Developed by:Telltale Games Published by:Telltale Games Genre(s):
  • Adventure
  • Platform:
  • Handhelds
  • Microsoft
  • PC
  • Sony
  • Cost:$24.99 (For Full Season) ESRB Rating:MATURE Players:1 Release date:November 25, 2014 Reviewed on:PC

    Tales From The Borderlands: Episode 1: Zer0 Sum

    Telltale Games is one of the best developers when it comes to creating licensed-based games. Not only have they helped in revitalizing the adventure genre but they also raised the bar by emphasizing player choice. Despite these facts I was a little skeptical about their collaboration with Gearbox for Tales From The Borderlands. I mean, the franchise is 40% action and 50% loot (the last 10% is dedicated to story). How in the world would it translate to a slower paced, narrative-focused point and click drama? Pretty darn good if you ask me!

    Warning: The following review contains minor spoilers about previous Borderlands titles.

    Taking place after the events of Borderlands 2, “Zer0 Sum” opens up with the main characters being interrogated by a shadowy figure. Upon threats of violence, they both tell their sides of a story that’s led to their capture. On one side is Rhys, a Hyperion employee who has worked his way up the corporate ladder with the help of his friends. After the death of Hansom Jack, the Hyperion Corporation was in need of some new leadership leading to a possible promotion for Rhys. Unfortunately, his efforts were in vain as his rival, Hugo Vasquez “relieved” the most recent president of his duties and promoted himself. This led to some questionable actions on Rhys’ part, which lands him on Pandora with a briefcase full of stolen money. On the other side of the pond is a con artist named Fiona. She was working a job that could have her sitting pretty for the rest of her life. Her double dealings don’t go as planned though and as the bullets started flying she ends up running into Rhys. Long story short – craziness ensues, a shaky alliance was formed, and multiple bandits bit the dust. It’s a great time for everyone…who you know, isn’t brutally murdered by raving lunatics or blood-thirsty Skags.

    As the game progresses, gamers will take control of Rhys and Fiona as they both tell their side of story. Because these two aren’t the most trustworthy of individuals (and I assume because they don’t want to get on their captor’s bad side) both embellish their recalling of events. It’s rather funny how far they’ll go to make the other person look bad. At one point Fiona explains how her group was able to peacefully negotiate the terms of their alliance with Rhys and his friend – complete with random British accents and a spot of tea. Of course, this was met with a firm “what a minute…it didn’t go down like that” from Rhys before the truth is revealed.

    Because the story is written so that everyone can get a similar experience, the narrative doesn’t branch as much as I’d like. Similar to other Telltale games, the choices you make are more so about shaping your character than changing the plot. People will remember your actions (or lack thereof) which will have long lasting consequences. At the same time, the narrative is controlled to such a degree that it doesn’t allow for too many changes; you’re being ushered along a set path with the allusion of choice as your compass. While this isn’t a bad thing considering how much I enjoyed Telltale’s previous games, I feel that it’s a bit of a missed opportunity here. With each character telling what happened in a way that makes them look good, there was plenty of room for multiple interpretations. It’s quite easy to identify what really happened to both parties with the way lies are telegraphed (fake British accents) and the choices I made didn’t take me far enough off the guided path. This could be because it was the season premier though. Later episodes might allow for bigger changes, taking into account the choices players made in previous entries.

    What was really refreshing though was the fact that the two protagonists aren’t necessarily good. Sure, you can choose not to betray your friend or steal from a dying man in order to keep you morally centered. That said, this is Pandora; no one would fault you for being a little mean. Getting revenge, solving a dispute with bullets, running over a bandit – all of these things are well within the realm of what a “decent” person would do. This changes things a bit, at least for me, as I’m not concerned with shaping a model citizen. I’m concerned with survival which means I’ll need to be harsh. Especially to the psycho who wants to eat my eyes for breakfast!

    It isn’t just this type of moral ambiguity of Pandora that helped this game fit into the Borderlands universe. There is actual loot to be collected. Not in the billion guns variety, but in optional items like found money and bandit masks. During conflicts you’ll have QTE’s as well as shoot outs; you’ll control a loader bot who lays waste to enemies in spectacular fashion. There’s also the dark humor, nods to past, and crazy action segments involving large vehicles, à la Mad Max. Even the art style, which we’ve seen in past Telltale games, seemed to be created especially for this game. It just looks and feels like Borderlands even though you never pick up a gun.

    Telltale and Gearbox delivered a captivating premier episode. And while I enjoyed my first person experiences on Pandora, I want to see more of what Tales have to offer; there are so many interesting things about this universe that the shooters just passed over. The characters were likeable and voiced really well, even the villain – Patrick Warburton did a great job as Hugo Vasquez. Though, that could be because his voice just lends itself to humor. All and all, if you’re a fan of Borderlands or Telltale in general, you’re going to want to check out Zer0 Sum. I predict that the developer has another award winning series on their hands!



    The narrative is interesting and the gameplay is fun.



    The comic book look complements the cel shaded visuals from the previous games.



    The voice acting is always great.

    Replay Value:


    Seeing as how I didn’t see many different outcomes based on choices made, I’m thinking that most players will probably want to wait till the end to see how their choices play out.

    Final Score:


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