When I finally had the chance to go hands-on with Borderlands 3 last week, I didn’t expect that I’d be coming face-to-mustached-face (well, face-to-hologram-mustached-face) with Tales From the Borderlands’ Rhys so soon. I thought that this character would end up being saved for later reveals, or maybe even the full game itself. As the main character of Telltale’s take on the Borderlands franchise, there’s a pretty strong fan base out there looking forward to seeing Rhys (and hopefully Fiona) finally enter the series proper. The slice of game that Gearbox allowed us to play did feature Rhys in a big way, but something wasn’t right about the company man turned, well, whatever he was by the end of Tales.
Now of course the first thing I noticed about Rhys was his changed voice. He’s no longer played by actor Troy Baker, replaced instead by Ray Chase. You might know Chase as Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis. Chase isn’t trying to mimic Baker, but wants to put his own spin on the character. The drama surrounding Baker’s replacement began when a mustached Rhys was spotted in the original Borderlands 3 reveal trailer. Baker was asked if he would be returning to voice the character and he indicated that he wasn’t even asked and wasn’t happy with how Gearbox was handling it.
Borderlands 3 Rhys – The ‘Evil Rhys’ Theory
Rhys’ new look is a big component of my theory. Often an evil doppelganger is parodied by having a mustache and maybe something like an overbite. When Rhys talks to the player in Borderlands 3, the graphics on his mouth show off his upper gums weirdly. Now it might just be a bad angle as the hologram towers over you, or maybe the game is still getting some polishing touches. Or it might be that the mustache and overbite, along with the different voice, are meant to indicate that this isn’t the same Rhys, or at least that there’s a major plot shakeup that happened between the conclusion of Tales and Borderlands 3.
Voice and appearance aside, his personality also doesn’t really match up with the Rhys that went through a harrowing journey on Pandora. Rhys went from being an ambitious and slimy company man to someone a bit more layered and interesting. He went from sitting pretty and comfortable in a corporate environment to understanding the rougher side of the world. So when I saw him again in Borderlands 3, and he had adopted the company man persona again as the CEO of Atlas, it was hard to take him seriously.
One line in particular sticks out, where he questions the capabilities of a single vault hunter against the Maliwan army, but he should be well aware of what a vault hunter can do (particularly a Siren, which I was playing as). In Borderlands 3, Rhys seems clueless and one dimensional, throwing away five episodes worth of character development in the interest of making him a shoe-in side character.
Borderlands 3 Rhys – Not my Rhys
My last hope that this is some kind of deeper narrative ploy comes from comments from Randy Pitchford when he was addressing the Troy Baker controversy. “Fortunately, with how Rhys appears in the game, I don’t think it actually matters at all. You’ll see for yourself when the game comes out,” Pitchford said in one of his tweets. It could be that Pitchford is trying to save face against a deluge of angry fans (and the things Pitchford tweets certainly need to be taken with a grain of salt), but it could also mean that Rhys isn’t actually Rhys, so having the original Rhys actor doesn’t matter. After all, the last time we saw the real Rhys, he and Fiona had disappeared in a flash of light inside a Vault. I feel like he’s destined for greater things than just that silly mustache and another corporate gig. Or maybe I’m just hopeful he’s destined for greater things, a last vestige of something that Telltale did really well.
Of course, the other option is that they just really screwed up with Borderlands 3 Rhys, deciding to include the character but completely ignoring what fans loved about him. In the grand scheme of Borderlands 3’s planet-hopping story, Rhys might be just a small side role that doesn’t much matter, so Gearbox didn’t feel the need to adhere to the character’s canon. I’m hoping that’s not the case, and that there’s something more here, because as one of my favorite characters in the Borderlands franchise, it would be a shame to see Rhys’ compelling arc completely thrown away. It’s not much longer until we find out though! Borderlands 3 releases on September 13, 2019, where we’ll finally get the truth behind Rhys and whether he’s an act of narrative brilliance or a mirror of corporate ineptitude.
Also, where the hell’s Fiona?