Tales from the Borderlands: Episode Three

"I just worry about the direction the series is going as we have eclipsed the halfway point."

Rhys and the gang are at it again! Mostly because they're, you know, being chased and incorrigibly after material goods. Regardless, further hijinks ensue as Telltale continues to play in Gearbox Software's playground. This time, the jokes and creative storytelling take a bit of a backseat in favor of driving the plot. Although this isn't necessarily bad, the slight change in direction may not be what fans are expecting. That said, anyone who's made it this far into the series is invested to the point where they either won't notice or will forward the march regardless.

Taking up immediately where Episode 2 left off, Episode 3 employs part clever solutions to conflicts and part deus ex machina. While the latter demands some deserved finger-wagging, Telltale has a treasure trove of goodies to work with, and this includes the chaos that is Pandora. Keep in mind, this isn't The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us; a gripping, well-woven narrative isn't the primary expectation. Jokes are. Which makes the veering away from jokes a small concern, especially since every comedian-writer knows that the jokes have to amp up with the story, not decrease. That said, some of the absurd chase scenes are hysterical with visuals alone.

Unlike Telltale's other titles, the impactful choices are subtle this time around. Players will quickly notice several instances of "so-and-so will remember that" in response to a decision that seemed ho-hum at the time. Whether this is due to the nature of the narrative at this point in the series or Telltale taking important decision-making in a new direction is unclear, but I'm intrigued by where these supposedly important decisions take us. Other decisions involve combat, which may not have much of an impact in the long-term, similar to those made in episodes 1 and 2.

Telltale continues to make use of tasteful, forgiving Quick-Time-Events, opting to enhance the experience rather than offer "challenge." Other gameplay elements, such as choosing the affinity of a bullet, are modest and almost arbitrary. We learn more about what a gun can do in this world, but the inclusion seems superficial at times and serves to depart from what's most important: the characters. Granted, these inclusions only take tens of seconds out of the game, and Tales from the Borderlands is probably better off for it. I just wish they offered something more creative and immersive in terms of combat choices.

The voice acting, visuals, and controls all enhance the experience and served as non-barriers as I interacted with the game. Again, unlike the more dramatic installments Telltale has offered us in recent years, the presentation matters more than fans may be used to. Rather than focusing entirely on witty banter, Telltale has relied more heavily on goofy falls and facial expressions. You know, comedy.

Tales from the Borderlands still provides worthwhile entertainment, but the comedic edge is losing its grip. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. I'm likely comparing TftB to what I'm used to expecting from Telltale, which is top-of-the-industry quality storytelling, whereas TftB is more about yucks and zany antics. I just worry about the direction the series is going as we have eclipsed the halfway point.


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