When last we left the ragtag heroes of Tales From The Borderlands, things were looking somewhat bleak. An Empire Strikes Back-esque ending saw the gang outnumbered and outgunned by the vicious Vallory, and any hopes of an escape seemed unlikely or foolhardy. Now, as the action picks back up right where players last left off, it seems escape was even more than unlikely. Dragged into an unwilling – let’s say – alliance with Vallory, Rhys and Fiona have to come up with a plan to lead their friends back toward Helios, where they will have to retrieve the final Gortys piece for the Queenpin.
After a quick spell in the storytelling present, Escape Plan Bravo wastes little time in getting its players back to the heart of the adventure. This part of the story is still kept mysteriously unclear for the episode, and it’s actually surprising how much of a back seat this takes given how little time there is left for future revelations. This is far from a bad thing, however, as it means players don’t suffer from feeling like they are getting pulled in and out of the action of the piece. This is certainly Tales From The Borderlands‘ most direct outing so far.
There’s a fair amount of exposition in the early scenes, as attention quickly turns to setting up the final third of this whole adventure. With trademark Borderlands dialogue, this is fortunately never uncomfortable or boring because players won’t actually realize how much information they’ve just soaked up in the opening few minutes. There are fiery exchanges and wonderfully humorous moments in abundance. An opening that could have been laborious or plodding feels just as fresh and funny as the whole series to this point.
And it’s a huge strength of this episode to say that the early tones of despair or peril don’t ever overpower the swashbuckling atmosphere that we’ve come to expect from the series. Rhys and Fiona are as charismatic as ever, and the opportunity to drag the hilarious, Patrick Warburton-voiced Vazquez back into the action is a successful move. Even when this episode hits on some fairly heavy beats and dials up the emotional fodder, there’s more than enough humour around the next corner to keep things ultimately light-hearted.
The setting here also makes for a nice change. As strange as it may seem to say that leaving the unpredictability of Pandora is a good move, Hyperion’s corporate cess pool on Helios really does offer a new angle to the events. For every aggressive psychopath players will have encountered on Pandora, Hyperion offers up a smug executive or self-entitled accountant. And after all, aren’t they all just as scary as each other?
The Helios setting also allows for some really unique and strangely engaging sequences in this episode. A tense, stressful examination in all things Handsome Jack makes a tough test for players as Fiona the tour guide. While it seems appropriate to try to fumble along to the right answers, knocking the spoilt tourists down a peg or two occasionally proves just too much to resist.
For Rhys, however, the sequence of the episode – if not the series – comes in the form of a huge, sprawling shootout against a seemingly endless army of Hyperion staff armed to the teeth with… fingers. That’s right; some classic Borderlands humour has Rhys, disguised as Vazquez to make ‘Rhys-quez’, gunning down wave after wave of Hyperion stooges with nothing more than a finger gun and some imaginative sound effects. The whole sequence is completely ridiculous, but somehow never feels like it’s absolutely out of place. This is no mean feat, when you really stop to think about what you’ve just navigated Rhys through…
When all’s said and done, with Escape Plan Brav0 players will find Rhys – who they will have spent most of the episode with – facing a choice that will shape the landscape of the series’ fifth and final episode. A question posed by a mystery guest will have players pondering the fate they want for Rhys, and whether or not they want to risk severing the relationships he’s started to forge along the way. It’s a real doozy and, having played through twice to see both outcomes, I can safely say that neither ending looks likely to lead to much disappointment when players reach their finale.
It’s an unfortunate side-effect of this episode that all of the preparation towards the finale does mean that there’s a lot less action and activity to sink one’s teeth into. There were times when I felt like it had been some time since I’d done anything more than choose a line every 12-15 sentences, and this occasionally left certain sequences feeling like little more than cut scenes. They’re no doubt important to the story’s direction, of course, and Tales From The Borderlands is fortunately humorous enough at most times to cover this pretty well.
While it may feel like a little bit of a deflation from the frantic excitement of the previous episode, Tales From The Borderlands Episode 4 – Escape Plan Bravo manages to mostly find the perfect balance between setting up a tense and personal finale when the fifth episode releases. It may have contained a few less memorable moments in its own right, but it’s undoubtedly an essential yet still entertaining addition to a series that’s continuously hit the mark so far.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us.
Serving as a fitting appetizer for the grand finale, Tales From The Borderlands Episode 4 takes its foot off the gas just enough to set up what should be a tense and entertaining resolution.