Means to an end

by Huey Chewwy

One thing that is consistent in every entry of the Borderlands series is this: life on Pandora is freaking rough.  Characters go through lots of turmoil, grief, and pure hell before they have any semblance of good fortune.  Thus, the last chapter in this season's Tales From the Borderlands emphasizes on these themes in more ways than expected.  Rhys and Fiona have been through quite a bit on their journey from the beginning of the series, and that exciting journey comes to a decisive conclusion.

While the fourth episode might have been lackluster to some, 'The Vault of the Traveler' certainly packs the punch that a season finale deserves.  No matter the choice you make at the end of episode 4, the final episode is quickly driven by a specific event that sends the story moving forward.  Decisions have a lot more weight to them than in previous episodes as it puts friendships and lives on the line.  With a lot of the episode focused on dialog and action sequences, there is not a lot of time to explore the world around you.  Even when given the option, there is not much to do.  This doesn't come off as a negative though, as it gives more focus on the story at hand, which hits hard in this final episode.

'The Vault of the Traveler' goes to some dark places and asks questions that seem directed not to the characters, but rather the player on their decisions.  Death is a common theme in the Borderlands universe, but particularly in this episode.  One conversation in particular brings a dark reality; are you really the hero you say you are?  Rather than questioning something silly like your costume choice or a dialog selection, it focuses on the reasoning behind your actions.  Were my choices really the right choices?  Could the lives lost by my hands justify the needs?  Never before in the Borderlands universe have my actions been questioned in such a way.  Given who they are asked by in this particular sequence, the mood hits pretty hard.  

As some might have predicted, this is the episode where some of your decisions really come into play.  Without trying to give anything away, there is a sequence about half way through where you will have some choices to make.  And what choices you get depends on your actions from the previous episodes. Unlocking some of these choices seem pretty easy, while a few others might take some work.  Replaying episodes is most certainly encouraged.

As mentioned before, there is a lot going on in terms of story.  That means lots of dialog and quick action sequences.  There is a steady pace to the episode, only slowing down at appropriate spots.  Putting down the controller (or keypad) is not recommended as there will be plenty of spots where you will need to reply to someone or play through a quick event.  These situations are actually well done, feeling more fun and engaging rather than tedious button presses.  

While death (and sadness) is a theme I mentioned above, the other main theme revolves around coming together for a common goal.  We've seen plenty of arguments and disagreements between all the characters, but a certain event brings them together for one final showdown.  Overcoming the heavily stacked odds and their own personal problems make this encounter particularly fun.  Will we see Rhys develop into the leader that he thinks he can be?  Will Fiona make the big leap into becoming a Vault Hunter?  We've seen these characters go through a lot on the way to the final episode, and seeing their development up to this point truly pays off in the end.  Even as serious as the event is, there is plenty of humor thrown about to keep you laughing and having a great time.  The banter between Rhys and Fiona never feels stale, as they continue even to this point to trade jabs whenever they can.  And while the two main characters certainly have a lot of spotlight, Telltale made sure that the Sasha, Vaughn, and several others feel important to this episode.  No one feels out of place, and while some characters might feel more featured than others, the group as a whole comes together very nicely.

It is tough to describe the final episode without giving much away, but the season ends on a great note.  The humor is great as ever, and there are some nods to a certain "mighty" franchise that are handled in a way only Borderlands can.  As a fan of Borderlands, I was a little skeptical about Telltale handling the project.  How do you take the first person shooter elements of Borderlands, the world, and the humor into a Telltale-style game?  Tales From the Borderlands certainly exceeded my expectations, as long as you go in with an open mind.  If you just are not a fan of how Telltale games play, then maybe this series is not for you.  But if you want to see more of the Borderlands universe, this is one you shouldn't miss out on.

Score: 8

+Story wraps up rather nicely
+Final act is great
+That ending....