Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 5 ‘The Vault of the Traveler’ closes out the journey that Telltale began back in late 2014. Beginning life as a seemingly inconsequential spinoff of the main Borderlands games, the series has taken on new life and become many fan’s favorite Telltale game. Though some episodes may have stumbled a little along the way; with excellent writing, characters, and storytelling this finale cements Tales from the Borderlands as one of gaming’s finest adventure games, and one of its best stories overall.
We pick up the plot right where we left off in Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 4. Fiona, Rhys and their gang are on-board Hyperion’s space station, with Handsome Jack having seized control of the company once again. They have all of the pieces needed to summon the Vault of the Traveler, but need to survive their encounter with Jack, and make it back home. Once there, they still have Vallory and her goons to deal with, but one problem at a time. So, essentially, our heroes are screwed.
While Episode 4 dragged a bit, spinning its wheels as it set the pieces up for this finale, Episode 5 hits the ground running and barely stops to take a breath. By the time the exceedingly excellent intro music kicks in you’ll have a good idea of how things are shaping up for the rest of the adventure. Of course, nothing goes quite to plan, but even when the plot shifts in a new direction, it is always for the better.
‘The Vault of the Traveler’ doesn’t pull any punches
Going into Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 5 it felt as though there was just too much going on to be easily wrapped up in one more two hour entry. Telltale has worked their magic though, tying up almost every loose end, while still not coming off as rushed or hacked together. While the opener might surprise you with its sudden shift, you just have to be patient and everything will end up paying off in more ways than you might have even imagined.
Also on the story front, ‘The Vault of the Traveler’ doesn’t pull any punches in either the humor or dramatic elements that have made this series so great. Multiple moments in this finale will have die hard fans crying, with some truly shocking turns of events that fans will love and hate at the same time. Then, as if to cheer you up from the awful things Telltale has put you through, you’ll find yourself cracking up at some truly funny moment, quote, or situation that are all deftly handled within the script. This dichotomy of drama and humor has become a trademark of the series, and Episode 5 shows exactly why.
Of course, the other aspect of a Telltale game, and finale specifically, are the choices. Most of the time it is a question of if the choices feel profound, but for the finale it becomes, “do all of my choices effect the outcome”. Telltale has been known to cheat their endgame a little, whittling away at your previous choices so that everyone ends up in the same place. Here that is certainly not the case, as all of the choices you have made over the course of the series culminate in a final act that is totally shaped by you.
How much money you saved, who you helped and who you didn’t, what you said to this character and how they reacted. All of these things matter by the end of Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 5, allowing you to change the way the story plays out in multiple ways. The very end might be about the same for everyone, but the journey, even right up until that end, will be different enough that most players will want to run through the series again, just to see how it changes.
Unfortunately, things aren’t totally perfect in Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 5. The animation issues that have plagued Telltale games as of late are still present, and even seem to be worse in this episode. Some people or items will jump around a bit, as if they lost frames during their movement. Backgrounds also have some issues, with many of them scrolling by at a much lower framerate, causing a bit of a slideshow effect. There were also some clipping issues that will bother the more attentive player. However, these are all to be expected at this point, and if you’ve made it this far into the series, you likely are OK with them. And while they might impact immersion a bit, the overall presentation is good enough to make up for it.
That presentation is largely a product of the voice actors, who deliver the excellently written script with ease. Just looking at the cast list shows that players are in for a fantastic time, but the actors combine with the stellar writing to form a truly memorable experience. Troy Baker, Laura Bailey (whose thoughts on this episode can be seen here), Chris Hardwick, Ashley Johnson, Raison Varner, Erin Yvette, and their companions all put in another great performance once again.
The characters, through the events of the story, form a bit of a family unit. By the end of the game most players will feel like they too are a part of that family. You’ll cry when someone is hurt, you’ll laugh when someone says a joke, and you’ll mourn when your time with them is over. Tales from the Borderlands has easily been one of Telltale’s finest games, and should be on a few Game of the Year lists come December. A good portion of that praise will be about this finale and how perfectly it brought an end to the adventures of Fiona and Rhys. The only question that remains is, when does Season Two start?
Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 5
- Available On: PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Mobile
- Published By: Telltale Games
- Developed By: Telltale Games
- Genre: Graphic Adventure
- US Release Date: October 20th, 2015
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 5 perfectly concludes the adventures of Fiona and Rhys, and their gang of friends. This episode easily cements the series as one of Telltale's best, and one of the best games this year. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll wanna do it all over again just to see how your choices change things."