Warning: Contains some spoilers for Tales From The Bordelands Episode 1: Zer0 Sum.
The next great Pandoran tale kicked off yesterday on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3 (and today on Xbox One) with the arrival of Tales From the Borderlands. It's the first official jump into post-Borderlands 2 lore, revealing a world without the villainous Handsome Jack. It also marked the introduction of the story's extensive cast, each with their own quirks, motivations, personalities, and back stories.
The first episode, Zer0 Sum, is just the beginning of their tale. With Telltale lined up to deliver four more episodes of this particular Gearbox narrative, Shacknews is offering a peek into who each of these characters are and where their stories might be headed.
Co-protagonist Rhys is Borderlands' representation of the everyman. If you're an adult, you've likely witnessed workplace politics in one form or another. You've likely watched the office jerk either suck up or bully his way to the top. And you've likely been passed up for an accolade you feel you truly deserve. That's Rhys' story in a nutshell and that's exactly why he's taking his destiny in his own hands.
Rhys fancies himself as the smartest person in the room, often to his detriment. He wrangles up his Ocean's 11-style backup with Vaughn and Yvette, but he mostly plays the rest of his plan by ear, which gets him in a lot of trouble. He tries to smooth talk his way out of certain situations, but often winds up getting nowhere and sometimes, it even gets him knocked unconscious.
Visually, Rhys bears a resemblance to Handsome Jack, which is not a coincidence. Many of the dialogue options will parallel just the type of thing that Handsome Jack would say. It's clear that Rhys can either resist the temptation of corrupting power or cultivate it to the point that the story will eventually make him the next Handsome Jack. Where his story goes and how he manages his close friendship with Vaughn and his uneasy alliance with Fiona is ultimately up to the player. And whatever the player decides may or may not take Rhys down Handsome Jack's path.
Fiona is a total con artist from the very beginning, forced into that lifestyle due to her harsh upbringing in the cave city of Hollow Point. She's pulled many scams with the help of her sister Sasha and her father figure Felix, but Rhys' arrival with a $10 million briefcase looked to be the score of a lifetime. It didn't quite work out so well, especially when one of her schemes backfired and the fake Vault Key she brought in was shattered. Things got even worse when an actual Vault Hunter showed up and the speaker-powered Bossanova absconded with the briefcase.
This is what kicks off her tenuous alliance with Rhys, though she never takes a step without remembering the lesson that Felix instilled in her: Don't trust anybody. It looks like the player will have plenty of opportunity to play her off as a cutthroat thief, but likewise have the chance to progress her to the point that she strays from Felix's teachings. The ending of the first episode signals that Fiona will need Rhys and Vaughn's help to get the ultimate prize at the end of the story. The question is whether the player will have her develop a bond with the Hyperion twosome over the course of the forthcoming episodes or take the first opportunity to stab them in the back?
Another thing to look out for is the lone bullet that Felix supplies. Fiona gets more than one opportunity to use it during the first episode. If the player opts to keep it, it'll be interesting to see what other opportunities Telltale provides for her to use it. It may come in handy. On the other hand, if the player already used it, will they wish they hadn't?
Vaughn is the money man, so to speak. As Hyperion's accountant, he's the one that pulls out the $10 million that's supposed to allow Rhys to pick up the Vault Key. Needless to say, this doesn't quite go as smoothly as planned.
Vaughn is somewhat neurotic, clearly unaware of what he's getting into by setting foot on Pandora. He's noticeably shaken by a lot of the violence that he witnesses up close, especially when it involves him getting dragged around like a rag doll. Given all of this, he's the type of guy that needs a lot of reassurance. A handful of Rhys and Fiona's responses will affect Vaughn's disposition and either help instill some confidence in him or make him regret ever coming along in the first place. Vaughn's personality will likely develop over the course of the next four episodes, as the harsh Pandora atmosphere may just toughen him up.
