You know a game is going to be good when you begin by scooping out a dead general’s eyeball with a spork. Okay, maybe not necessarily good, but definitely memorable. Fortunately, the final episode of Telltale Games’ Tales from the Borderlands (whose first episode, I reviewed previously) proved to live up to the expectations set up right at the start, delivering action and adventure packaged with a hearty dose of the Borderlands franchise’s trademark humor, wrapped in a thin sheet of well-placed gruesomeness (ever wondered what it might be like to peel a man’s face off of someone else wearing it as a mask? You won’t have to after playing TFTB).
Just like in the first episode, as well as the rest of Telltale’s games, the new episodes are really more like cinematic experiences peppered with interactive moments. And the cinema really is sublime: Episode 2’s title credits saunter onto your screen as one of your protagonists is flung in slow-motion out of a speeding car, accompanied by the bittersweet crooning of Shawn Lee’s Kiss the Sky. Excellent cinematography and music that packs an emotional punch continue throughout the rest of the series, as Rhys and Fiona, the rebellious corporate lackey and the spunky con-artist, are faced with new foes, difficult decisions and even a few tragic revelations. The plot’s pacing is excellent, with high-octane moments bookended by scenes that are relaxed, funny and possibly even romantic, depending on your choices. It also looks like your story choices matter more in these episodes, with even some of your decisions in episode 1 coming back to haunt you. Your characters, both new and old, are as cool as ever. The game makes you form real bonds with them, and losing some of them (which you WILL) is genuinely sad. And if you’re a Borderlands fan, even more familiar faces make cameo appearances.
Also you get more dick-jokes related to Vasquez. We should just leave it at that, but really, whoever said humor need always be classy?
Game mechanics-wise, the new episodes have similar issues. While choices and their consequences are compelling, and certain hand-eye-coordination based screen-tap challenges are fun, the game sometimes makes you do things seemingly just…because. I mean, for a game which is made up mainly of cutscenes to suddenly pause so you can turn a knob or push a button…not the best use of their resources.
But honestly, maybe because I’m a sentimental sop and form too-strong an attachment to videogame characters, or maybe because the writers of Tales from the Borderlands dazzled me so much with their wit, engrossing stories and fun characters that everything else in the game just becomes inconsequential, but I cared much less about the game mechanics or their flaws than I did in the first episode. It’s really easy to just buckle up and enjoy the ride through Pandora. Because it’s well worth it.
Keeps the action high and the humor higher. Excellent.