With a three month gap since the last episode, you’d be forgiven for forgetting Tales from the Borderlands existed. While a great debut, the Borderlands lore doesn’t have the enticing nature of a Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Understandable, those examples are two multimedia properties with millions of fans around the world, and the Borderlands universe gets a mixed response to say the least.
It would be a shame if this gets ignored because of the license attached, because it is the best bit of Borderlands fiction written thus far, unsurprising really when it’s coming from the ever reliable Telltale Games.
Like episode one, Atlas Mugged features the two main characters Rhys and Fiona telling their tale to a man who has them imprisoned. Naturally as the characters are telling the story, certain things get embellished. Such as Fiona managing all sorts of motorbike acrobatics, something that Rhys is quick to draw attention to. It’s the interaction between these two characters that made the first episode so enjoyable. Now the second episode has a new player in the form of Handsome Jack.
At the end of episode one, we were left with the appearance of the ghostly Handsome Jack and with him come the best moments of this episode. While the previous episode tried, and ultimately failed, to bring the comedy chops, Atlas Mugged fares a little better. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but the dialogue between Rhys and Handsome Jack is enjoyable and well written.
Again, this episode flips player control between Rhys and Fiona so naturally it’s not long before the characters find themselves split up again after another great action sequence; Tales from the Borderlands is continuing to be the series to show off Telltale’s action set pieces. While action beats in their previous games were usually slow, methodical affairs, here it’s akin to a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster. And they’re seamless too.
The game is technically impressive, it looks great, the framerate is impressive and transitions between scenes no longer have that horrible choppiness (something which in the past was always a problem with Telltale’s console output).
One thing that has always been my pet gripe with the latter day adventures of Telltale was the almost complete eradication of the puzzle element. The first season of The Walking Dead was the last time I feel like I had to think about what to do, everything since then has just been storytelling with puzzle solving pushed out of the picture completely.
There’s one moment in this episode where it’s like they wanted to give the player a puzzle to solve, but panicked halfway through, leaving it in such a way that it can be solved by just clicking on things. While I’m not looking for obtuse Grim Fandango-style puzzles, something which challenges the brain a little would be most welcome. It’s especially bizarre because the game actually has an inventory. You pick up things, they go in your inventory, yet this affects nothing. You can’t combine items or do anything fancy with them. It makes me question what the point is.
Aside from that pet peeve of mine, from a storytelling perspective the game does go from strength to strength and you’re always wondering what situation led to Rhys and Fiona telling this crazy tale to their captor. Another character from the Borderlands fiction makes his debut and it’s a welcome one. And like all good episodic games, it leaves it on such a good cliffhanger (and decision) that you will be back to see what happens next.
At this point in time, Telltale have a formula and whether you like it or not they are sticking to it. While again, this is a solid entry in their impressive library of products, I can’t help but ask myself, how much longer can they do this before it becomes stale?