Tales From The Borderlands Episode Five: The Vault Of The Traveler Review

What a ride.

01

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.

03

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.

02

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.

04

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.

9.5/10
Superb

Matthew Castillo
Guest
Matthew Castillo

I think this beats out The Wolf Among Us for my favorite Telltale game.

Peter Korman
Guest
Peter Korman

Generally not a fan of Telltale games, but this is slightly more enjoyable and self-aware.
I still probably won’t bother with their other games, but it’s good to know that they are at least trying new things in a format that, you’d think, wouldn’t really allow them.

Corporal Touchy Breath
Guest
Corporal Touchy Breath

This is hands down the best Telltale adventure game yet. When I started this episode I was thinking “Holy shit Telltale, did you confuse this script with The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones?!”

I also agree, I didn’t realize how much I loved these characters (excepting LB, he’s my favorite) until this episode. Truly a stellar showing, I hope so bad they do another of these for Borderlands.

Venser
Guest

Why no Life Is Strange review?

Chris Beaver
Guest
Chris Beaver

Because everyone knows the last episode sucks already

Venser
Guest

Even more of a reason to review it.

Mark Davenport
Guest

I had a great time.

My only issues was there was some really intense frame-drops and freezes at some point.
But apart from that, it was great.

CCV
Guest
CCV

This game was fantastic from start to finish. What a fun goddamned experience.

And Loader Bot is the Best Bot. Period.

Alex Kane
Guest
Alex Kane

What a month this has been so far. Got to finish Life is strange and was quite happy with one of the endings. And now *this*…just great, truly entertaining, memorable characters, absolutely superb choices of music, especially the end credits song. I’m gonna go ahead and thank God for Telltale, just this once.

Lucas M.
Guest
Lucas M.

Utterly loved this series and I would not have played it if you hadn’t reviewed it so well, Jim. So thank you for that!

CaitSeith
Guest
CaitSeith

I wonder how a “Tales From The Mushroom Kingdom” game would fare…

Kim Chaussin
Guest
Kim Chaussin

A Telltale game with Waluigi as the protagonist.
You know you want it.

Jack
Guest
Jack

This episode was so good! The Handsome Jack stuff, the Stranger reveal and especially the ending were incredible. I love the Mass Effect 2 suicide mission setup of the final battle, which tricked me into thinking my choices didn’t matter, but then had them matter in the most delicious way.
On that note, I was mildly disappointed I didn’t have access to Zer0 as a companion. I was more disappointed when I figured out who the “secret character” was that I couldn’t afford. Athena and Janey were fun, but I wanted to see what would happen with *that* character.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

The below is a semi – spoiler, but totally worth reading if you want to do a second play though.

Warn felix in episode 1 the case is a bomb. Then choose him as one of the companions in the final episode. Then choose the mysterious vault hunter. That’s all I will say.

Kevin Lee Shields
Guest
Kevin Lee Shields

I did that in my first playthrough. And I shed tears of joy. The mysterious vault hunter is by far the best choice you can get, and I believe it’s not possible to get any other way than to let Felix live. I doubt you could save up enough money to pay her/him legit like….

Ruud de Bont
Guest
Ruud de Bont

Hmm I might consider it…
on a sidenote: are you going to review Life is Strange, now that the final episode is out.
I will thank god for you, and even convert some heathens.

NeuroticLich
Guest
NeuroticLich

Goddamn this is my absolute *favorite* Telltale series by far. I loved The Walking Dead, I loved The Wolf Among Us, but I’ll be damned if Tales From the Borderlands isn’t their best yet. The writing was great, the action and the huge set pieces were always a blast and I just loved all of the characters. Not even a single sight of a Claptrap at all makes this the best game in the Borderlands universe by far.

I already can’t wait for a potential season 2, this entire series was an absolute blast.

Thesis
Guest
Thesis

“…Not even a single sight of a claptrap…” *Maniacal laughter ensues*.

