Vault Hunters, Assemble!
At the end of my review for Episode 4: Escape Plan Zero of Tales from the Borderlands, it looks like I asked all the right questions. They all get answered, and then some, including what the weight of earlier decisions, some of which you probably gave very little thought, would be. That’s all to be expected. However, what I was absolutely unprepared for was an episode that would knock me off my seat with how awesome it is. The finale to a rather variable season is the one that proudly laughs and screams, “This. Is. Borderlands!”
Backing up a bit, we left off previously with Fiona and Sasha being caught by Yvette, and Jack being strapped to a chair by Handsome Jack, who has uploaded himself into the space station’s mainframe. Unsurprisingly, it takes very little time before all our heroes, save for the still-missing Vaughn, to free themselves and try to escape. After a very brief reunion with the ladies, Rhys becomes separated again and needs to find a way to get back to them. In the kerfuffle, though, he ends up causing a majorly narrative-changing incident for the entire Borderlands series. It’s also a morally tough one to swallow, but the game gives you little time to do so before moving onto funnier action sequences.
As implied by the title of the episode, the Vault of the Traveler does appear and open, though I won’t reveal how, and like other Borderlands games before it, there’s a giant monster involved. This becomes the catalyst for finally figuring out who’s the mysterious masked person who kidnapped Fiona and Rhys and what the hell happened to Vaughn. The reasoning behind their kidnapping is ultimately something you could not have guessed, but once all your questions are answered, the stage is set for finishing the story and taking care of the Traveler, the name of the monster guarding the eponymous vault.
I would say compared to the other Telltale Games series I’ve played (both seasons of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us), the consequences of all your decisions, big and small, in Tales from the Borderlands have the clearest and most entertaining impact. Even better, once you realize what they are, you immediately learn what you could’ve done differently, preparing the next playthrough in your head before you finish the first. If I may make a slight hint, you’re a vault hunter, and you have a vault hunting team to choose, don’t you?
The final chapter of this series of ridiculous events, which is directly influenced by your choices, is so bombastic and wonderful, I cannot wait to play it again. I don’t think I’ve been as entertained by a sequence of QTEs ever in my life, but I could not wipe the smile off my face as I witnessed the sheer brilliance of what I was executing. There were multiple moments where I was laughing out loud at what was happening. If you’ve stuck it out this far, you are in for such a treat.
Moreover, this entire episode felt like an action game in the Telltale way. The segmented feel of all the previous episodes barely mustered a concern as I was deeply engaged with everything I was watching. Plus, the eridium-backed bang this episode goes out on leaves such a great impression. Of course, the developers try their hand at the emotional, but as obvious as the events seem, they fit within an action story’s context.
For those wondering about my concern if I’m supposed to like Loader Bot and Gortys more than the human characters, in the end that feeling remained true. In many ways, they were written for me to love. Yet, I found a way to appreciate all the other protagonists if only because they’re the good guys, and I just have to let that happen. Was this story consistent in its delivery in any way? Nope, not at all. But the overall effect is satisfying, and I can’t pretend I was bored along the way. I don’t know that diehard Borderlands fans will appreciate this series’ approach, but it’s worth a shot if you’re into the story more than the shooting.
That final act tho.