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Tales from the Borderlands Episode Five: Vault of the Traveler Review
NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR PREVIOUS EPISODES OF TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS.
Every game that has ever promised multiple story choices faces the inevitable issue of bottle-necking. There’s something to be appreciated about the careful craft of hiding the moments the proverbial branch is cut off. The reason I’m explaining this is for a simple reason. When I say that the fifth episode of Tales From the Borderlands successfully pays off and almost every significant choice from the previous episodes, I want you to fully appreciate the extraordinary nature of such an accomplishment.
Vault of the Traveler successfully integrates decisions from previous episodes better than any of the twenty episodes of Telltale’s work that I’ve played. The narrative takes a direction that is unexpected yet better than what I anticipated. This is an episode that truly delivers on the promise of “He will remember that” which has been woven as an iconic message, permeating through Telltale’s body of storytelling.
This episode begins seconds after the conclusion of Escape Plan Bravo, with Rhys having taken control of Hyperion with the help of Handsome Jack’s AI (though not necessarily by choice). Without spoiling too much, Rhys/Jack’s plan doesn’t go well and things quickly fall apart. There’s a certain point in this episode where it becomes difficult to see what’s going to happen next. This is where the episode picks up momentum and doesn’t look back.
There are too many highlights to list, but of note are Rhys’ final confrontation with Jack, the reveal of the Stranger’s identity, and the phenomenal final battle, the last of which delivers the best action scene Telltale Games has ever produced. The entire episode delivers the full package of what Telltale Games is capable of achieving. The ultimate blend of thrilling action, intense drama, difficult choices, superb writing, fun dialogue, and downright terrific storytelling is fully realized in every glorious minute of this finale.
The themes of these past five episodes have remained consistent, but I didn’t expect them to pay off in the manner in which they did. More so than any of the main Borderlands games that I’ve played, Tales from the Borderlands conveys a true sense of what it’s like living in this world. This is capped off by an early revelation that even those who succeed in Pandora are required to step on others to survive and remain haunted by the choices they’ve made.
Throughout this season, I’ve stubbornly adhered to different mindsets when playing as Rhys and Fiona: the former as a cowardly, bumbling manipulator; and the latter as an overprotective con-woman with a fiery temper. Given how many of my decisions were unpopular, it was to my great surprise that this episode felt completely tailored to how I saw these two characters.
It’s difficult to find any more words to describe how much I enjoyed this episode, so let me end this by stating the following. I mentioned in my review of Escape Plan Bravo that going into this episode, my fear was that it couldn’t possibly be topped by the final episode. It pleases me to be mistaken.
If for any reason you had doubts regarding whether Tales from the Borderlands is worth playing, you may set those doubts aside. This season is a phenomenal example of terrific storytelling and has completely changed how I look at the Borderlands series. Unless for some wild reason, a well-written, well-scripted, well-performed, and all around kickass, choice-driven game doesn’t appeal to you, I couldn’t possibly recommend this game more.