Welcome back to the Water Cooler! Today we’re talking about TellTale Games’ latest, Tales from the Borderlands. Transcript under the cut.
JAYLEE: Hello and welcome back to the Push to Smart water cooler. This week we are heading back to the deep world of Telltale Games for one of their latest outings which is Tales from the Borderlands which takes place in, of course, the Borderlands franchise. The first episode is Zer0 Sum and it’s very different from The Walking Dead which is really their darling.
STACEY: Well I think first we should say we came to this from a very different kind of perspectives. You came from this having played at least one of the Borderlands games and I have not.
JAYLEE: Yeah, I beat the first one. But I haven’t really gone on in the series.
JAYLEE: And this game takes place after the events of Borderlands 2 so I’m not sure if I’m missing much, but would you say its accessible to people who haven’t played the franchise?
STACEY: I mean, I think so. It kind of sets the stage immediately like: okay, cutthroat space corporation. Got it. And to me at least that seems like all you really need to know.
JAYLEE: Yeah. And then desert craphole on the planet and you’re good to go.
STACEY: Are you finding there’s a lot of in-jokes or references that you’re noticing as some who has played the games? Or is it just…
JAYLEE: Not really. I mean, the games aren’t like story-heavy per se. They’re just a lot of fun.
JAYLEE: So. It starts in the Hyperion space station and Rhys is hoping to get a promotion and things don’t work out just as he expected and we are very quickly introduced to this cutthroat business oriented world and Rhys’s closest friends. Then we get knocked down to Pandora pretty quickly there.
STACEY: I will say I was pretty confused at first. They have that scene where he’s getting the talk about how the previous boss didn’t have the right stuff and there’s like this body goes floating through space and it zooms in on it and you’re like “Oh my god, it’s him!” Except I didn’t realize it was him. I couldn’t figure what it was at first and I thought it was him imagining himself out in space.
JAYLEE: (Laughs) Oh.
STACEY: I was like “What’s happening? I don’t understand.” So I was a little bit worried with that starter. I was like “What’s going on here?” (Laughs)
JAYLEE: “What have I gotten myself into?”
STACEY: “I’m not following this at all!”
JAYLEE & STACEY: (Laughs)
JAYLEE: One thing that I really liked about this episode is that is just kind of reminded me of how funny Tellltale can be and has been in the past. Yeah, I was just cracking up laughing out loud to a bunch of different things. Like, just when he’s on the space station early on in the game and he kicks over the trashcan
LOUDSPEAKER: “Senior Vice Janitor Rhys to sector D451 for trash clean up. Because that is your job now: to clean up trash with your bare hands.
RHYS: Sorry, you were saying something? I interrupted you.
STACEY: Which, that’s something we can talk about. We have two protagonists in this game.
JAYLEE: That is my favorite thing about this game.
JAYLEE: What I love about the multiple protagonists is that it really kind of drives the unreliable narrator idea.
JAYLEE: And I’ve heard in the past some people kind of say that Clementine could be seen as an unreliable narrator which I don’t really buy because so much of the game is invested in you completely inhabiting her which doesn’t leave much room for her to be… unreliable.
STACEY: I never saw reason to doubt that what she was– what we were seeing wasn’t actually happening, but I don’t necessarily think that being an unreliable narrator inhibits us from investing in a character. Usually in games when we have someone that’s unreliable, be it the narrator or focalizer it’s to dramatic results.
STACEY: And here it’s definitely to service comedy.
JAYLEE: The thing that I love about this game is that you’re actively rewarded for being an unreliable narrator with hilarious scenes. These things where it’s like you know there’s no way that this was a smooth transaction, but you still say it, and then you’re treated to this ridiculous scene where they’re having a tea party discussing it.
STACEY: I did not get that one! (Laughs)
JAYLEE: Oh my god, it’s so good!
JAYLEE: Another thing I love about having these two protagonists is, when you’re playing as Clementine there’s so much pressure on you to be capable and to always do the right thing, but in this game it’s really fun to play Rhys as this completely incompetent character.
STACEY: It’s Office Space… In space.
STACEY: Kind of?
JAYLEE: His interactions with Sasha when you make him this incompetent (laughs) guy are just hilarious.
STACEY: And they kind of play with it too, like instead of having the usual “Sasha will remember this” it’s “You trusted Sasha not to beat you senseless” appearing up top.
JAYLEE: Yeah! (Laughs)
JAYLEE: Or the moment you’re trying to sneak up on the guard, you and Sasha, and Sasha just handles it. (Laughs) Oh my god, it’s just such a joyous game!
STACEY: It is, though I will say one of the things I almost don’t like about it is, the conversations are still timed as per the Telltale standard, but the characters keep talking as you’re trying to make your decision and some of the things they’re saying are so funny, and I don’t want to cut them off cause I want to hear the rest of it.
