Tales from the Borderlands ended on a pretty high note, I thought. I’m a fan of the Borderlands series as well as most recent Telltale games, so I had high expectations of this series and, overall, it didn’t disappoint.
That said, there was a lot riding on this episode. This series has had plenty of good moments and enjoyable sections, but has lacked a gripping central storyline to tie things together. Instead its often relied on substantial cameos from main series characters to speed things along and keep our interest. Appearances by characters like Zero and Athena definitely rank among the highlights of the series and it was nice to see that Telltale found a way to involve these characters in the game’s conclusion in a semi-meaningful way. That said, the appearance of some other characters that have been introduced over the course of these five episodes inspired a distinctly nonplussed reaction, which I think points to the often mediocre nature of the storyline and writing in this series.
Our main characters, Fiona and Rhys, have been engaging enough in their respectively roguish and devious roles, and I would be happy to see them return in the main Borderland series, even as playable characters. This last episode gives them both plenty of spotlight and what feels like an appropriate resolution to their storyline. At least for my Rhys, though, it felt like his rupture from Jack was quite abrupt, seeing as their partnership had been built up over the course of four whole episodes. In part this is due to a perennial weakness in Telltale’s formula: there is only so far your individual character and story can develop in its own direction before it is pulled back into the narrative groove established for the game as a whole. At its worst, depending on the choices you’ve made and the speed with which your relationships are undone, this can feel quite incongruous.
One of the best things about this series has been the development of the Loader Bot character, who is once again the source of a great deal of amusement and some surprisingly touching moments. Our robot friends also provide the most awesome section of the whole series in the form of a confrontation involving a Vault Guardian monster that is nothing short of (and I hate this word*) epic. It’s a very impressive and well-choreographed sequence and the episode is worth playing just to experience it.
Despite the positives, the overall experience is marred by familiar technical glitches. There are major graphical freezes at various points, which often occur when action is at its most frenetic, and are therefore particularly jarring and immersion-breaking. There was also a game-breaking audio glitch that occurred right at the end, which meant the last several lines of dialogue were completely muted. That’s right, I got to the ending of the game and watched the characters move their lips with no sounds coming out. The audio loss lasted throughout the end credits so there was no outro music either. It’s very disappointing that the series would end like this. The technical problems with Telltale’s games have gone beyond the point where they can be easily forgiven, I think, considering the expanded scale of the company now compared to when they made it big with the first season of The Walking Dead. The failure to resolve these issues to me points to complacency or a lack of will, and I don’t think it bodes well for the future of the company or its games.
Nevertheless, Tales from the Borderlands was a fun series with an enjoyable and largely satisfying final episode. It’s not among Telltale’s best games, but it’s not the worst either (with one episode to go, it looks like Game of Thrones will have that dubious honour). Definitely recommended for fans of the Borderlands series or diehard Telltale enthusiasts.
*: Archer reference. You’re welcome.