Tales from the Borderlands ended its first season recently – coincidentally, on the same day that Life Is Strange concluded – after nearly a year. While the release "schedule" for this series has been shaky at best for most of its run, Telltale remained a little more consistent as we got closer to the homestretch. Fortunately, the timing has had no bearing on the quality of this series, as the developer has delivered in spades with this finale.
The Telltale formula has been starting to get stale for a while now. Whether that's because of the diminishing levels of real gameplay or the studio's horribly outdated engine, we'll leave that up to you to decide. Against all odds, though, Tales has managed to be a breath of fresh air. Equal parts witty and touching, a delicate and fascinating narrative yarn has been spun through these last five episodes, and we've become attached to Rhys, Fiona, and the expanded cast at large. The seamless blending of the old and the new across all of the episodes has been a monumental aid to the series, as Telltale has been able to incorporate many of the best elements that the Borderlands series has to offer. Therefore it's only fitting that the finale continues this trend – there are even a few surprises along the way.
This episode sees Rhys, Fiona, and their crew continue to pursue the goal of completing the Gortys Project so that they can open up a fabled vault. Obviously, given the track record of the team, things don't go according to plan, so you best prepare for some awfully intense situations.
As this is the finale, we definitely don't want to spoil anything that happens over the course of the episode, but there is quite a bit going on. Just about every single thread of the narrative that we found ourselves asking questions about is satisfactorily concluded; Telltale even answers some things that we didn't even know that we wanted to know about.
We mentioned that this series has proven to be excellent at blending a variety of emotions, but never has that been more apparent than with this instalment. This was certainly the most emotional episode, and it might just have been the funniest as well. In fact, we would go so far as to say this game has the best narrative in the entire Borderlands series. [Not exactly difficult, though, eh? - Ed]
The humour culminates in a clever and amazing sequence that we'll liken to a boss battle. We don't want to spoil the specifics of it, but people who know anything about the Power Rangers will be sure to get it. While this doesn't hit the series' peak for ridiculous humor – that award goes to the finger gun fight an episode back – it delivers a solid set piece amidst an already stellar release.
The Tales finale also has arguably Telltale's best use of making player choice matter. There is a sequence towards the end of the episode where a team for a specific job must be selected, and a variety of options are available. But to actually be able to use certain members you had to have said and done the right things at previous points in the other episodes. It's the best implementation yet for player choice, but naturally, the manner in which it's implemented won't work with every type of story.
The more that we think about it, the more we reckon that Tales from the Borderlands just might be the best series that Telltale has released to date. The game is a consistent joy, fusing humor and touching emotions into one product. A Telltale Borderlands game sounds very strange on paper, but this series, and the finale in particular, illustrate exactly why this pairing has worked. The finale sets itself up for a second season, and we very much hope that we get one.