Be aware of Episode One and Borderlands 2 spoilers as Episode Two arrives… At las-t!
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Format: iOS, PC (reviewed), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Released: March 17, 2015
Copy supplied by publisher
It’s been quite some time since Telltale debuted Tales From The Borderlands, kicking off with an excellent episode that demonstrated how the studio’s award-winning formula could be applied to comedy just as deftly as tragedy. With a wonderful mix of action and humor, Zer0 Sum was a ton of fun, and while Atlas Mugged takes a more subdued approach, it still hits plenty of high notes and provides more than a few giggles.
As Episode One concluded, half of our protagonists (one, basically) came face to face with the holographic ghost of series kinda-villain Handsome Jack. It really makes you wonder why Gearbox Software ever killed him off in Borderlands 2, since they clearly designed him to be popular and haven’t been able to let go of the guy since. Nevertheless, Hyperion’s former CEO is yet to wear out his welcome with me, and he provides most of the entertainment in Atlas Mugged, coming to terms with the fate of his mortal body and taunting his apparent “host” Rhys.
Episode Two follows the formula established in the premiere, continuing as a flashback told from two perspectives. Rhys and Vaughn find themselves split from their grifter allies as they contend with their nemesis, Vasquez, and make their way to Old Haven. Aside from one particular revelation, there’s very little plot unfolding on the corporate side of the tale, with most of its time given over to developing a relationship between Rhys and Jack. Though light on storytelling, there’s some valuable characterization for the principal players, as well as Vaughn, who’s steadily evolving into a delightful sidekick.
On Fiona and Sasha’s side of the ride, things are a lot more intense. The duo learn they’ve crossed the path of a new antagonist, deal with some of the fallout from Felix’ betrayal, and attempt to escape the wrath of Pandora’s underworld – including Borderlands mainstay Athena, who cuts a somewhat creepy figure. Less focused on comedy, Fiona’s perspective delivers a lot of story and some darker tones, all of which lead us to a… near conclusion.
Episode Two is mostly a lot of Telltale setting things up for future installments, the kind of “grind” episode that tends to pop up in the studio’s episodic ventures. Lacking the fast pace and swift variety of scenes evidenced in the premiere, Atlas Mugged could run the risk of disappointing those who waited so long between chapters for more of the same. Telltale provides some solid material and a good few chuckles here, but it’s most certainly muted in comparison to the first. The environments are less plentiful, action sequences rarer, and cast of characters minimal.
It’s a necessary episode, however, one that moves things along and promises a lot of climactic action when the third episode rolls around. As it spends its time edging toward a big reveal involving the Atlas corporation, it crucially builds upon the principal players established in the last episode, and lines up dominoes for future use. On its own, Episode Two isn’t as great as the series’ debut, but it is of important utility, and sometimes we need a wind-up before the pitch.
Atlas Mugged is pretty good stuff all around – not as explosive or hilarious as last time, but consistently entertaining nonetheless, with a handful of slick action sequences to keep things spicy. As far as the bigger picture goes, Tales From The Borderlands currently runs the risk of becoming my favorite Telltale game series. We’ll see what happens in Episode Three, but if Telltale manages to hit the ball Episode Two serves it, this particular game is going to have it made.
We’ll have to wait and find out about that, though.