Telltale Games’ third episode in the Tales from the Borderlands series, Catch a Ride, is a great example of how harsh and beautiful the world of Pandora is. Not only is there a healthy supply of action on offer, but Rhys and Fiona’s adventure has finally taken a step in the right narrative direction.
Your final choice in the finale of Atlas Mugged heavily impacts the content on offer in Catch a Ride. The narrative will ride alongside Rhys or Fiona more closely depending on whether you trusted Handsome Jack or the con-artist at the end of Episode Two’s cliffhanger. After going through Catch a Ride once, it is a long of fun to witness the other half of the game you missed.
One thing that has remained constant with Borderlands titles are the openings to the game. This one is a particular highlight, due to the sudden gunfight on the newly-discovered Gortys facility in Old Town. After a hairy escape, Rhys, Fiona and the gang meet up with a new character, Vallory. She is a short-tempered, rough-around-the-edges type of baddie and your main adversary in Catch a Ride.
After a quick encounter, another catchy tune is belted out over rolling credits. The gang, with the Gortys device secured, are in search of an upgrade that will hopefully reveal the location of a Vault. The soundtrack, the character interactions, and the road trip-like feel to it all work masterfully together. It sums up what Borderlands is all about: scouring a myriad of scenic environments for invaluable loot.
That’s why Episode Three is the most graphically eye-catching of the series thus far. One area in particular, an Atlas environmental research facility, labelled The Dome, is beautifully nestled below a night time display similar to the Southern Lights. Furthermore, inside The Dome is a jungle that hosts a collection of dazzling frozen plants and giant sunflowers.
Catch a Ride is also leaps and bounds ahead of Tales from the Borderlands’ other outings in terms of character development. Rhys is trying to deal with peer pressure from the voice inside his head (Handsome Jack) which, depending on your choice in Atlas Mugged, has a heavy emphasis on how much power Jack wants. Whilst Fiona is taken under the wing of Athena, who ultimately steals the show, and gets a few pointers in the skill of survival. Their interactions lead to some of the more engaging dialogue in the game, where talk of a career move into Vault Hunting puts Fiona on edge.
In Episode Three, there’s lots of interaction between characters we already know, ones we’ve heard of and those who are new to Telltale’s Borderlands universe. There’s a particular bit of fan service thrown in where players will catch up with personalities from the original Borderlands game – a very nice inclusion. However, one thing that threw me off was the impromptu option for two of the characters to starting developing a romantic relationship. It’s evident Telltale meant well but, in the end, it just felt out of place.
In addition, the rib-tickling Borderlands humour takes a break in Catch a Ride. At the expense of affecting cutscenes and decent plot progression, Pandora’s slapstick was reduced to half-chuckles or was non-existent altogether. The present day story also needs work. Players still have no clue what their bulky kidnapper wants or who he is. It’s moving along at a far-too-casual pace, still hampered by (if you can believe it) frame rate stutters. But, with the teasing conclusion of Telltale’s latest offering, it should reveal a bit more in time for the season finale.
Catch a Ride, despite its positives, feels more like a side-step than a step forward for Tales from the Borderlands. Though it hasn’t reached by the dizzying heights of Zer0 Sum, it surpasses Atlas Mugged in terms of plot progression, character development and diverse locations. With such a promising ending, Telltale Games is now perfectly poised to kick down the door of expectation and give us one hell of a ride to the finish. No pressure.
A bumpy ride
Feels more like a side-step than a step forward for Telltale's series.