As developers, Telltale Games are all about creating character driven narratives. However, although they have managed to gain a fairly good reputation in their niche with several well-received games, not all of them are reliably top-notch. As all of their new releases are now following the Walking Dead design formula, Adventure games that have moved away from puzzle solving into interactive graphic novels, individual preference may boil down solely to which story is told the best and which theme appeals to you the most.
As to Tales of The Borderlands, this one is generally rated as one of their best and I suspect this is partly due to its humorous approach. Whereas former games like The Walking Dead series and The Wolf Among Us have much more serious themes, Tales of the Borderlands takes a more light-hearted approach to dealing with serious matters. This is aided by the comic-like cel-shading graphics as well as featuring an unlikely hero, a guy more suited to tech espionage than physical confrontation. As a foil, you have the playable character, Fiona, a hardened con-artist and wise cracker. This allows for some interesting back and forthing between the two. In addition, this game expands the opportunities for more player interaction and doesn't hurt its reputation with any serious performance issues.
The location for the story is Pandora, a planet first introduced in Borderlands. Pandora is like the wild-wild west, populated by bandits and the opportunistic with fantasies of finding one of the treasure vaults rumored to be hidden there. You alternately play two characters: Rhys, a corporate ladder-climber, and Fiona, a con-artist. Rhys works for Hyperion, a robotic and weapons manufacturer generally considered to be evil by the Pandorians. They operate from a space station called Helios that overlooks the planet. Fiona is a native and along with her sister, Sasha, was raised by their mentor in a life of crime. There are other main characters, but they are not playable.
The game starts on Hyperion with Rhys on his way to see his boss, fully confident in his impending promotion. Instead, he finds his old boss has been turfed and the new one, Hugo Vasquez, has different ideas concerning Rhys' place within the corporation. During the interview, in the midst of his dressing down, Rhys overhears a phone conversation where Vasquez is making a 10 million dollar deal for a vault key. When Rhys finds himself humiliatingly demoted to janitorial status, he and his best friend, Vaughn, decide to get even by stealing the deal from under Vasquez' nose. The other playable character, Fiona, is involved in the exchange as the con-artist in cahoots with her sister as they plot to pass off a fake vault key to Hyperion.
Telltale continues to do what they do best – building believable, complex characters that are inheritantly flawed and the relationships they develop around this. When things go wrong, Rhys, Fiona, Sasha and Vaughn are thrown into a reluctant alliance and the journey is as much about burgeoning friendships as it is about finding a treasure vault.
Side characters also flesh out the plot and play meaningful roles within the story. Although Rhys is no typical hero, he has cybernetic implants that aid in their progress. One of these abilities allows Telltale to introduce Handsome Jack, from Borderlands 2, as a hologram that only Rhys can see and hear. Another interesting twist, is Loader Bot, a weaponized mech with a personality.
The graphics are quite impressive within its visual-style limits. Although using cel-shading was at one time risky, it's become much more popular in the last decade. Most Telltale games use this non-photorealistic style, which is in keeping with the comics books and media IPs they are based on.
When it comes to game mechanics, there's not much to distinguish one Telltale game from another. There are very few controls and had there been more, I would not have purchased them as they are not re-mappable. I generally don't support developers who don't offer this. Basically, you have your movement keys, which are either WASD or arrow keys, an inventory key tied to E, Echo Eye tied to Q, and QTEs using a variety of the above. If you have a reprogrammable mouse, you can easily change E and Q to any other key. There was one difference between the Walking Dead and this game that I thought was regressive. In TWD, you could use the scroll key to choose dialogue, whereas in this one, you must use the mouse pointer. I thought this was a step backwards in convenience as your mouse cursor could suddenly show up anywhere on the screen when the dialogue pops up. It takes just that little bit longer to locate it and point it to the chosen option and dialogues, which are on timers. However, control schemes don't seem to be one of this developer's strengths and each of their games has a slightly different user interface.
Tales From the Borderlands was originally released in five episodes over the course of a year, but is now sold as a complete edition. It uses a checkpoint save system and offers four save slots. Some decisions you make will slightly change the direction of the story and will affect another choice regarding your team for the final boss battle. However, "choices mattering" is always a very debatable subject with Telltale games as they usually don't result in serious consequences.
Their modus operandi, so to speak, is making games based on other works in film or comics. They secure licenses from the owners to develop these games, and recreate the characters and stories in a unique way. Telltale does not retain ownership for most of their games and sometimes must tow the line in how they re-interpret an IP.
As much as people love Telltale games, they are also known for being buggy, a problem that has become chronic with glitches that never get fixed. Although I have never had to use it, apparently their support is worse than Steam's, which should tell you just how bad it is. In general, what I did find through playing a few of their later games is that the stories are good, but their interactive control schemes are usually not the best.
Unfortunately, their last few games such as Game of Thrones and Batman have also been rather a disappointment performance wise and some attribute this to the continuing use of an old game engine. Regardless, Telltale keeps pumping out games and some customers are getting a tad irritated with their failure to address many problems.