'Your journey ends here', states the Traveler's splash screen. And yes, while another series ends and wraps up, Tales does it in spectacular fashion, one that might even succeed beyond that of The Walking Dead Season 1's acclaim. Let's cut through everything because this finale is an epic power-house of emotions, one that everyone must experience.
Episode 5: The Vault of the Traveler
Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Platforms: PC, PS4/PS3/PS Vita, Xbox 360/Xbox One, Wii U, Android/iOS/Fire OS
Release Date: October 20th 2015
I'm a big Borderlands fan, and have played through Borderlands 2 pretty much three or more times and I never really get sick of it. While it's a different game, but the parallels are mostly similar. The experience of Tales flourishes because of precise technical story-telling and characters, insane amounts of humor that isn't tacky and wacky, and at the same time having the same beauty with each episode. You could say Gearbox never really demanded the same energy and vibrant meshing with their games (especially Pre-Sequel), but as we've seen 5 times now, with the right setting and the right amount of detail in character-development, there is no need for opulent jokes that only happens when the player "does something" or operate a button. It's easy to say that Tales is Telltale's best work yet, but it's really all down to the masterfully-written characters and the thrilling ride that it takes us on.
It's definitely hard to not spoil the major events that unfold during episode 5. It is frenetic, volatile and epic as you go from scene to scene, wasting no time in catching your breath and dragging you up to speed to where the characters are. As we've known from the previous episode, Jack has become the ultimate villain in Helios, and for the majority of this episode, he is a threat not just to Rhys but everyone on board. Things go top-heavy from there on out as Fiona and crew have to escape the Hyperion base.
While there really isn't much time to rest your eyes and beating heart from all the craziness that ensues, there is space during the episode where things do slow down and as the player, you do appreciate it when it happens. After what had been going on, it happened at precisely the right time to smooth it out.
I think what really carved the game to excel up until this point were the characters. They were perennial throughout the series. Rhys and Fiona both are endearing in their own ways, as well as being unique and interesting into the Borderlands universe, played brilliantly by Troy Baker and Laura Bailey respectively. One a con-woman and the other a ladder-climbing corporate, you shape who they are and the end sequence with the two of them makes it all the more sweeter. You felt like their characters had developed, with what happened to Fiona and Athena - Rhys with Handsome Jack, and even side-characters like August, Loader Bot and Gortys all shine in their respective roles.
You felt as if every decision you've made up until the finale wasn't really paying off, and it does at the end. The Stranger everybody has been trying to figure out eventually puts the mask down to my own disbelief and shock. I had eyes on who it would be but it surprised me in every way. The conversation would eventually turn to the choices you've made, and what happened to the story that Fiona and Rhys were talking about.
And the story albeit linear, is coherent enough for the players to follow. Yes it's a McGuffin type scenario but at the same time it's confident in what it's doing. The voice-acting is absolutely amazing in every way, albeit with some slight glitches along the way. This has truly been an awesome experience that just leaves me wanting for more after it ends.
Tales builds onto the already established universe of Pandora and the likes, and eventually Gearbox will bring what has already been framed into Borderlands 3, where players really get to open vaults rather than chase Hyperion-bots, especially when we've seen what happens at the end.
This episode is long too, and quite rightly so as everything including the curtains come down, just waiting to open again. There's even a big action set-piece as the episode drives on, and the invention of a mix-and-match of buttons to press during the quick-time-events does make the action all the more fun and engaging, rather than the same-old same-old.
The poignant moments that happens stick like a gut-punch, and while there really isn't all that many laugh out loud moments, the emotional core of the game takes center-stage and is devastating when it hits. The character arcs are solved more-or-less, and at the end you feel satisfied with the choices that you've chosen throughout the series. The game explores many different themes of life: betrayal, friends, family and even love, doing it better with every step of the way.
Tales from the Borderlands is an experience you will never forget; one filled with zest and humor unlike previous modern Telltale titles, one that rocks with emotion and heartbreak, while at the same time a fitting cohesion within it's own right. The possibilities from here on are endless, and I for one cannot wait for season 2. After all that, it's safe to say thanks to Telltale, for such an incredible and enthralling ride that I will savor for a long time.
Gearbox, are you taking notes for Borderlands 3?
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Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.