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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Tales from the Borderlands E3: Catch A Ride.

Tales from the Borderlands
Episode 3
Catch A Ride.

So, I've not exactly made any bones about how much I enjoy Tales from the Borderlands - I think it is far and away the best work Telltale Games has put out yet, and vastly superior to the work it's being released alongside, Game of Thrones. That's all still true - despite improvements in Telltale Games' Game of Thrones, I still hold that Tales from the Borderlands is the better, funner game.

I'm not as keen on its development schedule.

To go back to comparisons with Game of Thrones, that started in December of 2014 and has since had four episodes out, with a fifth due out very seen - probably next month. Tales from the Borderlands started in November, and has just released its third episode. That's actually a considerable difference, especially for a company that, prior to this, almost uniformly released its episodes every two months, and especially at a time when it's also facing competition in the episodic gaming genre from Life is Strange, which has had good quality episodes releasing on a consistent six-to-eight week schedule; and Dreamfall Chapters, which has made up for its longer development times by having, fittingly, longer episodes.

Tales from the Borderlands is oddly lagging behind, with sporadic releases that seem to follow no particular schedule, and that puts it in danger of losing fan interest, especially when its competitors - both within its own company and outside of it - are backed by a big IP, a big company, and a big name director with a devoted cult following respectively.

But onwards with the actual review.

Oh, hey guys.

Catch a Ride, the third episode of Tales from the Borderlands, sees the gang having just barely escaped from the Gortys Facility with the strange sphere inside - which reveals itself to be a sapient robot that, when completed, will lead them to a vault. Also on the tail of the vault, however, is Vallory, an old associate of Fiona and Sasha's mentor. As the group attempt to find Gortys' energy chassis, their search leads them to an old Atlas terraforming facility, where they find a mysterious elderly man, evil jellyfish, and two vault hunters.

While I enjoyed this episode, I profess that it is in many ways the weakest of the three, in large part because there's nothing I can really say about it that I haven't already said about previous episodes. I mean, that's fine, in a way: Those previous episodes were all very strong, and I didn't have many complaints about them, and this one is much the same. The humour is consistent and on-point, the action is wacky and fun, the episode is well-paced but, unfortunately, too short for the time it spent in development, weighing in at about one and a half hours.

I've said all those things about the second episode, and it still holds true. If anything, the biggest change in this episode is the introduction of new characters Gortys, Athena (who's not really new, but does get a much bigger role in this episode) and Vallory - Gortys and Athena as the sixth and seventh members of the team and Vallory as the new villain, a rocket launcher wielding deadpan elderly woman who is quick to replace the Vasquez-August double team.

Anyone else worried that Jack-possessed Rhys' eye turns yellow? You know, like it
is in the present day sections?

They're both fine, but they're not game changers. Gortys is adorable, and its childlike nature is a great source of humour; Vallory is a very sinister villain who easily one-ups the more comedic Vasquez (August is still around, so she doesn't so much one-up him as she does absorb him); and Athena is a great character who fits into the team dynamic really well and also (joyously) provides us with some nice LGBT representation, as a big part of her subplot is that she hasn't told her girlfriend that she's still a Vault Hunter.

We do also get the hint that the masked figure holding Rhys and Fiona hostage in the present-day sections is someone they know, which pretty much means it's Vaughn, Sasha, August, Loader Bot, or Gortys, with varying amounts of disguisery having to have happened in order to make that work. I'm interested to see where that goes. 

It's all good, but none of it feels new or fresh. If anything, it feels more like the devs had little to no idea what to do for their third episode and just used it as a bridge to get from their second episode to their fourth - the second episode being the big showdown with Vasquez and August, and the fourth episode seemingly taking the crew back to (or 'to for the very first time') Helios, Hyperion's  gigantic lunar base. We even get a little Fallout-oid preview for that.

Gortys is very sweet.

I am excited for episode four, even though I fully expect that there will be another long wait until we see it. I'm excited to see Rhys and Vaughn return to their old home, something which will almost certainly lead to big things in their storylines; I'm excited to see Fiona and Sasha having to see what life is like up there, and what they think about it. I think it'll be a positive experience all around.

But in general, I just wish I could be more impressed.

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