“No! Please don’t send me back there! It’s not like they say! You don’t understand, there’s NOTHING there!” -Handsome Jack
This is the tale of how a game based on a FPS series made me feel conflicted towards the next game in that series. This is how Tales From The Borderlands made me sour on Borderlands 3.
For those few of you who are subscribed to the LosHarrowGames YouTube channel (sub here!), you can experience me playing the game. In all seriousness though, in the lead up to Borderlands 3 I decided to play the most recent game in the Borderlands franchise which was NOT worked on by Gearbox Software but Telltale Games at the height of its popularity hot off the heels of the massive success of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. At the time I had absolutely no interest in the game but I requested to be on a spoilercast for it because I am a podcast whore at heart. I was then told to play the first episode and from there I was hooked.
Like most of my blind playthrough’s I didn’t do the right thing and I was simply playing it as it were a different game. So earlier in the year for my next playthrough I intended it to be for a mini-series called “Telltale Tuesdays” and for this playthrough that eventually morphed into “Countdown to Borderlands 3“. I made sure to “think, think, and think” before making big choices and assessing situations. So in a sense I was role-playing as the characters. For Rhys, I was playing as someone who was an aspiring corporate player hoping to be the next Handsome Jack but less murder, more finger shooting. As for Fiona, I was channeling a con-artist who is longing for more than robbing, conning, or anything in between and over the course of the game would aspire to become a Vault Hunter.
I almost forgot to mention this, I’m incredibly sorry. Tales From The Borderlands takes place in certain points throughout the Borderlands timeline. Episode 1 and 2 take place after Borderlands 2 while 3 is more tied into Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Episode 4 and 5 is the downfall of Helios and technically the series is an unknown date in the future when Rhys and Fiona are captured by a mysterious person who is interested in a secret the two and more uncovered relating to something called “The Gortys Project”.
Throughout the five episodes they are recounting the events of the story to the mysterious man and in certain cases things are embellished for comedic effect, mostly by Fiona such as Rhys falling backwards off a railing and turning into a bloody mess, Rhys and Vaughn repeatedly saying Bro to each other, and more. Throughout the episodes you encounter other characters both good and bad such as Fiona’s sister Sasha, there’s Felix, the man who raised both Fiona and Sasha grooming them into the ultimate con artists, Yvette, who is Rhys and Vaughn’s friend who stayed on Hyperion and has a confrontation with Rhys later on. Then you have characters come in briefly who are mainstays of the Borderlands franchise like Handsome Jack from beyond the grave, Brick, Mordecai, Athena, Zer0, and more. But what I’m trying to get at is the fact that the most compelling characters aren’t the familiar faces, but the exact opposite in the new ones. The people at Telltale took a generic enemy from Borderlands 2 and made one of the most compelling characters in Loader Bot who is extremely well written.
Picking up where I left off in the “original characters were better than the mainstays” argument is Gortys. The only time in video games where I wanted two robots to fall in love. Gortys is introduced at the end of episode two of Tales From The Borderlands and is voiced by Ashley Johnson. OH MY GOD! The voice cast in this is astonishing as well. The four leads are voiced by Troy Baker (Rhys), Chris Hardwick (Vaughn), Fiona (Laura Bailey), and Sasha (Erin Yvette). But getting back to where I was, Gortys’ first line is in episode three where she has the innocence and naivety of a child before being told she is “older than she looks”. When the gang is getting ready to leave the area after the thrill ride that was Atlas Mugged, a character who gets brutally murdered by someone Felix warned Fiona and Sasha about in episode two, Gortys is trying to pull the leg of the character who was murdered saying “C’mon slowpoke time’s a wasting!” and you can be blunt and say the characters is dead or “he’s sleeping” which in videos online I’ve seen more people choose the latter. After I finished episode 4 and went into five I realized/remembered Gortys is the bow that is holding everything together. Even to the point where at a point in the last episode there was a mass reunion set in place by the mysterious person who kidnapped Rhys and Fiona in an effort to get things right and shows the magic of friendship. Not just that but how a white collar man could do something that tough badasses toting guns could do in the case of Rhys and what seemed like limitless potential Fiona had to be a Vault Hunter.
Now let’s get to last week when I woke up earlier than usual and decided to play Borderlands 3 despite what people had said about it being bad as I felt a certain loyalty to Gearbox after over a decade going back to Brothers In Arms in 2008 and Borderlands the next year. I was playing the game and it felt like a regular Borderlands game when 40-45 minutes in I encounter a character from Tales and I lose my mind and to quote a friend “was speaking in code” trying not to ruin the reveal. But I noticed something else, the character felt different and not in a good way. But in a 90’s Disney straight-to-DVD character from Michael Eisner’s time as boss. And then it just kept getting worse as if the writers weren’t given anything positive to do with the characters from Tales From The Borderlands and I don’t blame them after all it is a Borderlands game they are writing and no one until Tales played Borderlands played the first, second, and pre-sequel for the story. Then again one of the writers for the game Sam Winkler was a huge fan of the game and incorporated some characters in the game and even said he’d love to write a Season 2 and tied up the loose ends now that Telltale Games has risen from the dead. You can find the story GamesRadar did here.
One of the big things that happened during the entirety of Borderlands 3 reveal until it’s release was the bad press Randy Pitchford was getting. One of the things we talked about on an episode of the podcast about Pitchford losing some sensitive data on a flash drive at a Medieval Times which was very bizarre. Then there was the trailer that showed the man, the myth, the Hero of Hyperion: Rhys. When asked if Baker would be reprising the role Pitchford said that Troy Baker was asking for insane numbers to paraphrase what Pitchford said. There was even rumors Baker wanted no involvement at all which GamesRadar reported on in an article you can find here. I still gave it a shot past the 45 minutes I first played because the game is very fun and I wanted to at least see how Rhys turned out.
When I reached Promethea as you can do in the game you discover Maliwan is trying to attempt a hostile takeover of Atlas which Rhys uses in Tales From The Borderlands to get back on his feet. After reaching the communication area I turned the game off and stopped playing and haven’t played since. It felt like the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale “All Good Things” where everyone drifts further away from each other and Picard has to fix the timeline. During my time in the game the only Tales From The Borderlands characters I encountered were Rhys and Vaughn. The thing I thought more than anything else was why wouldn’t Vaughn join Rhys at Atlas or why did the two characters who seemed the most like best friends break apart. One of the things Fiona asks Rhys in Tales From The Borderlands in the last episode is if he is going to follow in the footsteps of Jack and Rhys says he wants to follow his own path. It’s hard to tell what changed the character in the time between Tales and Borderlands 3.