AA_Hill
Guest
AA_Hill

Borderlands 2 is still the series’ crowning achievement, but TFTB is a close second for sure.

artisticMink
Guest
artisticMink

Dunno, after A:CM i’m just not anymore into Gearbox stuff. I mean, i like Borderlands and i like Telltales games. But i just can’t bring myself to buy it because Gearbox is vaguely associated with it.

Gwathdring
Guest

It doesn’t really have any connection to Gearbox in practice.

Gorantharon
Guest
Gorantharon

One of the last steam sales had it at something like 75% off. I’m guessing the end of year sale will, too.

If you have any love left for the borderlands universe and like Telltale you need to try this.

Amer1ka
Guest
Amer1ka
Why? Gearbox didn’t have much to do with the game other than a bit of helping the writing department for the characters/lore. And did you pre-order A:CM and get stuck with it? Or are you just hating them for some weird internet bandwagon reason because everyone else decided they wanted to hate them? I don’t get the weird obsession with Gearbox. Literally every single game developer has hyped up their game as the best thing ever and rarely does it ever turn out that way. And tons of games have changed over the years between being revealed at some random… Read more »
mrhair
Guest
mrhair

You forgot to categorize this as a review or tag it.

(You also didn’t tag the Episode 4 review, so I had to Google for it when I wanted to read each of your reviews before making a call on the series).

Anyway, it all sounds pretty great.

ElektroDragon
Guest
ElektroDragon

Just give me my last Game of Thrones episode, dammit. I have the season pass for Tales but been waiting on it because I still need to play Borderlands 2 and presequel.

Gwathdring
Guest

Playing those won’t really change this game particularly much nor will playing this game first hurt those in my opinion.

SpiritBearr
Guest
SpiritBearr

eh Zero, Handsome Jack and Athena show up. Zero is just a guy with no past but the other two are nice to know about.

Gwathdring
Guest
Sort of? I guess? I didn’t know who Athena was and the bits with her worked perfectly fine for me. Heck, knowing Scooter doesn’t help because he’s a distinctly different character in Tales despite having the same voice and general flavor. There’s really nothing to know about Jack that you can’t get from the intro cinematic to Borderlands 2 and playing Tales. He’s an anti-charasmatic psychopath who either genuinely believes he’s helping or is so far down the rabbit hole of fucking with people that he just acts like he thinks he’s helping the greater good because he thinks it… Read more »
Ryuuken
Guest
Ryuuken

As I was playing through the series, and near the end of Atlas Mugged, I kept thinking that Fiona and Rhys would make fun playable characters in the next Borderlands title. They don’t even have to be story important, just a ‘Hey, you loved them, so here they are’, kind of thing.

Can’t wait to finish this episode, and then replay the series…because I know I missed some cash in Chapter 1.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

I wanted this before, but now I *really* want it. Assuming I have the money saved up (thanks, Bing Rewards!), Tales from the Borderlands will probably be an immediate buy as soon as I’ve got my Sk’bone in hand.

TimRobbins
Guest
TimRobbins

I wonder how long Telltale can keep this momentum. They are essentially pumping out licensed reskins for the same adventure game at this point, but unlike Lego and Assassin’s Creed, the games still all manage to feel different somehow. That may wear off soon, but for now… good for them for finding a formula that holds up.

BAH!
Guest
BAH!

Their formula will work for as long as they have good writing talent.

Matthew Castillo
Guest
Matthew Castillo

Having different worlds with different lore really helps with that. Telltales two biggest strengths are their ability to get a good feel for the series they licence and to write stories that emphasize those part that make those licences special.

I will freely admit that what I really want is another Sam and Max game.

TimRobbins
Guest
TimRobbins

Agreed. I bet a post-walking dead era Sam and Max would be amazing.

