“Please stop shooting me.” Loader Bot
“If you have a pulse and aren’t easily offended, you’ll love it.”
VB|Gamesbeat (96/100 gamescore)
Most Christians may not be all that familiar with the Borderlands series of games, considering that they’re quite violent and gory. I’m not here to review or warn you away from the regular Borderlands video games, but I can tell you about the first episode of the new interactive story series, Tales from the Borderlands. This first installment of the five-part series came out on November 25, 2014, with the next episode (“Atlas Mugged”) planned for release during the last week of January 2015.
But what are episodic games? Episodic games are not totally new, but the genre got a real boost with the popularity of the continuing The Walking Dead series (based on a comic book series), the first of which came out in 2012. On the coattails of this game’s popularity, the developer of The Walking Dead, Telltale Games, made (in conjunction with the makers of Borderlands: Gearbox Software and 2K Games) and released the first Tales from the Borderlands episode. Episodic games are sort-of like a cross between reading a book or watching a show and playing a role playing game (RPG). The player is given choices in dialogue as the story moves along, and these choices define which branch of the storyline tree the player continues to move along. The storyline tree makes for built-in replayabliity.
Since the Borderlands franchise is a popular one, success of this spin-off seems assured. However, for anyone who has shied away from Borderlands because of its apparent joy over blood and gruesome death ways, this new episodic series might be of more interest. The regular Borderlands video games are shooter-heavy action-adventure role playing games (RPGs) (being linear, “RPG” may be a very loose description of Borderlands), so shooting things—lots of things, sometimes for long periods—is the main activity. With this new interactive episodic series, however, the player primarily goes through the game as if actively walking through a comic book, and there is very little shooting (!).
Tales from the Borderlands is rated M for mature. It closely relates to the regular game series by taking place on the prison planet Pandora, while depicting comic book blood, gore, and violence. But, there are less of those unpleasantries than in the regular games. Also in relation to the main game series is the liberal use of humor; I would say that, based on episode one (titled “Zer0 Sum”), there is even more humor in this new series. My son (17) and I certainly had lots of laugh-out-loud moments during the first episode playthroughs. And, he was actually surprised at how tame this game is compared to Borderlands itself and to The Walking Dead series. Perhaps the most amazing difference is the fact that shooting is replaced with both story and character development—you even get to have (funny) conversations with Pandora’s criminal population (instead of just . . . shooting them).(1)
One of the more humorous and endearing aspects of “Sum Zer0” is the character Loader Bot and your relationship with him. You can’t help but love Loader Bot, at least while you’re playing Rhys (pronounced “Reece”).(2) Most of Loader Bot’s quotes—like, “The metal is willing but the spirit is weak”–can be found at its Wikia page, although you would need to experience the action and timing to fully appreciate them. Missing from the list is Loader Bot’s greeting to Rhys upon seeing him a second time, “Righteous father, I have found you.” (3) Earlier, a thankful Rhys said, “I’ll name my first born son Loader Bot.” Loader Bot and other characters make references to a variety of video games, too, which add humor if you get them.
The game is available for all systems and the episodes are relatively inexpensive. Although Tales from the Borderlands is a bit on the gory side, its hilarious and endearing qualities far outweigh that issue for me. I love great writing and presentation in entertainment and being made to delightfully guffaw, so Tales from the Borderlands fits the whole bill.
1. I was reminded of the comedic Civil Protection series of videos made about the Half-Life games, where we see the human side of the enemy called “Combine.”
2. Without giving away too much of the story (there are no shortage of spoilers around the web), you play as two characters, the other being the female con artist Fiona. Rhys is a Hyperion corporation employee bent on getting his position back after the murderous Hugo Vasquez demotes him to assistant vice janitor.
3. This event happens if the right choice is made earlier, which in this case is that when Loader Bot is severely damaged, you order him to evacuate/transport out instead of self-destructing.