Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Five: The Vault of the Traveler makes for an emotional journey packed with action, laughter, and tears, as players and characters alike question whether they made the right choices. Telltale has certainly created a powerful conclusion to the episodic series that ties up all the loose ends in ways that they player probably won’t see coming.
+ Fantastic character development
+ Choices matter
+ Fun quick time events
+ Emotional journey
– A lot happens in a small amount of time.
Platform(s) available: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, iOS, Android
Platform reviewed: PC
Given the nature of how episodic games split up the story, and make players wait to find out what happens, there is a large amount of pressure for the final episode to be worth the months of waiting. Luckily, Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Five: The Vault of the Traveler delivers with a fast pace narrative full of emotional moments, and fun action scenes that leads to a satisfying conclusion.
The story in The Vault of the Traveler bombards the player with important events, so they have no time to question what is going to happen next with lots of quick time events and dialogue choices to keep them busy. The story starts by throwing the player into the action, as they have to deal with the messy situation they found themselves in at the end of Escape Plan Bravo.
As Rhys confronts Handsome Jack, he risks his life and the lives of those around him in his attempts to put Jack’s plans to an end, which ultimately leads to the most powerful title montage in the series.Both Rhys and Fiona find themselves, head in hands, wondering whether their journey has been worth the loss and chaos that they have caused. This theme of questioning choices continues throughout the episode as the problems only seem to get worse. As the characters are left to think about the people that they have become, the players are with them, hoping that they have done the right thing by the characters that they are now deeply attached to.
No character is left without an emotional journey, and players may well find themselves surprised by how much they care about what happens to each individual. In a beautiful scene with Handsome Jack, as he looks over his legacy, the player finds sympathy for him. This is a character that players have been encouraged to hate due to his smarmy attitude and thoughtless killing, and players will find their strong opinions of him wavering due to the fantastic writing. The player’s emotions are always in the air, crying from sadness to choking on laughter as the Borderlands humour constantly runs true. In fact, the combination of the deep situations and sad moments mixes with the dark and sarcastic humour that makes each moment that much more powerful and effective.
The world of Borderlands really feels like it is being shaped by the players hands, as characters survive, fall, and change due to the choices made. Not only are players made to feel the impact of their choices in this final episode, but they feel the weight and effect of what they have chosen in the past. This concept is heavily felt through the reveal of who has been dragging Fiona and Rhys around, forcing them to re-count their story, and the reasons behind why they wanted to know the truth. It is also important for the third act of the game, where the player gets to choose who will help them in their final fight against the Traveler, with who is available being dependent on how you have treated people.
The basic gameplay was the same as the other episodes, the player watches events while dialogue and quick time events are frequent visitors to the players screen, with the occasional moment where players are given full control the characters movements. The fifth episode certainly has it fair share of events and choices, which keep the players fingers on their buttons at all times, but they are never frustrating or unfair, even during the final boss where there a tone of quick button presses is required. A lot of care went into the Traveler fight, so much that the quick time events combine with the movements on screen that it feels like proper combat, which is a lot of fun.
Episode Five: The Vault of the Traveler does a good job at tying up all the loose ends. At the end of Episode Four there was a worry that too much had been left unanswered, raising questions regarding how Telltale was going to cover everything in one final episode. The result is that Episode Five is a real roller-coaster ride of events and emotions, filled with fast pacing, dialogue choices and quick time events. The downside of this is that everything can be a little too fast at times, due to the sheer amount of things packed into the episode. However, this leads to the player feeling as jolted as the characters every time something happens, and when quite moments do come along they are all the more powerful.
The Tales from the Borderlands experience as a whole has been a really fantastic ride. Each episode pushed the story and characters further, while interactions and dialogue was necessary and never felt pointless or boring.
The most impressive thing about Tales from the Borderlands is the way in which choices feel like they really make an impact on who the characters become as people. Even at the end of the game, there are plenty of dialogue choices to keep the game unique for the player, and it’s worth going back and replaying, just to see how characters react and change based off different answers. The series is a fantastic addition to the Borderlands franchise, matching the atmosphere of Pandora and the humour of its residence. It will be interesting to see just how much it shapes franchise in future games.
Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Five: The Vault of the Traveler is a brilliant conclusion to a great game. The game will certainly pull at players emotions, with curiosity, tension, humour, sadness and loss wrapped into a thought provoking package. The impact of player choice gives a real draw to the characters and a sense of pride to see them evolve from who they were in the first episode. The story will leave players wanting to know more and not just wanting to replay episode five, but the whole series all over again.
This review was originally part of the GamersFTW site, the servers of which have been taken down. It now appears on GabsTannerReviews out of respect for the developers/publishers that gave me a copy to review.