By the end of the first episode, Vaughn is squarely in Hyperion's crosshairs for his actions regarding the money. Rhys is even given the chance to betray him in exchange for his own safety. However the player decides to play this scenario will influence Rhys' relationship with Vaughn over the course of the narrative. One thing looks to be certain and that's that Vaughn is fiercely loyal to Rhys, who he sees as his best friend. But in a game that's all about trust issues and betrayal, can anyone assume for sure that Vaughn will remain loyal for the entirety of the story?
An expert con artist in her own right, Sasha throws herself right into fray with the fake Vault Key that brings Rhys and Vaughn to Pandora. She can set up the con, but she'll often need Fiona's help to see it through to the end.
Sasha can improvise when things get hairy, as evidenced by her first interaction with Rhys and Vaughn. Like her sister, she's also inherently distrustful of people, a lesson she learned from Felix. Her suspicions can either be confirmed or alleviated depending on what the player does with Rhys over the course of the episode.
Sasha is also more attached to Felix than Fiona, as evidenced by her reaction to what happens at the end of the first episode. It looks to be something that could potentially fracture her relationship with her sister, but we'll have to wait until the next episode to find out.
Vasquez is the big bad of this series. When he got wind that Rhys was about to be promoted, Vasquez stepped in and murdered the man set to deliver the promotion and usurped the position for himself. He thought he had a Vault Key deal ready to go, to boot, though it ultimately turned out to be the fake that Fiona, Sasha, and Felix had lined up.
Vasquez's ruthlessness and arrogance are what cause Rhys and Vaughn to head down to Pandora to grab his Vault Key, but the villain's influence grows greatly over the course of the first episode. He quickly catches wind of Rhys' machinations and cuts off his resources, though he offers him leniency in exchange for Vaughn. However Rhys plays this situation may not matter, though. Vasquez is clearly someone that's not to be trusted under any circumstances.
The Hyperion mastermind's presence in the next four episodes will only expand further, as he's now actively on the hunt for Rhys and Vaughn. Once he learns of the score that Rhys and Fiona are lining up for, however, his pursuit will intensify that much more.
August is the man that organizes the Vault Key deal with Vasquez, only to find himself dealing with Rhys and Vaughn, instead. What he doesn't realize until later is that the Vault Key he has is a giant fake, a ruse orchestrated by Fiona, Sasha, and Felix.
August is a fairly powerful gang leader in Pandora, which is apparent after his first meeting with Fiona. So needless to say, he doesn't take deception very well. When he learns that he was duped on both sides by Fiona and Sasha, as well as by Rhys and Vaughn, August goes into an incensed rage.
While everyone eventually gets away, August isn't the type of person to forgive these transgressions. He'll also be on the hunt for Rhys and Fiona over the next several episodes, so expect to see his face again very soon.
Felix is an old grizzled con man and the one who raises Fiona and Sasha since he first found them as children. On top of teaching them how to pull smooth, seamless scams, Felix also teaches them the harsh lesson that nobody is to be trusted.
Felix is meticulous about his cons, frowning upon any attempt by Fiona or Sasha to improv their way through a grift. But make no mistake, if things take a twist, Felix can adapt quickly without losing sight of the goal. And as is made clear at the end of the first episode, he'll do whatever it takes to make sure he bags the big score.
Zer0 is the wild card of this game and the only (living) returning character from Borderlands 2. Just when Rhys' Vault Key deal/Fiona's scam couldn't go further downhill, Zer0 busts in with Bossanova and his Bandit forces close behind. The fracas results in Bossanova taking the briefcase, which leads to Rhys and Fiona making their temporary alliance.
Zer0 shows up again later in the story, mostly ignoring Rhys, Fiona, and company to focus on his own task. That task has something to do with a mysterious artifact called the Gortys Project, which is tied to a vault. Zer0 isn't able to find it himself, but Rhys and Fiona unwittingly stumble upon it at the end of the episode. Now that they're following its path, expect Zer0 to come back later in the story. And next time, he probably won't be so helpful.
There's also one other character whose presence is felt at the end of the episode, alongside the Gortys Project. We won't mention who it is, but expect to see plenty of this character over the remainder of the story.
After all, without this person, there is no story, right?