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 other episodes of the game. Unless you don’t care. In that case, read away.
That is how you end an episodic series. In my review for episode four of Tales from the Borderlands, I expressed concern that Telltale would be able to adequately wrap up the multitude of storylines in a satisfying way. Even though episode five, “The Vault of the Traveler,” seemingly needs to sprint the whole way, it definitely hits all the notes that it needed to hit to make sure everyone gets a satisfying conclusion. The breakneck speed the episode moves at is not a detriment, either; the episode keeps the drama, action, humor, and surprises coming fast. It is a great finale to what is Telltale’s finest episodic effort yet.
Even though Telltale’s episodic adventures all have fairly similar (see also: identical) gameplay and mechanics, Tales from the Borderlands seems like it has consistently made the most of its limited options. It perfectly captures the spirit of the Borderlands universe in its humor and style. It has achieved mystery and surprise in a way that few of their other games have managed to do – one big reveal in episode five literally had my mouth hanging open as I pieced together what was happening. It has a huge set piece of an action scene (inspired by Power Rangers and Street Fighter, it seems) that fits right up there with the murder-race scene from episode one and the gun fight from episode four. Action scenes have often been some of the least fun aspects of Telltale’s games, and Tales from the Borderlands has bucked that trend by regularly incorporating new ideas and references into the big action pieces.
Besides the great gameplay and mystery, Tales from the Borderlands continues to have excellent voice acting and writing. Every character gets moments to shine, and most of them get both humorous and dramatic moments. It is difficult to think of a single character that someone could “miss” from episode five. All the supporting characters continue to do excellent work. Handsome Jack continues his manipulative menace, but in a way that makes him endearing. Gortys and Loader Bot are some of the most charming characters I’ve encountered in a video game. Even minor villains get their chance in the spotlight and show that they are not just one-dimensional characters. Once again, Rhys and Fiona are the perfect amount of funny, naive, badass, and selfish to make them relatable and interesting.
In speaking of all these different characters, it is easy to realize why Tales from the Borderlands is such a successful game: as a player, I cared about everyone. Episode five is able to send you through a roller coaster of different emotions by changing perspectives so often; you want to linger on your favorite characters, but you also want to check on everyone else.
The other way that Tales from the Borderlands succeeds so well is how it forces you to reflect on earlier decisions you made. Many people have complained that the big choices in Telltale’s episodic adventures do not make a real impact on the story. While I doubt that your decisions make a huge impact on the overall ending, I found myself reflecting on many of the decisions I had made and how that may have changed the choices I was able to make in the game’s final moments. Even the stats that Telltale presents (you and 33% of players did this) made me wonder about the different ways people played the characters. For basing itself on a game set in a surreal alien world where collecting loot is the endgame, Tales from the Borderlands manages to raise some very deep thoughts in the player and makes its choices feel more organic, rather than simply a gameplay mechanic.
I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the experience of Tales from the Borderlands. It may look like just another adventure game with dialogue trees and quick time events, but it really is something else entirely. This is a game for people who like to create stories. It was very difficult not to grow attached to the characters in this strange world, and everything about the style seemed to mesh perfectly. This is, by a wide margin, the best of Telltale’s episodic games. If you haven’t picked it up yet or you were waiting for the final release before playing through it, you’re in luck. Once you start it will be difficult to put down. I’m looking forward to playing through it all again.
What did you think of the finale of Tales from the Borderlands? Was it a fitting end to the series, or did it just not work for you. Let us know!
- Very funny
- Great action scenes
- Fulfilling ending
- Feels like your choices made an impact
- No season two announcement... yet.