Relatively short and straightforward, “Catch a Ride” forgoes the insane action and constant comedy of the prior episodes to embrace some quieter moments between the characters, and set things up, on an emotional level, for the sure-to-be-rough waters ahead. Though still making me laugh and a few times managing to scratch that itch for over the top chaos that episodes one and two instilled in me, episode three is noticeably calmer, with our group of heroes simply making their way through a forested Atlas facility.
Even from the opening credits, it is made clear “Catch a Ride” is more about the characters and how they interact than anything else. As Rhys, Fiona, Sasha, and Vaughn continue to spend more time together, questions such as what they mean to each other, and what they are really willing to do for each other, begin to pop up. And of course, in classic Telltale fashion, the answers to all those choices are left up to you as the player, choices really feeling like they matter throughout, especially the ‘do you trust Jack or not?’ climax decision from episode two.
All of this teambuilding and bonding (or lack there of, if you choose to go that way) is made that much better by new members teaming up with the group. As the episode opens, not only do we see Athena, now much less hostile, rejoin the fray, but also, an adorable little robot, whose identity I won’t give away (no, not Claptrap), adds a new source of comedy to the proceedings. Both are welcome additions, Athena’s presence actually working as one of the episode’s highlights. Her interactions with Fiona brought together multiple great character moments for each of them, the pair managing to showcase each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities in ways I did not expect.
As was the case for Fiona and Athena, showcasing the vulnerabilities of the characters was a theme throughout, the dynamics and uncertainty just under the surface adding a new layer to the emotion and surprisingly well-developed drama going forward, fleshing out Vaughn and Sasha in necessary ways, given we never play as them.
More then in previous episodes, a greater emphasis was put on the framing of the narrative, Fiona and Rhys being led by a mysterious masked person. Feeling like a larger part of the story, instead of just a way to enable Rhys and Fiona to argue about the course of events, links are beginning to form between the past and present, such as Fiona questioning their captor about the mask, catching my attention and making the framework that much more intriguing. That said, the question of ‘Where are Vaughn and Sasha?’ is beginning to loom with an increasingly darker shadow, ramping up the tension as the tale finishes out with its last two episodes.
And finally, as promised in the ‘next time’ segment of episode two, more of our favorite vault hunters make an appearance in “Catch a Ride.” While no less consequential than Zero in episode one, the parts played by Brick and Mordecai, perhaps due to the phenomenal use of Athena, come off as little more than side cameos, not ultimately adding much to the story other than some fun action and a nice tie-in with the pre-sequel. This could of course change if they were to reappear in following episodes, but as of now, they had a singular purpose as far as the narrative is concerned, and they achieved it.
By the end of the episode, though not blown away or laughing hysterically, I can honestly say I cared even more about Fiona, Rhys, Sasha, and Vaughn than I did when I started, and in that “Catch a Ride” did exactly what it was meant to do. And, best of all, knowing Telltale, going forward that emotional investment is likely to pay off spectacularly.