At the end of the last episode of Tales From the Borderlands, Telltale’s jilting approach to tackling Gearbox’s bread and butter, Handsome Jack made his entrance. After all, what is Borderlands without Handsome Jack at this point? Introduced in the second episode as "Your New Best Frenemy," that’s precisely the role he takes on, where "Your" only refers to Rhys because nobody else can see him. This leads to Fiona and Rhys each telling their own versions of the opening chapter. While Rhys is dealing with ghosts or something, Fiona is busy, um, operating. If you miss The Walking Dead, you’ll appreciate this sequence of events.
As exciting as the previous episode was by its end, the majority of it was setup, some of which worked while much of it didn’t. Now that all the main characters are introduced and working together, Tales fixates markedly less on “Look how Borderlands-y we can be” and actually remembers the series was based on action. Hyperion starts attacking our protagonists with “Moonshots” and they quickly try to drive the hell away but not before pissing off a Rakk Hive. And the way this event concludes, beginning the opening credits scroll two chapters in, is just phenomenal.
Our Macguffin, or the one written so far, is the Gortys Project, discovered by the map revealed when the two pieces joined. There’s no real idea of what it is other than potentially related to a vault, but our subject matter has always been about the journey over the destination anyway. What works better in this episode is an increased amount of switching off between Rhys and Fiona. Rather than going through another long session listening to one before the other, aside from the opening, there are continuous opportunities to control each character. During the aforementioned action sequence, this actually made Tales feel more game-like than The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us.
However, the episode is not without some character-developing exposition that we all know and love from Telltale. Our group gets split up very shortly, the men on one side and the women on the other, and each pair has to deal with the consequences of swapping partners last episode. In Fiona’s and Sasha’s case, Felix’s betrayal and preference for the former is something they stumble through as sisters with a slight wedge between them. For Rhys and Vaughn, well, a confrontation with our well-coifed Vasquez tests the mettle of their friendship. It turns out Rhys wasn’t the only one offered a deal back in the arena.
Regarding the next action sequence that gets the entire team back together, the bandit who’s kidnapped Rhys and Fiona expresses doubt regarding some rather grandiose claims they make about events. However, rather than bicker over whose version is canon, the two challenge the notion of the unreliable narrator with a triumphant “Were you there?!” As inane as the material I’m discussing may be, it made me think of Life of Pi and the notion that perhaps the unbelievable story is ultimately the better one. This is Pandora. Seriously, get over it if things don’t sound realistic. Find God in Loader Bot.
I do not wish to spoil much else. The team will be reunited with characters they never wanted to see again and talk their ways through that. And it all ends on a cliffhanger of sorts; I mean, you know Fiona and Rhys live, but the situation is really sticky. Along the way, you’ll bro out, learn Vaughn’s sexy secret, test out some elemental bullets, scan more stuff, and, ahem, catch a ride.
This episode held my attention much better than the previous one, because of better action sequences and more of getting on with the story. I hope Telltale makes me feel more emotionally invested, though. That’s the meta-conflict at heart with this game: It’s not an easy combo, and every time it relies on one developer’s signature, the other one's feels like an intruder. I like having feelings in a game about storytelling, and the aloof comedy of Borderlands is the foil to that.