Kate Galey
Guest
Kate Galey
I think what works is that they change the format just slightly between games. I haven’t played The Walking Dead (I know, it’s great, I just have a zombie aversion), but The Wolf Among Us stuck entirely with one playable character, Game of Thrones has what, a half dozen, and there’s absolutely no safety for any of them, and Tales from the Borderlands has two protagonists telling opposing sides of the same story. It keeps the story and the format feeling fresh. Also, I feel like Tales Episode 5 really legitimately improved on the quicktime event mechanics – even if… Read more »
MrShowerHead
Guest
MrShowerHead

Thanks for the review, Jim! Been loving the series as well, but quick question if someone could answer me. Been streaming the past episodes to a friend of mine, have him experience the story with me. He’s still playing Pre-Sequel though and I’m kinda worried this last episode might have some spoilers for it. Are there any?

Neb
Guest
Neb

That sounds really good. Now I’m intrigued. But how do you think one would enjoy this series if one doesn’t know anything about the original Borderlands ?

pixl_man
Guest
pixl_man

I sure as hell did.

Azure
Guest
Azure

Boardlands 2 would probably give you the most context to Handsome Jack but other than that it’ll be a lot of “lol I know that character etc”

Gorantharon
Guest
Gorantharon

You will not get some minor things, and some cameos will not click, but the plot hinges on new characters anyway and there’s nothing in this world that needs any explanation you’ll not get within these episodes.

Esquilax
Guest
Esquilax

My wife has never played a Borderlands game in her life before the first episode, and she loved it so much we went back and played through Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel together in between chapters of Tales. One of the great strengths of the series is its character-centric writing, as opposed to a franchise-centered approach that would require more background knowledge.

Jeremy Comans
Guest
Jeremy Comans

I know only a tiny bit about Borderlands, and the thing I know most clearly is that I don’t like it. I love the aesthetic, though, and thought the idea of Pandora was very interesting. Tales… is my favourite Telltale game, and the funniest game I’ve ever played (I don’t remember laughing out loud so frequently playing or watching anything as a adult). Definitely get into it. Like TWD or Wolf Among Us, TT do a great job setting things up for people who don’t know the source material, whilst still rewarding those who do.

Neb
Guest
Neb

Cool, that’s exactly what worried me. I played a little of 1 and 2 and while I absolutely adore the design, I got bored really fast.
I’ll make sure to give it a go.

Kate Galey
Guest
Kate Galey

I had the same reaction – Definitely the funniest game I’ve ever played. There were times I had to pause (and even go back) just to bask in certain setups or jokes. Hilarious. And the humor gets DARK, even as early as episode two. The eye scanner? So good.

Drakeonian
Guest
Drakeonian

Thank the almighty Pogs they didn’t mess up at the final hurdle! If this is as good as you say it is, and I’ve agreed with all your past reviews on TftB, this will be even better than season one of the Walking Dead. Can’t wait until it downloads!

William
Guest
William

How many review quotes can you fit into a freaking picture?

Astralfury
Guest
Astralfury

8, apparently. Hope that helped!

William
Guest
William

Oh, I thought it was 7, thanks.

TimRobbins
Guest
TimRobbins

I just had flashbacks to the Arkham Asylum goty cover “art”

chrisbrady
Guest
chrisbrady

So Fiona becomes a out and out Vault Hunter? On par with Zer0 and crew? Really?

NeuroticLich
Guest
NeuroticLich

SPOILERS:

Not really. At the end she entertains the idea while talking with Rhys, saying she could “grow into it” when they’re going to loot the Vault of the Traveler.

chrisbrady
Guest
chrisbrady

Fair enough. Not really interested in TT games anymore, I find them too much like a collection of quick time events. If people love it, more power to ’em. It’s apparently a good game that deserves the praise, I just played them too much.

NeuroticLich
Guest
NeuroticLich

I see where you’re coming from with the QTE thing, but I always view them as a visual novel. It’s fairly set in stone, with choices mainly being relegated to different dialogue and slightly different events (although episode 5 of TftB may have the most unique choice-outcome in a Telltale game). The QTEs always feel like just a dressing on top to me. I think TftB does something interesting with them in the latest episode near the end, though.

chrisbrady
Guest
chrisbrady

Maybe I’ll pick it up when it’s cheaper, but for now, I’ll just live vicariously through players like you. 🙂

NeuroticLich
Guest
NeuroticLich

Well, you do you! I just wanted to offer my perspective on it!

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