Tales from the Borderlands Episode One: Zer0 Sum Review


Telltale Games has established quite a pedigree over the past few years. They came out of nowhere with the wildly successful first season of The Walking Dead after having decent success with titles such as Back to the Future and Jurassic Park.They took a shot in the dark with The Wolf Among Us and turned it into a must-play as well. Their newest game, Tales from the Borderlands, surprised many people when it was announced. Now that the game is out though, it’s no surprise at all that it is a must-play.

It's also no surprise that Hyperion is still an evil corporation.
It’s also no surprise that Hyperion is still an evil corporation floating in space.

As with most Telltale games, the main draw of TFTB is the story. The key difference with this game is the amount of humor injected into the dialogue: You can tell this game is a Borderlands game, but you can also tell it’s a Telltale creation. Within the first 20 minutes I was hooked, and that feeling didn’t go away even as the credits rolled.

In Episode One: Zer0 Sum, we get an introduction to the two main characters that we will be playing as throughout the season: Rhys, a wise-cracking Hyperion employee, and Fiona, a Pandora native who has been brought up by an old trickster named Felix. Telltale begins the episode with Rhys being dragged through the desert while explaining to his captor exactly how and why he got there. He and his friends Vaughn and Yvette are climbing the corporate ladder after the events of Borderlands 2 (which I will not spoil). Fans of the Borderlands universe will also notice references to the previous games in the series, ranging from cameos, to the opening scene of the original game, all the way to storytelling by Marcus.

Ah, Prosperity Junction. Not all that prosperous, unfortunately.
Ah, Prosperity Junction. Not all that prosperous, unfortunately.

Eventually, we find out that Rhys is being dragged to the location where our other protagonist, Fiona, is also being held captive. Their captor, an unknown masked figure, keeps them held at gunpoint while they explain how they found out about the Gortys Project, the driving force of this episode. We then learn her side of the story and how she is connected to Rhys. By the end of the episode, we find out what exactly landed Rhys and Fiona in this situation, and the setup for the next episode becomes clear.

Of course, Telltale. We're all familiar with the Bullymong Jingle.
Of course, Telltale. We’re all familiar with the Bullymong Jingle.

As with most adventure games, Tales from the Borderlands plays out in a linear fashion, with the player consistently making their experience unique through different dialogue options. A neat hook with the point-and-click gameplay of Tales is the ECHO Eye implant Rhys has. It allows him to scan environments to find information (which is mostly used to add humor to each situation) about the things around him. In addition, he has a robotic arm that he can use to communicate directly with the Hyperion station floating above Pandora. This comes to his aid in several situations, including one in particular where he uses it to call down a Loader Bot and control it to ward off bandits. Small gameplay segments like the Loader Bot and the ECHO Eye break up the familiar point-and-click gameplay. While these additions aren’t fundamentally different, the way they are presented makes them feel unique and unlike anything Telltale has ever done.

The Verdict: 9.7 out of 10 

Tales from the Borderlands is the best premiere episode I’ve played out of any Telltale series, and it’s the best introduction to the Borderlands universe I’ve ever played. If I were Gearbox, I’d be very pleased with what Telltale has done with the Borderlands lore. It’s safe to say that Telltale has done a great job of setting up the story for the next few episodes. After playing Zer0 Sum, I cannot wait to see where that might be.

  • Do you like previous Telltale games? You should play this game.
  • Do you like the Borderlands franchise? You should play this game.
  • Do you dislike previous Telltale games? You should still play this game.
  • Do you dislike the Borderlands franchise? You should still play this game.
  • Are you a fan of video games? You should play this game.
  • Play this game.

For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.

Matt Middleton is an associate writer for MONG. He is also a lover of Mexican cuisine, How I Met Your Mother, and fun video games. Follow him on Twitter for a daily dose of song lyrics and pictures and thoughts about the aforementioned food and video games.

7 thoughts on “Tales from the Borderlands Episode One: Zer0 Sum Review”

  1. Great news!! Looks like telltale games has proven me wrong, was concerned they were spreading themselves to thin with several games going on at the same time but looks like they pulled it off!! Can’t wait to play this.


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