It’s been long-awaited but at last the final episode of my favourite Telltale game, Tales from the Borderlands has been released, and it is something special.
The episode, titled The Vault of the Traveller, puts you exactly where you left off which in my case saw Handsome Jack trying to convince Rhys to help him create an army of Jacks. This puts you straight back into the action and into the problem of dealing with Jack who, of course, attempts to betray you only three minutes into the game. This creates a fast paced opening with all of the characters intentions being to escape Helios and return the final piece of the ‘Gortys project’ to Gortys so that the vault can be opened.
Meanwhile, Gortys is left under the protection of Fiona and Sasha who attempt to escape the station whilst avoiding the unwanted attention of Jack who at this point is searching for Rhys. After various encounters with Jack with both characters, Rhys is forced to detonate Helios in an attempt to destroy Jack for good. This bumps up the tension dramatically as all characters are now at risk of death in a game where all choices have an impact. As part of this we see the characters split up – Sasha and Gortys are taken via the caravan, Fiona flees to an escape pod while Loader Bot forces Rhys into the last pod leaving the lovable robot behind. All this leads up to the tense title sequence as we see the saddened look on the characters faces with the picturesque explosion of Helios in the background. How could so much have gone wrong only 15 minutes in?
The intro sequence plays out before emerging amongst the remains of Helios distributed around the wasted plains in which Rhys finds himself. After a short confrontation with digital Jack (who survived the wreckage), Rhys begins to understand the only way he is able to remove Jack from his life, is to physically remove him from himself. This brings with it a rather graphic scene involving the removal of Rhys’ eye, arm and the implant in his head all in an attempt to destroy Jack once and for all. It is seen later in this scene to be an overriding success. I thought this was a good idea, a well thought out section for the characters to stop worrying about Jack, but instead focus on the vault.
After this, the story changes to Fiona’s perspective who seems to be wandering around a different area of the crash site. She is able to get in contact with Sasha who is conveniently a few metres down a pathway where we discover Vallory has opened the vault with Gortys and let out the vault monster. Because of this, Gortys increased in size to match the vault monster and they were now fighting amongst the sandstorm. It is still unknown to me how Gortys grew in size so much but nevertheless, she had. Amongst this we see Vallory using her rocket launcher to take down Gortys.
Fiona’s initial response is to take down Vallory however later we find out she was just doing what needed to be done. Destroying Gortys, in effect, closed the vault trapping both her and the monster inside. After telling us this, Vallory is crushed by the monster in front of her son, August. This created a classic telltale emotional encounter, something that we’ve seen less of in this particular Telltale game but something I felt worked really well. Fiona then finishes the job alongside her sister, and the story has been told. At the time I thought this was a really rushed ending before realising this episode was focusing on ‘the present’ rather than fixating on the story told by Rhys and Fiona in the present day.
Gripping as this first part of the episode was, it was the next section that really captivated me. As gameplay was now happening in the present day, my immediate thoughts on this was ‘anything could happen’. And more importantly, ‘anyone could die’. The biggest mystery of course still remained – who is the masked figure? Before even thinking too far into it we see Kroger return with a rather small, Jawa-looking individual who is masked. We learn that Kroger is here to trade the ‘Jawa’ with the masked men to gain Rhys and Fiona in return. After the deal is done, Kroger is betrayed by the masked figure and the Jawa is revealed to be Vaughn! Yes that’s right! Vaughn, returns from being left with the weird guy from the Atlas facility. Turns out Vaughn had been using the Hyperion refuges to raise some sort of army who have a strange obsession with Rhys…a lovely bit of Borderlands humour slipping in there I think.
Nevertheless, Vaughn takes Rhys, Fiona and the masked figure back to his base which turns out to be the Hyperion wreckage. And now, finally, it is the masked man is revealed to be none other than Loader Bot who survived the wreckage of Hyperion having been left there by Rhys. Turns out he had a weird robot crush on Gortys and therefore captured his companions to get an explanation why Gortys was destroyed…it all makes sense really!
This then creates a new challenge for the team as they decide their next aim will be to save Gortys from her demise and acquire the treasure within the vault. In doing this, the game allows you to choose three further companions to join the team. The choice it gives you is decided from all of your previous choices from all the episodes, hence the title ‘it all matters!’. Because it does! Everything you have done in the past four episodes matters making it truly feel like a finale.
So for me, I chose Athena, August and Felix. Having betrayed me and stolen £10,000,000 from me in episode 1, I was cautious on choosing Felix, although I couldn’t have made a better decision. Turns out he still had some of the money left over and despite not coming to help in person, Felix sends a video message describing where to find the remaining £9,000,000. This then gave me enough money to purchase the ‘mystery vault hunter’ as my replacement third member. Now, most people would see this as a terrible decision because for some reason everyone hates him, but I personally couldn’t have been happier with the comic choice of Claptrap as my third team member!
Once gathering the team, the game then shifts to the plan in action. This involves releasing Gortys and putting everyone in place for fighting the vault monster. Sometimes it does feel like you’re watching a Power Ranger action sequence however this adds to the comic, thrilling action that combines all of the game’s traits making it the great stand-alone game that it is. The sequence lasts a while but towards the end it becomes clear the Sasha has to put her life on the line to detonate internal bombs attached to the monster. A heart-throbbing moment happens between her and her sister, soon followed by a swift exit of Sasha and the demise of the monster.
The threat is now lessened, but the tale is not yet told. Like all Borderlands games, the majority of characters are wandering around collecting the awesome loot that awaits them. However Fiona, swiftly followed by Ryhs find themselves searching for Sasha who is seen lying in the rubble nearby. What follows is a group moment with all the characters surrounding Sasha as she passes away. Well, that’s what I thought at the time anyway. It doesn’t take long for her to come back as the gift she was given by Felix fixes her injuries. Seems that Felix seems to have been pretty important this whole time!
Sasha then joins the rest of the crew looting from the vault monster. This leaves the final part of the game to feature our two protagonists, Rhys and Fiona. Despite spending the majority of time trying to rip each other’s throats out, it seems only fitting that these characters are left alone to open the vault together. Unfortunately, after a few kind words exchanged between the two of them, we never see what lies inside the vault. Instead, the characters disappear as if they have been teleported somewhere and the credits roll. This excited me. I was so convinced the scene was concluding Telltale Borderlands for good but this cliffhanger moment restored my hope in a possible season 2 emerging. And I for one, cannot wait.
So to wrap up, because I’ve gone on a while. This was a game I can honestly say had one of the best feeling finales that I have played in a long time. A game that restored my hope in telltale games. And a game that was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
Well done Telltale, I look forward to the second season!
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