JAYLEE: Oh, I know. Yeah. That is a big drawback. Is sometimes I was like, I knew what I was going to say right away and I’d input it but I was really hoping they were going to finish their thought at least.
STACEY: Yeah. Like there was one in particular where this guard walks up to your friend and he’s just like “I’m so sorry, this is really rude, but I just don’t like your face” and it was like, no I want to see the rest of this! (Laughs)
JAYLEE: Yeah, that was the exact one I was thinking about too. (Laughs)
STACEY: He was so sincere about it, too. “I’m so sorry…” (Laughs)
JAYLEE: I haven’t connected this hard to characters this quickly in a long time.
JAYLEE: I mean, with Wolf Among Us I think a big part of what made me like the game so quickly was that I had read Fables, that I did know who these characters are. And these are all brand-new characters for the most part, and there was such a strong hook in the beginning for basically all of their personalities and their interactions that I was just floored.
STACEY: I also really liked, the one line where he says with a straight face: “I will name my firstborn after Loaderbot” or something like that.
JAYLEE: Yeah. (Laughs)
STACEY: And that kind of like, for me kind of set the stage. Like, okay this is just going to be ridiculous throughout the entire game.
JAYLEE: Even Loaderbot is a great character.
STACEY: Yeah. (Laughs)
STACEY: I have a question for you, I was looking at the choices right now and I don’t think this was in the choices, but there’s this big to-do made in the beginning when Fiona is given the gun with a single bullet.
JAYLEE: Ahhh, yeah.
STACEY: And you have two chances to use it. Have you used it yet?
JAYLEE: I have. Have you?
JAYLEE: Oh! Then I will be very interested to see where that goes.
STACEY: Yeah, I’m wondering if that was just like a one episode thing because they gave you two chances to use it but I was just wondering about that.
JAYLEE: I was very stingy with my money, too.
JAYLEE & STACEY: (Laughs)
JAYLEE: I was like “Oh god, I could use this. I could use this” and really the only time I was like “Oh I have to use this” was when you were picking out a mask and even then I went for the cheapest option because it was the kind of iconic Borderlands Psycho mask.
STACEY: I think I chose like the mid-range one. Oh! It tells me what I’ve chosen. I chose the Steve mask.
JAYLEE: Oh, you did?
STACEY: Whichever one that was.
JAYLEE: Another thing that kind of drives home the absurdity of the game is that there’s also this narrative that keeps on intersecting with yours which is between Zer0 and Bossanova and that one feels more like, heroic vendetta happening.
JAYLEE: And you just keep getting in the way and you ultimately get him killed.
STACEY: It’s like in any other game that is what you would be doing.
STACEY: And then, no, you’re just these bumbling side NPCs who just kind of keep falling in there. (Laughs)
JAYLEE: And it was just– Oh, it was so rewarding.
STACEY: There was some more game-y aspects to it as far as customizing things. Loaderbot and firing.
STACEY: Yeah. I, and I’m looking at the screenshots of my choices and they say, like, “Loading up your Loaderbot to unload upon the bandits is a fine art. Customization is key to a stylish kill.” Because apparently I took a screenshot when it was talking about machineguns and rockets.
STACEY: It just, I don’t know what or if they can go anywhere with that because it felt very arbitrary. I don’t know.
JAYLEE: Oh I definitely feel like it was just to customize your scene.
STACEY: Okay, because I wasn’t sure even when I was making that choice what the difference these are going to make. They all seem pretty destructive, so I’m just going to do it. So i don’t know if that’s going to be something they build on or if it’s just going to putter out after this. That was the only thing that kind of put me off a little bit in this episode because it felt very not in tune with the rest of the episode I guess. But I did like the new scan feature. So normally in Telltale Games you walk around, you click on random things that you’re able to click on to get information or to get the character to say something about it and now you have the ability, at least while playing as Rhys to scan certain things to use his mechanical computer eye thing and get even more background information. Which was good for me a little bit too because it kind of set the tone for what’s going on in this world I’m unfamiliar with.
JAYLEE: It was a nice way to add flavortext to the mix.
JAYLEE: So, shall we talk about our choices?
STACEY: I think so.
STACEY: Let’s start with Rhys.
JAYLEE: Okay, I played it within a week of when it came out, so we’ll see how it is.
STACEY: Yeah, I played it like a week ago.
JAYLEE: (Laughs) So, did you tell Loaderbot to evacuate?
STACEY: I did.
JAYLEE: So did I and when I played it 65.7% did as well.
STACEY: Yeah, right now it’s still pretty up there but 63.2%.
JAYLEE: So what about Sasha? Did you trust her?
STACEY: I sure did.
STACEY’S DOG TIFA BARKS IN THE BACKGROUND.
STACEY: What are you doing dog?
STACEY: Tifa did not.
JAYLEE: Tifa did not!
STACEY: I did.
JAYLEE & STACEY: (Laughs)
STACEY: And for me the stat is 84.3% of players trusted her, is that the same for you?
