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What We Learned About Tales From The Borderlands From SXSW

While the Borderlands series has been one that has engaged and enthralled gamers worldwide, it is a little disappointing that the only lens through which you can explore the colorful and untamed worlds of Pandora is the one behind the gun of the series’ vault hunters. Gearbox are looking to remedy this and offer fans of the series another fix of the game’s dark and quirky humor through the upcoming Tales From The Borderlands series from episodic aficionados Telltale Games.

Last weekend at the recent SXSW Festival in Austin Telltale and Gearbox got together to host a panel giving the first details and a brief glimpse at the game. The panel brought together Harrison Pink (the lead designer of Tales From The Borderlands), Matthew Armstrong (the franchise director of Borderlands), Anthony Burch (Lead writer of Borderlands 2) and Kevin Bruner (one of the co-founders of Telltale Games). The whole panel is available online but Leviathyn has the breakdown on all the new details we learned about the game.

Who Are The Two Characters The Game Will Follow?

The Borderlands universe is one full of all sorts of characters but when the trailer for Tales From The Borderlands was revealed it centered on two characters that players haven’t seen before. During the panel Telltale elaborated and introduced the two characters as Rhys and Fiona.

Rhys is a character with ties to Hyperion and while he hasn’t directly been involved with Handsome Jack, Telltale did confirm that Jack’s actions during Borderlands 2 have definitely had an impact on him and that’s something that will be explored in the game. Pink also elaborated that whilst hacking is Rhys’ primary skill, they are looking to make it take more of an active role in scenes than video games usually do.

In comparison Fiona is a con-artist who is running out of luck, time and money. Where Rhys is more suited to ‘white-collar’ crime, she’s someone who has been born and bred in the gritty depths of Pandora and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She’s entirely a creation of the Telltale side of the project and as the panelists noted, more or less devoid of the cleavage and sexualization that the series has featured in the past. In comparison to Rhys’ hacking skills, Fiona will use what the panelists called ‘fast-talk’ to bewilder and persuade other characters.

The two look like a very interesting pairing and while the panel indicated that the game would explore how the two meet and also potentially touch on a relationship between them.

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How Much Involvement Does Gearbox Have With The Project?

From the impressions that the panel gave of the game, it’s clear that Gearbox have just as much appreciation for Telltale’s storytelling as Telltale do for Gearbox’s colorful universe, and the two companies are just as excited to be collaborating as gamers are to see them. One of the most exciting details to come out of the panel was that this partnership goes beyond the two companies sharing assets with Anthony Burch and Matthew Armstrong consulting on the project. It’s good to hear the pair will be directly on-board with the project to help Telltale nail the unique style of humor and over-the-top action that characterizes Borderlands.

How Will The Two Protagonists Work?

All of Telltale’s previous efforts have generally centered on one protagonist at a time but Tales of the Borderlands is looking to shake things up by offering players two different protagonists – Rhys and Fiona. The game will be structured around alternating between the two characters and from the way that the panelists talked about them, neither of these protagonists are reliable narrators and will each offer their own “Big Fish version of what happened”. Telltale did also comment on the question of whether having two playable characters would open their formula of adventure gaming up to the two players but confirmed the game wouldn’t feature co-op play.

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When Does It Fit Into The Borderlands Timeline?

While there was initially a lot of speculation that Tales From The Borderlands would feature a younger Handsome Jack when the game was first announced last year, Telltale confirmed at the panel that the game will be set after Borderlands 2 and its DLC. In fact, they elaborated by claiming that Tales from the Borderlands will directly address the consequences of the events in Borderlands 2. They also added that while the game is definitely not Borderlands 3 (which STILL isn’t in development), it will be considered canon and that means it’s definitely possible that characters from the series could appear in Gearbox’s next loot-based shooter.

Can We Expect Some Series Favorites To Return?

The Telltale devs confirmed that other Borderlands characters would make an appearance but didn’t give any details. They made it clear that they want Tales of the Borderlands to be a story where Rhys and Fiona are the central focus. That said Armstrong confirmed that, “it wouldn’t be a Borderlands game without Claptrap”. The panelists did touch on the…problematic presence of Handsome Jack in the game’s initial trailer but refused to offer a real explanation.

How Many Episodes Can We Expect?

History has shown that five is the magic number when it comes to episodes in a Telltale season, but they refrained from confirming that Tales From The Borderlands would follow this pattern. Whether that means they are still nailing down details or the length of the series is unknown but it’s still fun to speculate. Gearbox have a good track-record when it comes to long-term DLC support (Hell, DLC for Borderlands 2 is STILL coming out) and for all we know Tales of the Borderlands could be the kind of episodic world-building that keeps getting new installments for far longer than Telltale’s other series.

Tales from the Borderlands is coming in 2014; platforms have yet to be announced.



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