Tales from the Borderlands: Episode Three – Catch a Ride
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 06/23/2015
(Note: As with all episodic games, certain parts of this review will be carried over from my review of the first episode. Those copied bits will be italicized. Feel free to skip them if you wish.)
Wow. It appears Telltale Games are really taking their time with this series. Compare it to GoT. The two series are pretty much the same age, and yet Tales is just getting out its third episode, while GoT will probably get a fifth sometime next month. Not that Tales hasn’t been worth the wait. The story so far has been incredible, and it shines as one of the best examples of the kinds of things Telltale likes to do.
Last time, things got crazy. Okay, well, they were already crazy, but they got crazier. The gang discovered that something called the Gortys Project would lead them to a vault. After the fake vault key deal fell through and everyone was throwing around blame for ten million dollars being lost, opening up a vault sounded good. Problem was, some chick named Vallory sent out the hit squad to take the gang down. Episode two ended on a pretty big cliffhanger as a result. It’s about damn time we got to see what happens next.
This time around, the end of the previous episode is resolved in a pretty great action sequence. The gang finds themselves in possession of a cute little robot who intends to lead them to a vault… supposing they help it find its upgrades first.
Catch a Ride is an interesting episode. It begins and ends on crazy action sequences, but has a nice, long, calm center. That calm center makes room for a whole hell of a lot of character development and overall progression. We start to see real relationships form, get to figuring out who that masked fellow is, and still even get to meet some new and interesting characters. Said robot is the best though. She serves as a wonderful foil/companion for the loader bot.
Because of the smart writing, subtle choices, and probably the most beautiful location yet, this ends up being perhaps the best episode. That’s awesome. Each one somehow manages to outdo the last. Perhaps TT should take a three plus month break every episode. It’s paying off.
Visually, the game works great. The cell-shaded art style of Borderlands lends itself well to the Telltale look. You could even be forgiven for thinking you were just watching a cutscene from one of the FPS games. That being said, the animations are a bit stiff, and there’s an issue with words not syncing up with lips. The game also has the typical TT technical issues. It will pause frequently to load up variations of speech, words will be cut off, and sometimes the sound will go on without the video. These problems are constant, but the fantastic art style makes up for it.
The audio department is where the game really shines though. Featuring the voices of Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Chris Hardwick, and Patrick Warburton, the cast is truly top notch. Add in the crazed rants of the psychos, the ethereal effects of Zero’s abilities, and the rocking soundtrack, and it’s a recipe for success. The only problem I had was sometimes the voices got drowned out by the music. Still, I can honestly say this is one of the best sounding games I’ve played all year.
Speaking of “game”, let’s talk about how this thing works.
When it comes to mechanics, the game is lacking. For the most part, you’re a spectator. When you do get to chime in, you have two primary methods. During conversations, you’ll be presented with four different options. You can pick any of them or remain silent, but you only have a brief window to choose. The conversations will differ slightly based on your choices, but the overall plot is largely unaffected. During action sequences, you’ll have to rotate the analog stick or press buttons as they pop onto the screen. Failing these doesn’t always lead to death, but death can happen. It will just send you back a few seconds though. It’s kind of like a two hour quick time event.
There are some big choices to be made. These pop up during big moments in the story, and pause the game to let you carefully choose how you wish to proceed. When this happens, there are only a couple of choices. For example, Fiona carries a small pistol with just one bullet. A couple of these big choices ask you whether or not you want to use that bullet. Again, these choices don’t seem to affect the story at large, but do allow you to roleplay a bit.
Occasionally, you’ll be allowed to move around and explore a bit. Don’t get too excited though; when this happens, you have maybe a hallway you can walk down or something. When playing as Rhys, you can press L1 to use his cybernetic eye. This allows you to scan various items for flavor text. When using Fiona, she can keep track of her bank account. There are points in the story when you can spend money to equip different accessories. It’s not much, but it is nice.
As usual with any Telltale game, part of the fun in making your big choices is comparing these choices with others. The game keeps track of what you did, and at the end of the episode, you can see how many people went the same way you did. It’s certainly interesting, but at this point it would be great to get even more complex. I wouldn’t mind seeing how many people took the exact same path as me.
Short Attention Span Summary
Tales from the Borderlands continues to be a shining beacon in the dreary Telltale line up. It’s colorful characters, strong script, and interesting location continue to carry it forward. Even the frequent technical issues do little to mar the overall experience. Here’s hoping we see the next episode before too long!