Tales from the Borderlands: Vault of the Traveller (PC) Review
- Looks great and plays well
- Wonderful action sequence that sets a bar for the genre
- Excellent writing, brilliantly executed by the incredible voice talent
- Loader Bot is character of the year!
Not so much?
- It finished!
- Pace is relentless
Poignant, funny, dark and deliciously executed. This is a masterclass in how to wrap up a series yet still leave your players wanting more.
ales from the Borderlands has been one of my most pleasant surprises of 2015. I’ve never been a massive fan of the Borderlands backstory or environment despite enjoying the Gearbox originals well enough. Yet this smart, funny and compelling story from Telltale has had me hooked from the first episode.
I will attempt to keep this review of Tales from the Borderlands: The Vault Of The Traveler as spoiler free as possible but some plot points from previous episodes will likely be alluded to. We rejoin Rhys, Fiona and the rest of our beleaguered team on Helios. Jack is hell bent on implanting himself in Rhys and returning to his former glory days of terrorising Pandora.
The writing of this series, more so than either the previous Borderlands or Telltale titles, is spot-on. Clever, funny and poignant it manages to weave characters and a story that you care about into an interesting and brutal world.
The series so far has gone from strength to strength leaning heavily on the more action orientated and joke filled world created by Gearbox. But, as last episode showed with Scooter, things are never all fun and games on Pandora (or above it!). The writers have managed to wrap up the series incredibly well (helped this time by Borderlands writer Anthony Burch), offering some very poignant moments without stepping over the line and making things sappy or melodrama (see my comments on the finale for Life is Strange for that!). Giving the characters room to breathe and talk offers up some insight into characters that you may have dismissed previously.
The title sequences need a special mention at this point. Taking their lead from the musically charged sequences of the original Borderlands games, these sequences eclipse those in their refinement of the art. Usually amusing and accompanied by a catchy tune this time around it’s a more sombre and reflective affair, yet still utterly brilliant in setting the tone for a slow and reflective portion of the game. They’ve started to use this in other titles, like Minecraft: Story Mode, but nowhere is it as effectively executed as this series. Seriously they’re worth watching on their own.
The pacing of the game is pretty brutal, more so than previous entries in the series. You barely have time to take a breath as you wind your way through the roughly 2 hours of content. More so than any other Telltale title your decisions, big and small, seem to play into aspects of Vault of the Traveler. Big things like who you were nice to or managed to save and even small things, like how much money you’ve spent, come into play making even those little unconscious choices matter in the grand scheme.
With a narrative arc that will have you on the verge of tears one moment then grinning at a darkly humorous moment the next it comes as no surprise that you feel wrung out yet hugely satisfied come the final credit roll.
Telltale have also brought us something else new in this series – a wonderful all-out action sequence. I’ve been down on Telltale for years for their poor implementation of action and combat in their games. It has improved in recent years and Tales from the Borderlands has been a pioneer of that improvement. This new offering, however, mixes some tried and tested elements with some gloriously satisfying visuals to make the best implementation of action in this genre to date. And it looked effortless.
This is, to my mind, the absolutely best series Telltale have produced. Yes it stands on the shoulders of giants like The Walking Dead (a former Game of the Year for me), but it takes the formula and weaves it into something better than the sum of its parts.
Had this whole series come out a year earlier then we’d be looking at a clear Game of the Year Winner. Unfortunately Tales from the Borderlands has come out in a year with some very stiff competition. I can say it is one of my top three titles of the year and likely the most enjoyable 10 hours I’ve spent this year.