It all ends here.
Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5: The Vault of the Traveler on PC
There’s no sense in beating around the bush: Tales from the Borderlands is an outstanding game and a highlight of Telltale Games’ catalog to date. While you may appreciate the finer points of the game if you’ve played previous Borderlands titles, being a fan of the series is neither essential nor necessary to enjoy Tales. It is exciting, touching, and absolutely hilarious, with the finale as the pinnacle of the episodic series, bringing all the decisions made previously to a head in ways never seen in a Telltale game before. In fact episode 5 should really be called “Hadouken” because it is down-right fierce.
One thing that makes The Vault of the Traveler so great is its emphasis on all the main characters, not just Rhys and Fiona. Vaughn, Sasha, Loader Bot, and Gortys all get proper moments in the spotlight throughout this episode. Each has changed throughout the series in different ways, and you get to witness those changes right in the forefront, with each personality getting their final time to shine. The game may focus on Fiona, Rhys and their tales, but it knows there would be no game without the supporting cast.
Of course, an important supporting cast member, perhaps the most important, is the mysterious Stranger who has had Rhys and Fiona captured since the beginning of episode 1. There were many plausible, well thought out theories as to the Stranger’s true nature wandering various forum threads out there, but Telltale managed the twist better than ever imagined. It’s fun to create such theories, but it’s even more fun to be completely surprised by the truth. Job well done, Telltale.
The final chapter has the player finally seeing the effects of their decisions from first four episodes. Are you left with your rag-tag team of office workers and con artists, or did you make allies along the way? A variety of choices come into play here, and the way those choices affect the game are different to anything Telltale has done before. It’s all quite exciting. Finding out you made some bad choices along the way isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either, as it becomes excellent motivation to play the game again and try for a different take at the end.
The last half hour is perhaps the crowning moment of Tales from the Borderlands in its entirety. Regardless of story quality, Telltale titles are often decried for somewhat lackluster quick-time events, usually prompting you to mash one button for a few seconds before hitting another to finish the command.
The Vault of the Traveler, however, mixes things up by unexpectedly throwing in some fighting game elements and commands. Instead of just mashing buttons, you’ll have to quickly pull off big combo moves, creating easily one of the most fun quick-time events of any video game I’ve played. Going forward, this should be the standard to which other QTEs are compared.
If there’s one issue that stood out, it’s a bit of plot progression that’s seemingly glossed over. There’s a moment where Rhys and Fiona fill in the gaps of their stories, where several months pass in the span of a 5 or 10-second explanation from each of them. Compared to how detailed and thorough the rest of their tales had been, this seemed a strange choice. The pacing of the rest of the episode was excellent, but those explanations just fell a bit flat.
Finally wrapping up a game you’ve been gradually playing over the better part of a year is always bittersweet, and if that finale falls short the entire experience feels soiled and tainted as a result. Happily, the Tales from the Borderlands finale will make the 10-month lead-up completely worth it, and you’ll likely find yourself wanting to go back through and play it all from the beginning in rapid succession. At the end there’s just one question left to be answered: when will More Tales from the Borderlands be announced?