TellTale’s patented brand of interactive storytelling has evolved quite a bit since their early days of Bone or Sam and Max. Combining elements from point-and-click adventure games with more cinematic elements from titles like God of War or Heavy Rain, they’ve managed to develop a template that is surprisingly diverse in the types of stories it can tell.

None exemplify that versatility quite like Tales From The Borderlands, which is possibly their most engaging title so far.

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Taking place on the barren wasteland of Pandora, Tales From The Borderlands establishes a cast of characters who have little and are sick of it. From corporate stooges tired of being middlemen working to make others rich, to con artists just trying to make a living by screwing over bandits and scumbags. The themes of Borderlands are guiding points in Telltale’s take on the series, tackling the struggle of people trying to make a life for themselves in a new place, yearning to reinvent themselves. Coupled with the ‘he said-she said’ Big Fish style take on the protagonist’s different perspectives, it results in comedic moments rooted in character that capture the sensibility of the franchise it takes place in.

The first episode (Zer0 Sum) did a wonderful job setting up the plot that drives the season, and fleshing out the key players in record time. Atlas Mugged picks up the baton and really keeps the momentum going, escalating the mission the main characters are on and introducing new and returning threats. Rhys and Vaughn get separated from Fiona and Sasha following the climax of the first episode, which lead them both down different paths that converge on the Gortys Project facility.  Team Hyperion deals with the implications of revelations from the previous episode’s cliffhanger, while Fiona and Sasha have an emotional trek through their former mentor’s home.

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While the comedy is relentless and effective, it is all brought together elegantly due to the focus on character at the core of the game. Its easy to make a gross-out joke or laugh at how goofy characters like Scooter are, but it hits home so much more effectively because they make you care about the group of goofballs and what they’re going through.

The gameplay (with an emphasis on quick time events, a TellTale staple) is fast paced and exciting in the larger action segments, and also manages to work in some really funny jokes that lampoon their own formula, while poking fun at how inept the main characters are. There are some issues that stem from the legacy mechanics found in all TellTale titles, such as an inventory system that doesn’t always work as elegantly as you’d like, or the trial-and-error puzzles that can lead you to repeating certain actions way more than you should to figure out their arcane answer, but the majority of the game is dialog and Quick Time Events, so it only slows things down a little.

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Second episodes of anything are tough propositions for they frequently lose the momentum the previous episode established while not having the opportunity to really go places that later entries are afforded. Atlas Mugged manages to bring more of what made Zer0 Sum work, while continuing to be inventive and smartly crass in keeping with Borderlands tradition. How the rest of the season shapes up in the wake of developments of this episode is hard to tell, but it certainly pushes things in some interesting directions. If they can stick the landing, Tales From The Borderlands could wind up their finest project to date.