and "f--k." Occasional combat includes a brief sequence in which players take control of a robot that uses machine guns and missiles to kill more than a dozen humans, blood spraying from their wounds. Another chapter involves a brief tour of a museum of curiosities in which dead and mutilated people are posed and displayed. A few female characters are provocatively dressed. While Tales from the Borderlands is episodic in nature, it's based on a series of very popular (and even more violent) first-person shooters.
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What's it about?
Based on Gearbox Software's popular Borderlands sci-fi RPG first-person shooters, TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS follows Rhys, an embittered Hyperion Corp. executive, and Fiona, a hustler raised on the Wild West-like planet of Pandora. Their worlds collide when Rhys, assisted by his nerdy accountant friend Vaughn, steals $10 million in corporate funds to purchase a valuable alien artifact owned by Fiona and her sister, Sasha. Told in flashbacks from both characters' perspectives, the tale is full of bungled deals, half-baked schemes, and a heap of side characters with big personalities, including some whom series fans will recognize. Most of the game takes place in the form of conversations. The protagonist's responses are chosen in branching dialogue trees, which means the story plays out differently for each player. Action sequences exist but are less frequent than conversations. Combat requires players to tap buttons to dodge attacks, pick up items, and strike enemies according to on-screen cues.
Is it any good?
Tales from the Borderlands follows the proven formula Telltale Games applied in The Wolf Among Us and the first two seasons of The Walking Dead. Driven by a twisty crime-caper-gone-wrong plot and a big cast of funny, memorable characters, the story is the heart of the experience. The flashback-style delivery makes for some unexpected surprises, and the jokey protagonists -- especially Rhys -- deliver darkly comic one-liners sharp enough to leave the audience giggling aloud. Players' decisions have a marked impact on how things unfold, determining the specifics of key events and deciding who lives and dies. This interactivity is merely the gravy on this delectable interactive yarn.
Sadly, the action sequences aren't as compelling as the story. Combat is often nicely choreographed and can be just as funny as the conversations, but interactions are mainly composed of players following cues to tap buttons or nudge their joysticks. These are neither challenging nor particularly interesting. Such quick-time events can work well when used sparingly, but they're so frequent here that they become tedious. The good news is that the bulk of players' time is spent engaged in the much more compelling conversations, which means Tales from the Borderlands is still a big win for older gamers looking for an engaging interactive story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in games like Tales from the Borderlands. Is the violence OK because of the game's art style and tongue-in-cheek nature, or is it hard to justify a violent game like this?
Discuss why some games, movies, and books feature antiheroes, people who do bad things but also are sympathetic. Why do you think these stories interest audiences? What qualities do these characters have that make us like them despite their poor behavior?
- Platforms: Mac, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Price: $5
- Pricing structure: Paid (Each episode costs $5. The full season of five episodes can be purchased in advance for $25.)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: 2K Games
- Release date: November 25, 2014
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Robots, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: M for Violence, Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Strong Language
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.