Tales from the Borderlands – Episode 5: 2015 catchup review

 Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5

The Borderlands universe is packed with stories to unravel, from the adventures of brave vault hunters, to the delightful discovery of a psycho face pizza party and the joys it can bring its masked attendees. Up until last year though, the potential for these tales just wasn’t available to fully explore, with Gearbox’s shoot and loot platform being a very good game, but a pretty naff scaffold for anything narrative. We should all count ourselves lucky that Telltale came to the rescue and unearthed the shiny gemstones of story buried deep beneath the bloodied rocks of Pandora’s surface.

With Tales from the Borderlands concluding with Episode 5, The Vault of the Traveller, we’re happy to say that it’s probably our favourite Telltale series to date. It’s been a perfect collaboration between the two game studios, with The Walking Dead developer picking up on the style of the world, complete with its dark sense of humour and quirky characters, and applying it to the story-driven template perfectly. We’d have never considered a Borderlands game without loot to be so great. Such a thing is like a Metal Gear title without mullets and impractically large robot tanks. Tales from the Borderlands looks at the open world structure of its parent game, and fills in the gaps the original template never could.

We pick up the action with our heroes aboard Helios, Hyperion’s space station that sits in orbit above Pandora. As you can expect from the story so far, things go a bit skag shaped and after an explosive opener, Rhys and Fiona find themselves back on Pandora once again. As we’ve come to expect, after you’ve played out the game’s intro section and the opening credits appear, the entire title sequence is beautifully executed with catchy audio pumped in over the top to make it truly memorable.

 Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5

He should really change his dentist

From here we’d just be going into spoilers, so we’ll steer away from story specific details. What we will say however is that your choices from across the first four episodes can have a drastic effect on the events you encounter, even though the final outcome is all the same. It’s been the first Telltale game that’s made us want to go back and play things differently almost as soon as the credits start scrolling. It all comes to a head with an incredible final sequence that’s some kind of Power Rangers meets Street Fighter mash-up. Trust us, it’s pretty amazing.

Despite the occasional lull in interactive sections beyond the standard dialogue trees, it’s safe to say that Tales from the Borderlands is probably the most gamey of this new breed of point and click adventures. This is especially apparent in episode five where, without wanting to spoil anything, the final battle goes beyond timing your left and right button taps with on-screen prompts. We can happily say that it’s up there with our favourite quick time events of all time, and doesn’t fall victim to the repetition and mandatory restart that comes when you fumble a prompt in the heat of the moment.

Not that we’re saying anything too revolutionary happens in the gameplay department though. It looks like Telltale are pushing the limit of what they can do with their quick time event style gameplay. Then again, people should be playing this as an interactive comic, rather than something with the finesse required for DOTA2 or Bloodborne.

 Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5

There have got to be better ways to steal a man’s shoe

It’s also a little disappointing to see that collectibles or saved resources don’t really factor into any kind of realistic outcome. There’s one collectible benefit that we found that triggers if you save all of your cash and don’t spend any of it throughout the game, but that reward can be gained an alternative way as well. We really wanted to see the benefit of saving bullets in earlier chapters or consequences for attempting slightly riskier character interactions, like pickpocketing. The majority of such actions seemed to go unacknowledged or were completely written out in subsequent episodes. It feels like a slightly lost opportunity, but we appreciate that Telltale were probably juggling enough story threads as it was.

As always, it’s the story that shines here, and something that has really shocked us in the way Tales from the Borderlands ties into the lore of the popular shooter series. Rather than being a tacked-on spin off, there are big story events happening here that will definitely affect any future romps around Pandora. Again, the best bits are spoiler territory, but we will go as far as saying that things go a bit Game of Thrones as far as the fates of a couple of characters are concerned…

 Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5

Whilst not the optimum driving position, riding the hood looks badass

This different take on the Borderlands experience has injected new life into the colourful world of wastelands and weirdos, and we genuinely can’t wait to see more from either Telltale or the shoot and loot specialists Gearbox. If nothing else, there’s a huge amount here that can be modified slightly and be inserted into the chaotic co-op shooter somewhere down the line. Not that we’d expect anything in line with the storytelling here, but Tales from the Borderlands has certainly shone the spotlight on the delightful non-combatants of Pandora.

With each episode packed with laughs and high points, Tales from the Borderlands is a runaway success that once again proves Telltale can churn any franchise into silky smooth and buttery gold. From the explosive start to the climactic final moments, there isn’t much downtime at any point int the story. There are quieter times sure, but these are peppered with genuine laugh out loud moments tapped from the colourful cast and environments found on and around Pandora.

critical score 9

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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