GameCentral gives its verdict on the final episode and whole first season of Telltale’s best game since The Walking Dead.
We’ve always felt Telltale Games were a little overrated. The Walking Dead was good, but it was also formulaic and manipulative in its storytelling. And although the lack of almost any traditional gameplay was not a problem, the way it pretended you had more influence over the storyline than you really did was. In that sense Life Is Strange soundly beats Telltale at their own game. But where Telltale are almost untouchable is in the quality of their writing, and Tales From The Borderlands is the best, and funniest, thing they’ve done so far.
Although The Wolf Among Us was good, Telltale’s post-The Walking Dead output has been disappointing. The second season of their zombie epic earned nowhere near the same amount of plaudits, and the soon to conclude Game Of Thrones is easily their worst recent game. Tales From The Borderlands started strongly, but after a disappointing second episode we worried it may have peaked early. Thankfully we were wrong.
Our decreasing interest in Tales From The Borderlands was exacerbated by Telltale’s bizarre release schedule for the games, with each new episode coming out only every three months. Considering how successful the company is now we fail to understand why they’re releasing anything episodically anymore, least of all on that kind of elongated time scale.
But for those that have, understandably, forgotten what it was all about Tales From the Borderlands is set after Borderlands 2 and its expansions, and focuses on two new characters: company man Rhys and con artist Fiona. In keeping with the real Borderlands, the game is primarily a comedy but it still has plenty of moral decisions to make – which are made all the more interesting because neither character actually has much in the way of morals.
Naturally we can’t spoil the storyline too much, but the overarching quest to make the two leads as much money as possible is not a complex one. The second half of the season has been as inconsistent as ever, and while Episode 3 was good the penultimate episode was, as is so often the case with these types of games, just treading water. Although there is a great bit with Handsome Jack right at the end.
Episode 5 doesn’t start terribly promisingly either, but the last hour or so is a definite triumph. If you’re a Borderlands fan then the name of the episode – Vault of The Traveler – gives a good indication of where things have ended up. And for once there’s actually a halfway decent QTE sequence, that tries to mimic the sort of action you’d get in a regular Borderlands game. As well as being a bizarre parody of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
And although the season’s branching storyline is nowhere near as complex as Life Is Strange it is better than many previous Telltale games. Your past interactions with other characters, including some not seen since the first episode, impacts exactly who is around to help you at the very end. While smaller details, such as how much money you’ve got, also make a notable difference.
But what really sells the ending is the surprising emotional punch of the final hour. Like all the best comedies the characters are well-rounded enough that they can also emote about serious subjects, and while you might not be crying into your gamepad there are plenty of heart-in-mouth incidents where you worry about the safety of a favourite character and/or the folly of a previous choice.
There’s a surprising thematic depth to the last episode, where the characters begin to question their destructive quest for power and money and how it has affected those around them. Borderlands already has some history in showing a more relateable side to its bad guys, and Telltale pull off the same trick here to even greater effect. Which is really not what you’d expect of a broad comedy based on a first person shooter.
The main problem with Episode 5 is simply that it feels too rushed by the end. The first half goes on for too long and yet the superior second half could do with a few moments to breathe between its major revelations. And of course there’s the usual problems with minor bugs and glitches, and the fact that Telltale’s graphics technology should’ve been completely replaced and upgraded several years ago.
But as inconsistent as the episode, and the season as a whole, has been overall the results are strongly positive. We’d also say it’s definitely better to play it now than earlier, when there’s no three month gap between the lesser episodes. Experience Tales From The Borderlands all in one go and you’ll find one of the best written and best acted story-based games of the last several years. So never mind Borderlands 3, roll on Tales From The Borderlands: Season Two.
Tales From The Borderlands: Episode 5
In Short: An excellent ending to an inconsistent but enjoyable season of sharp comedy and surprisingly affecting drama.
Pros: The writing and voiceovers are as good as Telltale has ever been, with much better use of moral choices than usual. Even the main action sequence isn’t bad.
Cons: The first half of Episode 5 goes on too long and the second is a little rushed. The usual complaints about bugs and the low tech visuals.
Formats: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, PlayStation, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, iOS, and Android
Price: £18.99 (for all five episodes)
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: 20th October 2015
Age Rating: 18