A week after the second episode of Tales from the Borderlands launched, I revisited Borderlands with the Handsome Collection. I enjoyed playing with friends and trying out the different weapons, but ultimately I am unable to invest myself in the world of Borderlands when I’m killing its inhabitants. This isn’t a condemnation of shooters at large; I just think Borderlands presents a theoretically interesting world that is far too hostile to really enjoy beyond the occasional vista.
I appreciate the way Tales from the Borderlands asks me to really dig into the series’ lore. In Catch a Ride familiar faces from the other games appear and start making noise, but it’s the quieter moments that land well. Pandora feels like a real place here, even if you’re not given much of it to explore, and the warring interests of different corporations and individuals matter more to me here than they do in the main series. I care about whether Loader Bot likes Rhys, I am interested in Fiona’s curiosity about vault hunting, and I care about the outcome when these characters find themselves in a dangerous situation.
It’s good that the game has me invested in the characters and world, because the wider plot isn’t doing a whole lot for me at this point. Rhys and Fiona are journeying together now, which means that you miss out on the fun back-and-forth approach the first episode took: they split up briefly, but there’s a constant proximity between the characters, meaning that most of the episode centres around a single abandoned ATLAS facility. This is something that Telltale have done well before (The Walking Dead’s second season’s third episode springs to mind), but it would be nice to explore Pandora a bit more than the game allows. That’s not to say that there’s anything innately bad about it, this episode just feels too brief to really dig into much beyond a handful of exciting moments or fun jokes. Because of this, many of the choices you make in this one end up feeling a bit shallow (although one choice, which is played for laughs and had 97% of players making the same decision, works very well).
Episode 3 ramps up the action scenes, giving you a heap of ammo for Fiona’s gun and a few opportunities to use it as you see fit. The action scenes are relatively exciting and well-staged, working well despite being extremely simple (they’re still mostly QTEs, with quite a few ‘move the cursor to this area quickly’ moments). Having said that, some of the animations are a bit off, and the episode feels a little rushed despite taking forever to come out. Ultimately this episode never builds up much tension despite raising the stakes fairly high, but that’s largely Telltale fatigue setting in – after so many episodes, we know exactly how these games work. This isn’t that big of an issue though, because Tales from the Borderlands manages to be quite funny while all of this is going on. There are only a handful of real laugh-out-loud jokes, but there’s a consistent level of wit throughout.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which inexplicably ran very poorly in action-heavy scenes. Considering that this is a game that works on mobile devices, the frequent stuttering and pausing was unwelcome, but never quite enough to really ruin the experience. Tales from the Borderlands continues to be a solid and engaging experience, even if it’s not one that you need to rush to experience – in fact, considering the lengthy gaps between episodes, it might be best to wait until the season ends before jumping in.
James “Jickle” O’Connor is a freelance games critic, journalist and occasional editor, based in South Australia. His favourite game of all time is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and he is absurdly, comically rubbish at most fighting games (except for Killer Instinct on the SNES, which was, incidentally, the first game he ever owned). He has huge soft spots for point and click adventure games, third-person shooters, and Deus Ex
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