Tales from the Borderlands
The continuing story of Pandora's most unremarkable heroes.
Junes 23/24, 2015
PC/Mac, Android, iOS, the Consoles
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Tales from the Borderlands (TFTB) returns with a resounding bang in episode three: “Catch a Ride” (pronounced “Catch-uh-raaad”).
Warning: The nature of this episodic series presupposes some minor spoilers.
“Catch a Ride” picks up immediately where “Atlas Mugged” left off. Narrowly escaping from the ATLAS research facility with the help of GORTYS (an AI with the alleged ability to track down hidden Vaults) and Athena the Gladiator from Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, our five-man-band escapes the clutches of a new villain and shortly finds themselves enjoying an epic road trip montage complete with silly gag humor, no dialogue, and kickin’ tunes.
GORTYS leads the growing family to an abandoned ATLAS terraforming laboratory that’s been overgrown with beautiful but deadly flora and fauna. Here the narrative splits in two: Fiona goes with Athena, and Rhys goes with Fiona’s sister, Sasha, who’s got a bit of a spark going with him. The burgeoning romance between Rhys and Sasha opens itself up for players interested in pursuing it. It’s hokey but cute, and leads to one of the best laughs in the series thus far as the duo explores the run-down facility and nearly…uh…fall to their deaths at one point? Explaining what I mean would constitute a significant spoiler. It’s a great moment.
Meanwhile, Athena instructs Fiona about the virtues of being a Vault Hunter, mods her one-shot pistol for her, and even starts talking to her like she’s a Vault Hunter. The interactions take the tone of a master-student relationship, but I did detect a hint of sexual tension between the characters, and a little bit too much concern on Fiona’s part (they just met!) when Athena is endangered at one point. Are the developers possibly hinting that Fiona or some of our other heroes will be a playable character in an upcoming Borderlands game? Only future episodes will tell.
Episode three finally gives us a gauge on where TFTB lies on the Borderlands timeline. The climax of episode three leaves Athena in the custody of Brick and Mordecai, two PC’s from the original game and key NPCs from Borderlands 2 and Pre-Sequel. This shows us how Athena ends up tied to a wooden stake on the floating city of Sanctuary telling the story of how she helped Handsome Jack rise to power. The circle is complete.
Things end…well. You’ll have to play to find out.
Violence/gore, language, substance use, coarse joking, and sexual innuendo continue to be par for the course.
Athena’s status as bi/gay is made clear. It seems like the writers potentially implied romantic interest between Fiona and Athena, though nothing explicit took place.
Gameplay and Presentation
Telltale is diversifying. Whereas The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us afforded little in the way of player choice outside of dialogue and actions, TFTB has already shown that the critically-acclaimed developer is innovating naturally and interestingly. Money in TFTB is useful for more than altering the plot. Players can customize their vehicle (episode two) and in this episode, can access a quick change station (where character customizations take place in the Borderlands FPS games) to change the look of all five main characters, with potentially humorous results, such as Loaderbot being outfitted with a tuxedo. This is certainly not a necessary addition, but for fans of Borderlands and those familiar with Telltale’s other work, the innovation is only enriching to the overall experience.
Music, voice acting, animation, and cinematography remain top-notch. As usual, no complaints.
“Catch a Ride” marks the high point for TFTB thus far, bringing together the largest cast yet, funny new characters, a fascinating locale, major connections to the Borderlands FPS games, the potential promise of new Vault Hunters, a touch of romance, and what are probably the best laughs so far. If you’re a fan of Telltale, the Borderlands franchise, or great comedy, you need to pick this game up yesterday.
I eagerly await chapter four.
Agree? Disagree? Something nice to say? Leave it below.
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+ High point of the series thus far
+ Great laughs
+ Innovations to Telltale's formula begin to really take shape in this episode
- I mean...uh...there's...cursing?