Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Four: Escape Plan Bravo may disappoint some players with its lack of in-depth story and character development. However, the episode makes up for any faults with the constant banter, as well as some truly emotional moments.
+ Tense atmosphere
+ Terrific humour
+ Some surprisingly emotional moments
– Not much character growth
– Limited story development
Platform(s) available: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, iOS, Android
Platform reviewed: PC
For the penultimate episode in the series, Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Four: Escape Plan Bravo falls short with its ninety minuet gameplay time, limited plot development and sudden cliff-hanger ending. That being said, it also has the most humorous, and indeed emotional, moments in the series so far.
The story continues straight on from where Catch a Ride ended, with Rhys, Fiona, and company being forced to work for Vallory and her goons. The mission involves sneaking onto Hyperion’s moon base Helios, locating the final Gortys Project upgrade, then returning to Pandora. Escape Plan Bravo spends around forty-five minutes in the preparation for Helios, as Rhys needs to look the part, while Fiona must encourage Scooter to help them build a rocket. While the story had a few amusing, and even kind of disgusting moments, the first act was slow, and I was excited when the team made it to Helios, more or less in-tact.
The pacing of the story was much slower than that of the previous episodes, due to their being less action and quick time event scenes, and much less plot events occurring in general. After locating the Gortys Project upgrade, and one failed attempt to get hold of it, the next thing to happen is the cliff-hanger ending. Exactly how this ending occurs is dependent upon the choices the player has been making for Rhys, so the result will either seem like a victory or a loss.
Previous episodes purposefully gave a lot of weight to character relationships, and it was possible to both develop, and learn about, them through conversations and player choices. This mechanic took more of a backseat role in Escape Plan Bravo, as characters were often set in the same path no matter what choice was made, and conversation was constantly about the task in hand. Obtaining a different angle of events therefore requires changing player choices in the previous episodes. While this does allow for a decent amount of replay value in the series, it left the choices in Escape Plan Bravo feeling slightly superfluous to the direction of the characters and their story.
Fiona didn’t get much important screen time, other than a few emotional moments. Most of her choices were just a matter of how to respond to conversation, which made little-to-no difference to plot events. Rhys, meanwhile, had a more interesting story as much of the plan hinged on his success, made complicated through unexpected problems. Rhys also had more personal conversation time with the man in his head, Handsome Jack. As a nice turn around, players were able to see a more humane version of Jack during many of these scenes, giving those aware of his character a feeling of suspicion for future events.
The atmosphere and tone of Escape Plan Bravo was possibly the most diverse so far. From feeling slightly grossed out in a scene involving Vasquez, teary eyed in space, laughing from the brilliant humour, and on the edge of the seat from the tension while on Helios. While this episode in general had a more serious tone, this allowed certain much longer humours scenes, to keep the light-hearted atmosphere. The episode also featured one of the funniest moments in the series that involved playing Rhys in a quick time event filled finger gun battle against the accountancy department of Hyperion.
Players will feel the weight of Gearbox’s choice to allow Tales from the Borderlands story to be cannon within the franchise. It must certainly have been a difficult decision from the developers, but this ultimately feels like it was the right call, with the story and world being well implemented throughout and with the writing being a fantastic tribute to the previous games in the franchise. While Telltale and Gearbox have worked hard for everything to slot into place with the appearance of old characters throughout the episodes, a particular event in Escape Plan Bravo will change a part of the franchise forever. On the positive side, perhaps Rhys, Fiona and other characters from Tales from the Borderlands will manage to make their way into later Borderlands games.
By the time players have finished Episode Four: Escape Plan Bravo, they will be left with a lot of unanswered questions involving what will happen in the plot, and to the characters. If Episode Five: The Vault of the Traveler manages to successfully answer all of these questions then it’s shaping up to be an impressive finale.
On the whole Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Four: Escape Plan Bravo still had the Borderlands style, flair and humour making for an enjoyable episode. There wasn’t a particular scene or moment that felt boring, even if a little more development in the plot and characters would have been appreciated. Admittedly, Escape Plan Bravo is perhaps the weakest of the series, story wise, but in the areas that it lacks it makes up for in the humours characters. Those that have gotten this far in the story already will see it as a fun addition, especially when all episodes are available and it will be possible to move straight onto the next chapter. For now however, players must await the finale to discover how their choices will change the fate of the characters and the world of Pandora.
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.