Version Tested: PC
Also available on: Mac, XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PS4, iOS, Android
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Episodic Adventure
Spoiler Alert: I won’t reveal much from the main story here, other than perhaps a few character names and vague plot points. I would not recommend reading this if you have not yet finished the first two episodes of the game. Unless you don’t care. In that case, read away.
The most recent episode of Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands, entitled Escape Plan Bravo, is a bit more uneven than the other episodes in the series. That is not to say it is bad, but it has some pacing issues that can be a bit grating. However, the funny bits in Escape Plan Bravo are extremely funny, probably the best humor we’ve seen from any Telltale adventure so far. The character work is excellent, and there a few very epic moments that tug the heartstrings or make the panic alarms go off in your head. It is also a great setup to the final episode, even if it seems there is no way that Telltale will be able to cram enough into the finale to tie up all the loose ends.
I am of the opinion that Tales from the Borderlands is the best Telltale adventure game to date, and Escape Plan Bravo continues to outpace the competition. The world that Gearbox created with the original Borderlands games fits perfectly with Telltale’s writing in style and tone, and the surreal landscapes and bizarre sense of humor are on point again. The other big aspect of why this game surpasses their other similar efforts is that Telltale is writing a story that is canonical and impactful to the larger Borderlands universe. With The Walking Dead or Wolf Among Us, you get to be a part of worlds you know, but knowing that you are seeing a snapshot that is not quite part of the larger picture. With Game of Thrones, the characters unique to that story are easy to invest in, but you know that Cersei is not going to die in Telltale’s Game of Thrones and the show is going to say “You should go buy this video game if you want to see how Cersei dies.” With Tales from the Borderlands, the events of the story have impact on the universe as a whole, and make for some very powerful decisions and story scenes. Play about halfway through Escape Plan Bravo to get a good example of just that.
The general plot of Escape Plan Bravo is this: our lovable crew has been captured by Vallory, a fearsome mobster on Pandora. She blackmails Rhys and Fiona into infiltrating Helios headquarters in order to further upgrade the (adorable) robot Gortys so they can find the fabled “Vault of the Traveler.” Hilarity and surreal situations ensue. Telltale has been crushing it with their intro song + montage throughout Tales from the Borderlands, and the faux 80s rock anthem (“To the Top” by Twin Shadow) playing over the Armageddon-inspired opening sequence is the best yet.
There are some great jokes and bits in the opening few scenes (the recurring “Enhance!” dialogue option gets me every time, as well as the high-fiving and brotastic language that Vaughn and Rhys continue to employ) as well as some great character development. These characters are changing dramatically as the story unfolds, and characters that seemed like throwaways are morphing into some of the most interesting. The real bulk of the action occurs once the crew gets to Helios, and chaos begins to take over. This is also where Escape Plan Bravo hits a few pacing snags.
Maybe it is because Tales from the Borderlands has been so consistently great, but a few aspects of episode four fall a bit flat or appear as simple filler. Specifically, a drawn out sequence as a pretend tour guide comes to mind, with little to no plot development and some flat humor (although the empty chair bit was entertaining). It seemed like a few scenes were just there to help Escape Plan Bravo meet its runtime (and it still came up as a pretty short episode in the grand scheme of things). It is nitpicking, but this episode was not perfect. It did, however, have a few of the best scenes yet in any Telltale game, be they humorous, touching, or dramatic.
The main relationship that Escape Plan Bravo focuses on was that of Rhys and Handsome Jack. Rather, the Handsome Jack AI that has staked a claim in Rhys’s brain. They have some extended dialogue scenes where, not only do we learn about Rhys, but we also pull back some layers on our favorite CEO/psychopath. The voice actor for Jack, Dameon Clarke, absolutely crushes his performance in this episode. Handsome Jack has always been a compelling villain in the Borderlands series, but here we get to see the full level of emotions and actually get to know the man behind the murderer. Obviously, you never know how much of Jack’s personality is a manipulation technique, but he honestly does seem to care for our bumbling protagonist, Rhys. Every dialogue scene between the two worked extremely well, and Tales from the Borderlands has done a great job of building this strange, blue Handsome Jack from a minor annoyance to a powerful figure. However, it has also humanized him in a way that we have not really seen before.
Escape Plan Bravo continues to deliver in the humor department as well. In a disguise, Rhys gets to deliver some great lines with seemingly no consequence due to his power. Gortys continues to be the most lovable and adorable character this side of Pandora, basically a not annoying version of Claptrap. “Hold tight,” little buddy. And Escape Plan Bravo also has one of the most surreal action scenes I have every played in any game. An extended shootout takes place that is unlike any I have every participated in. The aftermath alone is something to behold. Humor is something that has always come easily to Telltale’s writers, and their style fits with the Borderlands universe so perfectly. I cannot recall a game that has made me consistently laugh out loud as often as Tales from the Borderlands. It would still be enjoyable if the story was all humor, but there are some heavy, emotional scenes peppered throughout and some very difficult decisions to make. The final decision of the episode is a great cliffhanger. Hopefully it won’t take too long for the final episode, Vault of the Traveler, to make it to release.
Escape Plan Bravo was another great episode in the already excellent Tales from the Borderlands. As long as the finale does not completely tank the story, Tales from the Borderlands will easily go down as my favorite Telltale adventure, and probably will among most people as well. The humor, gravity of your decisions, and overall style mesh together perfectly for one of the best gaming experiences of the year. Escape Plan Bravo is not perfect, but it is most likely just the cog the story needs for an explosive final episode.
- Great humorous scenes, especially the opening cinematic and big action set piece
- Emotional heaviness – your decisions seem important and dramatic, not frivolous
- Handsome Jack really shines
- All voice work is great – Gortys, Rhys, Fiona, everyone
- The final cliffhanger builds anticipation for episode five
- Pacing is uneven – some scenes seem unnecessary
- A bit shorter than normal
- A lot of loose ends left for final episode
You can purchase Tales From The Borderlands Now on Steam for $24.99!