Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 5 – Closing the Vault
Thinking back on it, it’s hard to believe that the tale of Tales from the Borderlands has played out over the course of almost an entire year since the first episode of the series debuted in November 2014.
Compared to many of Telltale Games’ series wrapping up in a shorter amount of time, it speaks to the particular brand of storytelling that Borderlands provided that even in the course of getting its narrative across, each episode built up a story that was equal parts touching, intense, daring, and hilarious, with the series’ final episode, “The Vault of the Traveler,” serving as a nearly-perfect cap to one of Telltale’s best stories yet.
Picking up where the previous episode left off with Handsome Jack taking matters into his own hands (along with the entire control system of Helios) the various plot threads, motivations, and (yes) plenty of inside jokes from throughout the series are wrapped up quite neatly with the series finale in Episode 5.
Like the previous four episodes before it, “The Vault of the Traveler” effortlessly blends together humor, emotion, and action into an engaging and packed two and a half hour adventure.
Few games have been able to make me cringe one minute and then laugh immediately after, but Episode 5 is an emotional roller coaster in the best way possible.
As with the previous structure of the series, Episode 5 bounces back and forth between Rhys and Fiona converging in events both past and present, and it’s commendable that the finale wraps everything up with style and plenty of laughs, even among some pretty dark and intense moments.
In particular, Rhys’ relationship with Handsome Jack comes to a head that, while I can’t possibly describe due to spoilers, will make you squirm, laugh, and cry all at the same time.
Even with a character like Handsome Jack that has acted as one of Borderlands‘ most notorious antagonists, Tales imbues him with plenty of sympathy and reasons to feel for him, even when he makes you furious.
Where the episode’s first half largely sets out to wrap a bow on the past-tense events, the second act of the episode is where “The Vault of the Traveler” truly shines and may just be one of my favorite closers ever for one of Telltale’s series, perhaps only exceeded by the conclusion to The Walking Dead‘s first season.
Even more than Telltale’s recent titles, the decisions and choices you’ve made as both Rhys and Fiona can have quite the impact on going in to the episode’s final encounter.
I don’t want to spoil the fun, but going in to the raid the titular Vault of the Traveler requires a team, and who you can choose to go in with you is one of the episode’s biggest moments, one that even made me want to go back through and see how I could get other characters involved.
Even without those elements of who you choose and how you complete raiding the Vault, the episode’s final encounter takes the cake as one of Telltale’s best action sequences ever.
By bringing most of the gang back together for an epic showdown, it shows off the series at its finest, with plenty of action, heart, and tons of humor that had me smiling all the way through to the end.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a showdown that somehow managed to combine the action of Street Fighter with the silly, over-the-top combat of Voltron or Power Rangers, Tales from the Borderlands will have you in stitches.
While this episode juggles so many different elements in every moment, it still manages to keep almost all its balls in the air with impressive writing, performances, and action, even while going so consistently between drama and comedy.
And yet, Telltale makes it all work so well, and especially in letting almost every character have their moment to shine: it speaks to the fact that characters that were typically relegated to comic relief get heroic, emotional moments, while the more hated characters become sympathetic and relatable.
Episode 5 moves at a quick pace and crams a lot into its brief running time, almost never letting up. To many it will be an exhilarating ride, though to some it may be just be over a bit too quickly for its own good.
Although Rhys, Fiona, Sasha, Gortys, Loader Bot, and others all get their moments in the spotlight, some of the game’s other characters that have made big impressions like Vallory and Vaughn get more limited screentime at that expense.
That being said, Borderlands wraps up Rhys and Fiona’s story just like it was told over the course of its five episodes: with betrayals, double-crosses, and a healthy dose of laughs and fun.
With plenty of nods to its source material and still incredibly enjoyable to newcomers, the series closes out its season on a hugely enjoyable high note.
Even though I won’t get more finger gun fights, gun-pooping horses, and tons of hilarious banter, “The Vault of the Traveler” cements the fact that Tales from the Borderlands was one hell of a ride.