Review

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode Four - Escape Plan Bravo Review

  • First Released Oct 20, 2015
    released
  • PC
Alexa Ray Corriea on Google+

No good deed.

Tales from the Borderlands' penultimate episode, Escape Plan Bravo, presents a change of pace from the frantic action of previous episodes. Things have been very action-oriented up until this point: a group of characters on the run, blowing up heads and desecrating corpses, stealing money, lying, and playing a seemingly endless game of cat and mouse with angry treasure-seekers and bounty hunters. Tales from the Borderlands has been a rollercoaster, and Episode Four feels more like the slow climb to the summit before another massive drop--but the lull in action isn't always a good thing.

Episode Four opens with our ragtag band of not-quite-heroes in trouble, and everybody one step closer towards the Vault of the Traveler, a teleporting Vault that only stays in one place for a few minutes at a time and allegedly holds a massive treasure. It's this Vault that everyone has been after since day one. Tales from the Borderlands began as a story about the small, ordinary people--the non-Vault Hunters--wading in among those powerful giants, with nothing but their wits to defend them. We've seen the big heroes meddle in Rhys and Fiona's affairs, with Zer0 fighting on the fringes in the first episode and the bounty hunter Athena joining them in combat last episode. The Handsome Jack AI/ghost in Rhys' head has been an entertaining plot point fueled with plenty of giggle-worthy writting. With one episode to go, the presence of these characters in the story up to this point has been a very organic addition. They feel like they belong there, down to Springs and Scooter assisting Fiona and Sasha with their automotive needs.

A motley crew.
A motley crew.

I'm excited knowing these events are canon, as so far it has been my favorite story in the Borderlands universe to date. Episode four's best parts focus on interactions between two or three characters and their humanity. There's a moment where Springs asks you about Athena's continued dabbling in bounty hunting, and you can either tell the truth or lie to get Springs to help you. Rhys and Vaughn have another bro-to-bro moment in which the strain on their friendship becomes the most apparent; both men are growing into drastically different people, and through their conversations you can tell they're no longer in sync. Depending on how you play Rhys, you can either scramble to let Vaughn know you still care or accept what feels like an inevitable separation of ways, because in all the turmoil of finding the Vault, Rhys didn't realize the most important thing to him was drifting away. Rhys later has a powerful moment in reuniting with an old friend, and his continued dealings with Handsome Jack become darker and more dire. Jack himself has a true moment of quiet sorrow when a picture prompts him to talk about his estranged daughter, Angel.

A note on Handsome Jack: he has become dangerous. Tales from the Borderlands has done an excellent job of building him up over four episodes, from some funny, awful thing only Rhys can deal with to an honest-to-goodness terrifying entity. If you've made choices for Rhys that have lead to his accepting Jack, you'll probably feel more comfortable with the outcome of Episode Four. If you've been resisting Jack, well, something more horrifying will happen. This is the biggest thread of player choice running through the series, and now we're finally seeing it come to fruition.

The struggle is real.
The struggle is real.

The best and also worst (emotionally) of these human moments in Escape Plan Bravo revolves around Scooter, the scrappy mechanic. Not only is this moment highlighted by a gut-punchingly good performance from voice actor Michael Neumann, but it also signifies a major emotional turning point for Fiona. Up to this point, Fiona has kept her cool and always had a plan at the ready. She's been smart, confident, and unflinching in her determination. But Episode Four finally breaks her, marring her in a way that changes how she views her own consequences. It's hard to watch, but still a superb piece of her character arc.

But while the fourth episode has some truly heartbreaking moments, many of its sequences feel like padding. The "gamey" stuff, such as exploring an area to find an item you need or masquerading as a tour guide and making up information as you go along to unsuspecting tourists, feels out of place. These moments don't feel especially important and aren't engaging; occasionally I felt like the game was forcing me to kill time between the bigger, more poignant moments. The episode is just under 90 minutes, but the interactive events focused on searching for items were stretched thin and overstayed their welcome.

A real space cowboy.
A real space cowboy.

Other than the dealings with Handsome Jack, choices in episode four don't feel as weighty as they have before, presenting you with a handful of superficial options that don't make any difference. Going back to the moment with Springs, lying or coming clean both have the same result. In another instance, you can choose to buy Hyperion employee clothing to help you fit in when you infiltrate the place, but whether or not you show up in your Pandora clothes has no bearing on how those on Hyperion perceive you. It's a meaningless choice.

