What a ride.
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Format: iOS, PC (reviewed), PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Released: October 20, 2015
Copy supplied by publisher
The Internet’s love of hyperbolic statements and repetition has rendered many words useless through sheer overuse. The word “epic” may be one of the most notorious examples of such literary redundancy. If I were to say the season finale to Tales from the Borderlands was “epic” you’d gain no intended sense of gravitas.
The Vault of the Traveler is, however, an epic conclusion to a fantastic series, and I mean that with all the austerity that once was reserved for such a claim.
In many ways, it’s the darkest installment of the series, though the humor is still in place. It’s also a distinctly weird episode, as mysteries unfold at a swift pace and several climactic scenes are borderline uncomfortable to watch. The ups and downs exact a toll, as characters we’ve grown to love over five memorable chapters get put through the toughest rides yet.
There are many loose ends to tie up, and Episode Five does get them all tied to a most satisfactory degree. Handsome Jack’s last gambit is a macabre delight, the overarching story of Rhys and Fiona’s capture by The Stranger is culminated, and there’s a final showdown so deliciously dramatic, it manages to even top what I called “the greatest quick-time-event in Telltale’s history” in Episode Four.
Yes, it’s even better than Finger Guns.
Decisions made throughout the series come to a head and can have a dramatic effect on how the last big battle plays out. Friends made along the way, cash saved, story arcs resolved, one’s interactions all play a part and there are quite a few unique ways to bring Tales from the Borderlands to a head. Whatever your final choices, however, the result is an incredible outcome to what has now firmly become my favorite Telltale Games series.
There’s simply not been a bad episode, as I look back over all five installments. The weakest of the season, Atlas Mugged, was still damn fine entertainment that necessarily slowed the narrative down for crucial plot development. Everything after that has simply been better and better – action packed, narratively intriguing, and above all funny as hell.
Not to mention heartwarming. Oddly heartwarming, as this final chapter reveals. I never appreciated quite how attached to Tales’ cast of characters I’d become, but The Vault of the Traveler makes it clear to me that I’ve loved spending time with Rhys, Fiona, Sasha, Vaughn, and everybody else. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, moreso perhaps than I have with any mainstay Borderlands game, and I can’t wait to return.
As with all Telltale reviews, I’m loathe to say more for fear of entering spoiler territory, but I don’t think more needs to be said at this point. Tales from the Borderlands has been brilliant, easily Telltale’s finest work since season one of The Walking Dead, and somewhat superior in several ways.
And if Fiona isn’t a playable character in the next Borderlands game, I’ll be damn surprised… and more than a little miffed.