Episode two of Telltale’s Tales From the Borderlands is the most fun I have had playing a video game in months, probably the most fun I’ve had since the first episode was released all the way back in November. Other games of course have their high points, but nothing can match the insane hilarity Tales From the Borderlands has managed to bring to the table, at least in my opinion.
Sticking to the same mix of comedy and action that made the first episode so good, “Atlas Mugged,” continues along the same path, the two protagonists, Fiona and Rhys, telling a framed narrative about how they found something called the Gortys Project, each of them embellishing and contradicting each other as they go. This continues to be a decent way to keep things interesting and adds more than a few laughs as the story unfolds. While the present narrative, Fiona and Rhys tied up, telling the story, still isn’t explained much in the course of the episode, it does progress alongside the past narrative, maintaining a forward momentum for the game as a whole, which was nice to see. But again, the real meat of the episode was that past narrative, which picked up exactly where episode one left off, and delivered majorly on the reveal of Handsome Jack.
Recently, especially with the “Handsome Collection” hitting stores next week, it has seemed as if the Borderlands franchise has latched on too heavily to Handsome Jack, reluctant to move away from such an awesome character. But here he definitely doesn’t feel tacked on, instead adding a lot of interesting dynamics to conversations and decisions as, even though you know he’s a psychopath, he offers to pull Rhys out of some tight spots, and you can’t help but feel grateful. Even if you haven’t played Borderlands 2, no worries, Handsome Jack receives a fitting interdiction that pretty much tells you everything you will ever need to know about him.
In a similar way, more characters from the colorful Borderlands supporting cast make appearances, each bringing with them distinct elements fans of the core games will notice and love. More than the first episode, there seemed to also be far more general references to people and places seen in the core Borderlands games, each an unobtrusive nod for franchise fans.
Splitting the central group of four apart, Rhys and Vaughn going one way, Fiona and Sasha another, there isn’t any of the surprisingly great cross-friend interaction (Fiona-Vaughn and Rhys-Shasha) that made an appearance in the first episode. Instead, “Atlas Mugged” really tries to focus on the bond between the two pairs, each forced to deal with the fallout from episode one’s big ending.
In both cases, Telltale throws curve balls into the expected mix, keeping players from getting too comfortable with the dynamic between each pair. While a surprising revelation from Vaughn is treated with a degree of comedy, keeping the tone light, the interactions between Fiona and Sasha, in regards to, let’s call it ‘the issue,’ with their adoptive father, Felix, stuck a somber note. Considering the moment of deep, very non-comical emotion between the two women could easily have felt forced and out of place, including it was a bold move. A move that just so happened to pay off, allowing the player to really engage with the connection (or new disconnection) between the two female leads.
The episode was not without its faults however. One segment in particular, and I will just be blunt about this description, has you carve out a dead man’s eye. Not only is it a drawn out sequence, but the final, actual carving lasts much longer than it has to, requiring multiple button-prompts from the player, all while the camera is from the point of view of the eye, looking up at Fiona as she digs in. Done is a certain way, this could of course be comical, the scene focusing on the complete disgust of the protagonists as they are forced to do this awful thing to proceed, exactly what I sincerely believe Telltale was going for with this scene. But instead it just came off as disgusting and out-of-place, much too close for comfort to the scene in Heavy Rain where you cut off your own fingers. It is only a single scene, quickly passed and forgotten, but still is a sour beat in what is otherwise an awesome experience.
To a much lesser degree, the ending also left a little to be desired. While nothing was wrong with it, the slow and tension filled end of “Atlas Mugged” was a far cry from the insanity that was the death race at the end of the pilot. As the credits rolled I was left wanting one last massive blow out to hold me over until episode three, but it never came.
These however are only small blemishes in the hilarious, rocket-fueled beauty that is episode two of Tales From the Borderlands. If you enjoyed episode one, or just like a comical story done right, you definitely can’t go wrong here.
- Carving out an eye? Seriously?
- Non-bombastic ending
- Hilarious throughout
- The same amazing writing of ep. 1
- Just tons of fun