Episode Four of Tales from the Borderlands does have its streaks of comedy gold--it's hard not to laugh at one-liners from Handsome Jack or extended sequences involving finger guns. These outshine the aforementioned boring parts, but still don't' quite save the episode from slow pacing that doesn't mesh with the series. There are no big action sequences, which takes away some of the energy, but the emphasis on character relationships is what makes this episode a good one. It's not my favorite episode, but it does include some of my favorite moments, including an ending with a truly paralyzing choice, both of which end in "ohhhh no you did not" moments. It may be mellower than its predecessors, but Escape Plan Bravo sets up the pieces for what already feels like an anxiety-inducing finale.

Alexa Ray Corriea on Google+
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The Good
Heartbreaking interactions between characters mark emotional high points
Segments of well-written, hilarious dialogue
The Bad
Exploration sequences feel drawn out and boring
No crazy action sequences like in previous episodes
Pacing slows to a crawl
6
Fair
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About the Author

Alexa Ray Corriea has far too many save files for Tales from the Borderlands because she wants to experience everything and it's driving her absolutely nuts.
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Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

It sure does take a while to get to the intro sequence that is the very, very entertaining rocket travel scene. Other than the part about extracting someone's face, the prologue that builds up to this scene certainly feels laborious, and anything that happens afterwards between that and the finale sure seems like a lot of padding.

Absurdly silly padding though. ;P

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bluefox755

Wasn't bad, but wasn't as good as the others either.

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SythisTaru

If you guys want action sequences, why are you playing a story based adventure game?

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Zjarcal

Well, finished the episode and I seriously fail to see how the "gamey" bits differ from the previous episodes, or how the pacing is too slow.

Also, how could anyone fail to appreciate the tour guide part is beyond me... then again this is the same person who didn't appreciate the detective puzzle in Life is Strange, so, whoopee.

I do agree about choices being weak, they all pretty much have the same outcome, but then that's true for the entire series, at best you get a slightly different flavor but still the same thing.

Avatar image for wkadalie
wkadalie

@Zjarcal: It's why I loved Heavy Rain. And am excited for Until Dawn. You're choices really matter. They change the game. Telltale games and Life is strange all really end up in the same place. Just more the illusion of choice, like Beyond Two Souls.

Avatar image for Zjarcal
Zjarcal

@wkadalie: Choices in Life is Strange matter way more than they do in Telltale games (can't speak for Heavy Rain, never played that).

Avatar image for SythisTaru
SythisTaru

@Zjarcal: I dunno about that.

Avatar image for bjklol
bjklol

agreed. Very disappointing episode.

Avatar image for stateenemy1
StateEnemy1

@bjklol: It's an echo chamber, give it time and a scream will resonate through the spaceship, even if noone else can hear it.

TLDR: Let the comments keep rolling in...

Avatar image for dostunuz
dostunuz

Totally agree with the score. This episode was a huge letdown.

Avatar image for Zjarcal
Zjarcal

Ah yes, the dreaded "gamey bits"...

I wanna read movie reviews complaining about "movie bits".

Avatar image for khankalili
khankalili

@Zjarcal: Problem is the way Telltale do their 'games' nowadays. They aren't actually games anymore being the main let down on my end. This leads to a completely different player group that apparantly doesn't include me and my need for actual 'gamey bits'... well just a 'game' to be honest. Want more Sam&Max season 1 and less 'just do what we want and we'll make you think your choice matters' cr*p.

Avatar image for fallenstaph
Fallenstaph

well at least the game is coming to a end, finally I will be able to pick it up soon. seems good so far.

Avatar image for yanivic
YaniviC

Here we go again with the "6". Just like LIS, i'll play it and i'm sure it'll be more than just 6.

So sure.

Avatar image for Mr_Mark_Legion
Mr_Mark_Legion

if this game had no trophies/achievements, i would just give up on the whole game.

Tales from the Borderlands: A Telltale Game Series More Info

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  • First Released Oct 20, 2015
    released
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    Tales from the Borderlands will explore and expand on the stories of existing and all-new characters from the world of Pandora.
    8.3
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    Developed by:
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    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
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