Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 3 - A Wild Ride
Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 3
iOS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Mac
Review copy provided by the publisher
Coming from the previous two episodes in the Telltale Games/Gearbox Software collaboration of Tales from the Borderlands, the company’s latest title clearly defined itself as an oddball, charming mix of epic space opera with goofy Western antics, marking a clear departure from Telltale’s more dramatically-driven The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Game of Thrones.
As it stands based on the series’ third episode, titled “Catch a Ride,” it’s also clear that Tales from the Borderlands might just be one of the best series that Telltale Games has created yet: we still have two episodes left before Rhys and Fiona’s adventure ends (for now), yet I can’t wait to see where the rest of the ride takes us.
Continuing right from where Episode 2 left off, “Catch a Ride” serves another slice of Rhys and Fiona’s quest to find one of the infamous Vaults of Pandora for unspeakable treasures and riches waiting. After two episodes filled mostly with plot set-up, world building, and healthy doses of character development (with plenty of laughs along the way), Episode 3 succeeds in every way on getting the (proverbial) ball rolling, while also setting up some of the series’ most endearing laughs and sequences yet.
Like the previous episodes, this one continues the framing device of flashing between moments in the past and present to tell Rhys and Fiona’s story, resulting in neither being a particularly reliable narrator. In this case, it continues to be an effective and fairly innovative break from “the Telltale formula,” providing not only an engaging plot device to see how events in the past will contribute toward the present, but also providing some hilarious gags.
In the case of Fiona retelling one of her feats of badassery only to have Rhys chime in and say otherwise, the plot framing between past and present shines as one of series’s best attributes, and Episode 3 only continues using it to excellent, and hilarious, effect.
In the case of moving the plot forward, this episode races ahead in setting Rhys, Fiona, and Co. on the hunt for a Vault, while also deftly balancing the characters we have been following since Episode 1 and introducing plenty of new faces along the way. This time around, the band has been split largely into two separate groups that develop them in new and surprising ways. The wacky rogue Rhys finds himself in the beginning of what may be a new romance for the series, while Fiona discovers her skills as a Vault Hunter as she reconciles her past.
Though some of the series’ other charming characters get put a bit to the sideline like Vaughn and Vasquez, Episode 3 also introduces plenty of fresh faces both new to the series and others that will definitely be familiar to fans. Yet, alongside these cameos, “Catch a Ride” also introduces a few new characters that even in just their debut, completely steal the show and wind up as some of the episode’s biggest highlights.
In particular, the robo-ball Gortys (voiced by The Last of Us‘ Ashley Johnson) ends up being the biggest showstealer of them all in the third episode. Picked up by the group en route to finding the Vault, Gortys winds up providing an adorable burst of energy to the episode, with Johnson providing a hilarious and charming performance; frankly, even the most heartless of folks will find it tough to turn down the adorable Gortys’ presence in Episode 3.
Though her appearances are relegated mostly to the front and end of the episode, Tales from the Borderlands finds itself with a new villain in the form of Vallory and, though her appearances are brief, she comes in guns blazing and makes her appearances more than memorable. Towing along some familiar faces, Vallory instantly makes a fun, quite explosive (take that literally) addition to the cast, with her involvement in Rhys and Fiona’s escapades leaving the cast in some extenuating circumstances.
While the series continues to be heavily intertwined with the world, characters, and story, Tales from the Borderlands continues to put its best foot forward as both a charming side story to the Borderlands universe that both longtime fans can appreciate, and a great gateway to the franchise for newcomers with its hilarious gags and well-written story. In many ways, Tales continues to surpass the main series in its storytelling and writing, and continues to charge ahead as one of Telltale’s best series.
As we’re now halfway through the season , Episode 3 leaves off Rhys, Fiona and Company in some dire straights once more with more questions remaining than answers at this point. While the outcomes of the player’s actions won’t be seen just yet for two more episodes, Tales from the Borderlands exemplifies the ideal that it’s not necessarily the destination that players should be looking forward to, but instead to what the journey that Telltale Games and Gearbox Software have been providing this season — with action, suspense, and humor to boot.
Continuing its arc as the sort of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” of the Borderlands series, this episode is another excellent installment of the series that doubles down on the action and the laughs from the previous episodes.
Even if we don’t necessarily know the road that Tales from the Borderlands is taking us down, Episode 3 proves that the ride is easily more than worth taking.