Tales from the Borderlands: Episode Four – Escape Plan Bravo
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 08/18/2015
(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.)
The penultimate episode is here! It’s been an odd year for episodic games on that front. Usually, the next to last episode is a let down, as it merely serves as a build up to the finale. However, recent series like Game of Thrones and Life is Strange have done a lot with that episode. Tales from the Borderlands is no different. While it would be a stretch to say this is the best episode yet, it keep the momentum going strong and has plenty of memorable moments.
Last time, the group ventured out to find various parts for a robot named Gortys. Finding all of these parts means unlocking a vault, so the stakes are high. Unfortunately, the end of the episode found the gang in the clutches of Vallory and her goons. The big shocker was that the final Gortys part, a beacon, was up on the Hyperion space station. The deal is simple. Vallory will let Rhys, Fiona, Vaughn, and Sasha live only if they can get that beacon back to her.
This episode plays out quite a bit like a heist movie. There’s even a dramatic sequence with catch music to demonstrate how the plan will work out. You get a few chances to explore a bit and learn a little about Hyperion culture. It’s…… odd. Of course, there are some pretty big decisions to make this time around. Perhaps the biggest is whether to tell the girls about Handsome Jack living in Rhys’ head. While there are few moments for any two characters to pair off and have meaningful conversations, the few times this does happen are interesting indeed.
It should also be noted that this episode has my favorite, and arguably the best, action sequence in the season. Who knew accountants could be so dangerous?
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.
As usual, the episode will take you about an hour and a half to go through. It’s basically the length of a modern movie, which is fine. You can easily blow through it in one sitting. In fact, that’s probably the best way to do it.
Short Attention Span Summary
Escape Plan Bravo is another great episode for TotB. It has a fun, heist movie feel to it makes the hour and a half play time seem much shorter. It’s a little light on the deep conversations and actions sequences compared to other episodes, but the ones that are here are all solid. It’ll be a shame when this season comes to an end, but until then, here’s hoping episode five sends it off the right way.