Telltale’s latest chapter delivers a pedal to the metal narrative adventure
Tales from The Borderlands Episode 3: Catch A Ride continues to carry the fever pitch momentum that propelled the second chapter of Telltale’s series into the stratosphere. Atlas Mugged‘s conclusion left players with the difficult choice of deciding whether to trust either the golden-hearted scoundrel Fiona or the megalomaniacal Handsome Jack to escape an extremely precarious predicament, and the choice you made in those final moments weighs heavily on how episode 3’s story unfolds. While we’ve rarely felt our choices in previous chapters had left a lasting impact on the main story, Rhy’s decision whether or not to side with Jack in chapter 2 makes a significant impact on how this chapter progresses, offering a real incentive to dive back into the previous chapter just to see how both decisions play out in the grand scheme of things.
Picking up just moments after Rhys and Fiona are cornered in the Gortys facility, Catch A Ride throws the ragtag band of rapscallions out of the frying pan and into the fire. During the episode’s roughly two hours you’ll cross paths with not only the bumbling Hyperion suit Vasquez and his heavily-armed mercenaries, but an all new threat in the form of the Vallory, a Pandoran Queenpin who proves to be a tremendous thorn in the side of Rhys and company. As if that weren’t bad enough, you’ll also end up on the wrong side of some familiar Vault Hunters’ cross-hairs in an episode that consistently delivers a masterful balance between further developing Rhys and Fiona as characters at the same time delivering some of the series’ most whimsical writing yet. While up until now it’s been easy to dismiss Rhys as little more than a corporate scumbag looking to climb to the top of Hyperion at any cost, his awkward and floundering efforts to woo Sasha shine a winsome light on his roguish character. Meanwhile, Fiona’s time spent scouring the eerie facility with Athena causes her to question her ultimate ambitions as she ponders leaving behind her life of small-time thievery in favor of a future as a venerated Vault Hunter.
The bulk of Catch A Ride transports players from the arid wastes they’ve traversed over the previous two chapters to a mysterious Atlas bio-dome in the heart of a frozen tundra. This welcome change of scenery trades the familiar cacti and crud for vibrant fauna and mysterious bioluminescent lifeforms that float serenely beneath the dome’s dense canopy. Of course, the almost alien plant-life of Pandora proves to be just as formidable a foe as any in the wasteland, causing more than a handful of predicaments for the posse as they attempt to unravel the mysteries behind the isolated facility.
One of the biggest surprises of Episode 3 is Gortys herself. From the moment she’s activated, the pint-sized robot steals the show with a youthful innocence that, while tremendously at odds with the established world of guns, gore and grit that surrounds her, adds a fantastic sense of levity to the often chaotic chapter. Her interactions with Loader Bot in particular are priceless, and their banter as they take jabs at Rhys’s questionable wardrobe, or run headlong into a barrage of missiles are guaranteed have you busting a gut, ensuring her place as a fan favorite by the time the chapter’s credits roll.
One area where Catch A Ride stumbles a bit when compared to previous entries in the series is when it comes to action sequences. While Zer0 Sum‘s incredible death race segment raised the bar for Telltale’s adventures, and Atlas Mugged‘s caravan chase was spectacular, most of Catch A Ride‘s QTEs revolve around simply dodging automated turret’s gunfire and using obvious elemental ammunition types on carnivorous plants. The episode does have a few exciting moments of action, such as a white-knuckle chase that has Rhys piloting a severely handicapped Loader Bot as he pursues a truck bristling with firepower, along with a segment where you literally hammer missiles out of the park with a giant tree branch, but these moments are fleeting and pale in comparison to the aforementioned segments, which is disappointing. This disappointment is further compounded by the long in the tooth Telltale Tool engine’s lackluster performance, which is full of fits and stops that frequently manage to hamstring the action.
Even though Catch A Ride‘s action segments leave much to be desired, it more importantly serves to remarkably develop Tales‘ characters, while introducing a new cast of heroes and heels who are chock full of potential. As expected, Telltale’s uncanny writing takes center stage throughout the 120 minutes it takes to wrap up the chapter, and this entry only serves to cement my feelings that Tales From The Borderlands has what it takes to be Telltale Games’ most unforgettable series to date.
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Mac, iOS, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Vita; Publisher: Telltale Games; Developer: Telltale Games; Players: 1 ; Released: June 23, 2015; Genre: Adventure; MSRP: $4.99
Note: This review was based on Xbox One retail code provided by the game’s publisher, Telltale Games.