The “Borderlands” series has had three big hits, complete with giant monsters, laser weapons and compelling villains. After playing the latest Telltale adventure set in the “Borderlands” universe, however, I think “Tales from the Borderlands: Escape Plan Bravo” might be the best two hours I’ve had with the series.
The fourth of five episodes in Telltale’s “Tales from the Borderlands,” series, “Escape Plan Bravo” retains and refocuses the witty and hilarious dialogue from previous episodes. Just about every joke is delivered with great timing and combined with excellent animation for characters’ movements and facial expressions. This game had me laughing for more than half of the two-hour ride. It is only in the last half hour than a few of the jokes start becoming cringe-worthy, such as responding to a question with, “your mom.”
This episode is also devoid of the frustrating, meaningless puzzles of previous “Tales from the Borderlands” episodes. Every time the player is asked to retrieve an item or go someplace, it quickly becomes clear where the item is or where the player is supposed to go. Telltale has also clearly recognized the strength of its writing, as sequences threatened by dull scripts are made entertaining through the commentary provided by the characters.
What really impressed me about this episode, however, is how committed 2K Games, the publisher behind previous “Borderlands” games, is to this project. Telltale has been given license to use characters from previous games liberally, going as far as to bring back the original voice actors for dozens of major characters.
The soundtrack is sparse, but there’s an awe-inspiring jam that plays over a rocket launching into space, a sequence that actually gave me chills. Even that scene had some hilarious visual gags, proving that you don’t need to tell jokes to be funny.
The greatest achievement for this game, however, was a moment that made me feel sad about the death of a character that I didn’t even like in past “Borderlands” games. It’s a heroic moment of self-sacrifice that not only changed my view of the character but gave me a new appreciation for how significant this game is to the “Borderlands” canon.
You may think, a point and click adventure game might not have a lot of worthwhile action, especially compared to the fights against skyscraper sized demons from past games. For the most part, you would be right, but there is one sequence, straight out of a John Woo movie, that felt more tense and awesome than any bandit skirmish from previous games.
Finally, the story moves forward in new, interesting and unexpected ways. New, untrustworthy alliances are formed, people you might have trusted will betray you and players will be asked to consider the whole of what “Borderlands” is about, particularly as it relates to Handsome Jack, the charismatic megalomaniac. By the time this episode is done, the player will have the chance to seize the keys to the kingdom and it can be a legitimately difficult decision.
My biggest concern after playing “Escape Plan Bravo” is that the bar might be set too high for the concluding installment. Characters are at their wittiest, the dialogue is sharp and every part of this game fit together like a masterfully crafted puzzle. Barring a few hairline fractures in the comedy department, “Tales from the Borderlands” is looking to be the most successful Telltale game to date.
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.