If you were to ask the critics, Tales from the Borderlands is the hidden gem of Telltale’s slate of episodic adventure games. I’d hazard that those critics are also going to be fans of or at least have played the Borderlands games at some point in time. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never put much more than five hours into Borderlands.
When you take that into consideration, it’s probably not that much of a surprise that I haven’t rated Tales from the Borderlands as well as most critics. And while a number of critics saw the penultimate episode of TFTB as the best episode in the series and called the series the best thing out of Telltale since the first season of The Walking Dead. I saw it as just an episode.
Spoiler Alert: As per usual for my reviews of Telltale Games games, I will try to keep the reviews as spoiler-free as possible. However, the previous episodes are fair game to be spoiled. And if you want to talk about the proper Borderlands games in the comments, have at it.
Episode Four – Escape Plan Bravo picks up right where we left off in the last episode with the team needing to invade Hyperion HQ in order to get the final piece of the Gortys device in order to find and unlock the vault of the traveller.
Unlike the last episode which focused on character development and interaction, this episode was entirely built around comedy. Apart from a couple of character moments, including one with a character who is actually a series mainstay but I didn’t know until I got a press release for the Episode 5, there wasn’t much focus on character interaction other than Rhys and Jack.
It’s a shame because I was starting to like and connect with the characters in the last episode. The work they attempted to do with the characters in this episode was undone for me because Telltale so busy trying to make you laugh that it didn’t leave you any time to feel anything else that they might have wanted. Are our heroes in trouble? Better get them to hum and haw in a funny way. All seems lost? Comedy solution. I just found it hard to take anything in the episode seriously.
That’s not to say that there weren’t some good moments. There were some legitimately funny jokes and sight gags. Even the ones that were telegraphed could be kinda funny. Sure, there was one gag in the final third of the episode when you run into the accounting department that started funny and went on for five minutes after you wish it would have ended. It makes up for it a bit by being the only real “action” sequence in the whole episode. It was decidedly light on QTEs now that I think about it.
As per usual, though, Fiona carries the episode on her back. All of the interesting character and legitimately funny moments happen in her parts of the episode. Unfortunately, it feels like most of the episode happens from Rhys’ POV which is good for the slapstick but worse for everything else I want from a Telltale game. If you’re just in it for the laughs, you’ll probably love this episode. I just find this so far and away below what I know Telltale is capable of.
My biggest problem with this episode was that the pacing felt completely off. I was about 75 minutes into the episode and it felt like I might have just crossed the halfway point of the episode. I thought we were building up for the first 2+ hour Telltale episode since The Wolf Among Us. Instead, it just quickly finished in the next 25 minutes. The crescendo that the episode was building to either happened prematurely or it just wasn’t as big a build as usual.
The ending just sort of happened. I looked like we were still building up the story and then the episode comes to a hasty end. I get that the ending is supposed to be a “now what’s going to happen” but it just ended without a tease of what might happen. This episode felt almost self-contained with its ending. The only really hook to bring you back is that Rhys and Fiona had to end up with the guy with the shotgun somehow but that didn’t happen in this episode. I’m not sure that’s enough to make me care about coming back.
As seems to be the norm for me and TFTB, there were a few technical glitches. There were some instances of dialogue audio getting cut off randomly during conversations. The ending scene saw the dialogue seemingly start and stop randomly. And I had the wrong character’s dialogue font come up in a few instances.
One thing that I don’t think is ever really appreciated by fans of a game, myself included, is that reviewing a game is almost entirely subjective. There are some games that people will absolutely love and others that you hate. Tales From The Borderlands is one of those games that just doesn’t really click for me. It makes me wonder if I’m going to think the same of Minecraft: Story Mode.
If you want what we’ve typically thought of as standard for a Telltale Games series, Tales from the Borderlands once again drifts away from it. It looked like TFTB turned a corner in the third episode. I guess this is a game for Borderlands fans and is fan service without being direct fan service. It’s everything that people like about Borderlands without getting too self-reverential. I’m just not sure it’s a series I really want to play.
Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Four: Escape Plan Bravo was played on Windows PC but is also available for OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS and Android. The review code for this game was provided by Telltale Games. Your impressions of the game may change depending on platform played on, PC specs and what you want from Telltale Games.