JAYLEE: Mine is 85.6, so just a little bit.
STACEY: (Gasps) It’s gone down.
JAYLEE: Yeah, people aren’t as trustworthy now.
STACEY: Apparently not. Like Tifa.
JAYLEE & STACEY: (Laughs)
JAYLEE: I can’t even remember this choice, though. “Choosing Vaughn?” Choosing Vaughn for what?
STACEY: Oh! You scratch his balls he’ll scratch yours.
JAYLEE & STACEY: (Laugh)
JAYLEE: Yeah, I chose… not to scratch the balls. I chose my good pal, Vaughn.
STACEY: (Sustained laughing)
JAYLEE: When I did it it was 91.9% of players.
STACEY: It’s gone down! People are choosing to scratch the balls. (Laughs)
JAYLEE: And this one is a bit more split for me. I chose the machine gun and rockets, and that was 49% when I chose it.
STACEY: Yeah, I did too and it was 49.5 now. That was one choice I was like “I don’t know what the difference is but okay.”
JAYLEE: But I’m going to choose rockets.
STACEY: Anyways, Fiona’s choices. Okay so when I played a week ago, I and 42.2% of players kept my cool.
STACEY: And I think that was when August put the paint on his face after touching the–
JAYLEE: Oh my god, he put paint on his face?
STACEY: Did you not get that?
JAYLEE: No, because me (and 56% of people) grabbed his hand away before he touched it.
STACEY: (Laughs) I let him touch it and he like pulls his hands away and rubs his face and gets purple paint all over it. (Laughs)
JAYLEE: (Laughs) That is… Amazing.
STACEY: Okay, so for the next choice I and 85.9% of players let Shade accompany me.
JAYLEE: Oh it’s gone down.
JAYLEE: Mine was 86.3%
STACEY: Well I and 34.5% of players warned Felix.
JAYLEE: And what happened?
STACEY: And that was about the bomb.
STACEY: He threw it away before it exploded. Probably the same as what happened as if you didn’t my guess is.
JAYLEE: So me and 35.1% of players shot Felix and he exploded.
JAYLEE: Yeah, so he opened it and as he’s opening it he says “You were always my favori-” and then he dies.
STACEY: And you still shot him?
JAYLEE: I shot him before he started opening it because I was really pissed off and I felt like Fiona would be not really a forgiving person to double-cross based on her history.
STACEY: I would get that, but at the same time she only had one bullet.
STACEY: I’m holding on to that Chekhov gun.
STACEY: So then I and 34.3% of players purchased the Steve mask as we previously discussed. You obviously got the cheapest mask because you’re a cheapskate.
JAYLEE: That I am! Me and 41% of players.
STACEY: It’s really fun. I hope they can keep it up because the trend for the Telltale Games, at least the ones I’ve been playing lately has been like, besides maybe the first season of The Walking Dead that just got pretty much consistently better, The Walking Dead season two and The Wolf Among Us both kind of like built, built, built and ehhhh at the end. (Laughs)
STACEY: So I really hope this keeps it up.
JAYLEE: I hope it does too, and I have a bit more, maybe this is misplaced but I have a bit more faith that it will because it’s not as– The stakes aren’t very high.
STACEY: No, (Laughs) because they’re just NPCs wandering into everybody else’s–
JAYLEE: Yeah. And you don’t really expect them to win, you know? And you also don’t expect everyone to die off if they’re deterministic whether you help them or not. So, I feel like since they have a bit more wiggle room in what kind of narrative Tales from the Borderlands will become, that it won’t do that. And that’s fun because you know, Walking Dead can be very emotionally fulfilling but it can also be very draining.
STACEY: Yes, it is very draining.
JAYLEE: And this is like, I just felt energized after playing it. Like “Yeah, Video Games! Yeah!” (Laughs)
STACEY: I went and bought the song on iTunes.
JAYLEE: So did my boyfriend!
JAYLEE & STACEY: (Laughs)
JAYLEE: Just like, yeah, “Too Busy Earning!”
STACEY: Like literally immediately the credits start rolling and I’m like “I’m getting this song off iTunes.”
JAYLEE: And then if it becomes terrible then you’ll never be able to listen to the song again.
STACEY: Oh no, don’t say that.
JAYLEE: Because it will remind you of what was.
STACEY: Or it’ll be my game of the year.
JAYLEE & STACEY: One episode! (Laughs)
JAYLEE: So that does it for our watercooler discussion on the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands. We obviously had a ball with the game, and then we scratched that ball.
JAYLEE & STACEY: (Laugh)
JAYLEE: So let us know in the comments what you thought about the episode, and definitely fill us in on the world of Borderlands, what we may have missed having not played the games, or in my case, having forgotten most of the game. And don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on all of our latest episodes and water cooler discussions, and come back next week where we’ll be talking about this month’s Games Club selection, which is Never Alone.