Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Two: Atlas Mugged has little plot progression, as the focus is firmly on building characters through conversation. Luckily, the returning humour and intriguing story makes it worth continuing.
+ Replay value in player choices
+ Continued interesting story
+ Introduces more characters from the franchise
– More conversation than action
– Minimal character development
Platform(s) available: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, iOS, Android
Platform reviewed: PC
While the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands had the feeling of a prequel, Episode Two: Atlas Mugged begins to settle into a more relaxed pace. The game takes its time a bit more, pushing conversational choices to the forefront, but still encompassing enough action, humour and plot elements to keep players amused.
The story continues exactly where it left off, as Rhys and Fiona must choose what to do with their newly discovered Atlas technology. As Hyperion begins to chase after the group, Rhys and Fiona are split up, giving Rhys the choice between whether to meet up with Fiona, or press on with the mission. This choice affects the plot somewhat, mainly in the different information that can be learnt from being apart, or the relationship between the characters growing closer if they’re together.
Characters have heavier burdens in this episode, as Fiona and her sister must deal with a recent betrayal, while hiding from, what seems like, every bandit on Pandora. Meanwhile, Rhys has to come to terms an unexpected partner, while escaping from his old boss, Vasquez. The cliff-hanger ending of Atlas Mugged requires players to make a choice with consequences that will not become fully clear until the next episode; they merely get a glimpse of what they have done- and I can’t wait until the next episode to know the full results of what I’ve done.
There are more familiar characters from the Borderlands series in this episode. Only fans are going to immediately click with the references, but characters have so much personality, that players can quickly form the same attachments and opinions as seasoned players.
Rhys and Fiona, don’t particularly grow as characters through the duration of Atlas Mugged. To be fair, Fiona is used to escaping from the law all the time, so the current situation is unlikely to ruffle her feathers much. Players basically get to choose whether her attitude is caring or off-hand towards others. Rhys is slightly more interesting in the way that he is clearly out of his depth, and he knows it. His choices feel like they have more weight to them because his life is constantly at risk just trying to survive the environment, let alone its people.
Weirdly, some players may get frustrated with how well the characters have been written, (hear me out on this) as it leaves the player with little to no ability to change their personality. The characters are themselves with or without your help, and ultimately the player is just deciding on the finer points of their personality (making them caring, off-hand, or rude). It’s obvious that the game will play out to the situations and ending no matter what you choose.
Of course, this is partly the point, Telltale wants players to focus on the game becoming a personal journey with the story and characters, which they then go on to discuss and flesh out with others. There is also only so much freedom designers can give, and overall it is much more fun to play with a character that’s already been well-crafted. If it was possible to drastically change the characters personality, the story would become sloppy. Side-characters could only give general, rather than personal, responses to each action and dialogue choice.
Tales from the Borderlands has seven achievements per episode, the titles of which are hidden until receiving them in the game. While achievements make a nice feature, it is possible to gain all seven within one playthrough as they are simply chapter markers within the story. It could have been nice if the game went down more of a Grim Fandango approach, rewarding players for discovering certain lines of dialogue, which would gain a replay aspect for completionists.
Is Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Two: Atlas Mugged worth playing? Essentially, the decision comes down to whether you enjoyed the first episode. The story, art-style, humour and characters carry on from where you left them, and the game starts to get into the thick of the story. If you didn’t enjoy the first episode however, this series is probably not for you, as ultimately it’s just more of the same thing.
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.