The continuing story of Rhys and Fiona speeds through the halfway point with Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 3 ‘Catch a Ride’. This series has been one of Telltale’s more consistent efforts, both in storytelling as well as gameplay features. Heading into Episode 3 there were a lot of concerns that it might not be able to maintain its momentum, especially with the protracted wait times between each new entry. However, Telltale has pulled it off once again, and while it might not be the best episode in this already fantastic series, it is certainly a worthy continuation from its predecessors.
In case you’re just joining things, Tales from the Borderlands takes place after the events of Borderlands 2, with the death of Handsome Jack still looming over the heads of everyone at Hyperion and on the planet Pandora. You take on the double role of Rhys, a salaryman looking to make his way through the Hyperion hierarchy, and Fiona, a Pandora-born grifter. Along for the ride are various friends and allies, with Vaughn, a Hyperion accountant, and Fiona’s sister Sasha rounding out the main foursome.
Episodes 1 and 2 set things up perfectly, putting our unlikely heroes on the trail of one of Pandora’s fabled Vaults, which are full of alien artifacts worth billions. However, things don’t always, or ever, go according to plan, and the four have found themselves fighting off bandits, dealing with various foes, and just having to contend with life on rugged Pandora.
‘Catch a Ride’ picks the story right up where it left off in Episode 2, with our dual heroes and their allies in a seemingly impossible situation. The last episode left the player with two choices as far as who to trust with getting out of the life-threatening scenario. Telltale has been criticized before for not really letting your choices change the narrative, only offering cosmetic differences before bringing things right back to the status quo. With Tales from the Borderlands though they have been much more experimental, and this opening scenario is a perfect example.
The choice made at the end of Episode 2 will shape the entire first quarter of Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 3, with a few lingering elements left over depending on the player’s particular actions. The story may head in the same general direction when looked at from a distance, but in the thick of things it doesn’t matter, and players should have a great time dissecting each other’s choices and figuring out what has changed. Second playthroughs should be enjoyable as well, with some sections of Episode 3 playing out extremely differently depending on the player’s choices.
The story of Episode 3 does suffer a little bit from Telltale’s usual delay tactics, with this middle episode having a couple areas that feel like they are mere stepping stones to greater plot developments in the future. However, there are a few major shifts in the narrative, with a new “Big Bad” popping up for the player to contend with. Also, the joy of Tales from the Borderlands is in the writing, voice acting, and characters, and all of these are on point. Telltale hasn’t had a chance to flex their comedy muscles in many of their more recent games, but that hasn’t stopped them from delivering some of the best video game humor in the last few years with Tales.
Some sequences will certainly have the player laughing out loud, if not stifling a giggle or two. And even when one isn’t laughing the general tone of the series has remained fun and light-hearted, while still telling an effective and touching story. It’s all enhanced with some of the best written characters in Telltale history, with Loader Bot being a particular favorite. Episode 3 even introduces some new characters that will surely become fan-favorites.
Topping it all off is some of the best voice acting in a video game, with the likes of Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Chris Hardwick, Patrick Warburton, Nolan North, and too may more to name. Telltale has traditionally had some of the best voice acting in video games, but Tales takes it to another level somehow.
Another place where Tales excels, even beyond its Telltale brethren, is in the gameplay department. Telltale has been trimming the fat off the graphic adventure genre since the debut of The Walking Dead, but sometimes they cut a bit too much, leaving little in the way of gameplay. Tales from the Borderlands has brought some of that back with an actual inventory, various player abilities, and some fantastic action sequences.
Episode 3 ‘Catch a Ride’ continues this with some truly enjoyable action set-pieces. The aforementioned opening is particularly fun and interesting, featuring fast paced action gameplay regardless of which character you trusted. Things slow down a bit in the middle, pushing the plot forward a bit, at the expense of pacing. Near the end though the player is thrust into one of the best gameplay sequences of the entire series. The actual actions you take might boil down to a series of quick time events and dialogue choices, but in the moment it all works fantastically well.
Of course, things still aren’t perfect in the world of Telltale, and while Tales from the Borderlands stands above the rest it still falls short in a few areas. It is becoming painfully obvious that Telltale needs to revamp and upgrade their underlying engine. Tales from the Borderlands still looks good, with character designs standing out in particular, but animation and graphical hitches still crop up here and there. The overall presentation works thanks to it fitting within the overall Borderlands aesthetic, but those looking for a more graphically intense adventure will likely be disappointed. This isn’t news to those that have played previous Telltale games though, so at this point it is just a warning for new players.
Many have called Tales from the Borderlands Telltale’s best series ever, and with episodes like Catch a Ride it is tough to argue. The humor is excellent, the voice acting is stellar, and the story continues to engage and intrigue the player with its dual-narrator structure. If you haven’t taken the plunge into Rhys and Fiona’s epic adventure yet there is no reason to keep waiting, as Tales just keeps getting better as time goes on. Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 4 can’t come soon enough.
Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 3
- Available On: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac, iOS, Android
- Published By: Telltale Games
- Developed By: Telltale Games
- Genre: Graphic Adventure
- US Release Date: June 23rd, 2015
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Many have called Tales from the Borderlands Telltale's best series ever, and with episodes like Catch a Ride it is tough to argue. The humor is excellent, the voice acting is stellar, and the story continues to engage and intrigue the player with its dual-narrator structure. If you haven't taken the plunge into Rhys and Fiona's epic adventure yet there is no reason to keep waiting, as Tales just keeps getting better as time goes on. Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 4 can't come soon enough."