Tales From the Borderlands, Episode 4: Escape Plan Bravo Review (PC)
Tellatale's Tales From the Borderlands has been all over the place. While normally that would be a bad thing for a game, it actually works to TFTB's favor. What started as a story about a con gone wrong has evolved into a wild hunt for treasure and betrayal, and now with "Escape Plan Bravo," a heist adventure. Though all the core players have remained the same, shifting the type of story they're involved in has kept Tales From the Borderlands fresh and different every time you start a new episode. "Escape Plan Bravo" keeps the laughs coming, moves the story along in interesting ways, and is might just be the ultimate penultimate episode Telltale's ever delivered.
When last we left our faithful, bonded-by-circumstance group of heroes, Rhys, Fiona and the gang found themselves at the mercy of Vallory and her goons. At her "request," the would-be Vault Hunters must recover the final piece of Gortys to unlock the secret, mystery vault trapped between dimensions. With the final piece locked up in Handsome Jack's office up on the Hyperion's Helios station, the gang must devise a plan to break in and break out with the tech without alerting anyone working for the most devious company in the universe. While the plan comes together quick, leading to another of Tales From the Borderlands' excellent opening title sequences, the execution leaves much to be desired. Hey, it wouldn't be a proper heist if everything went the way it was planned, now would it?
If you're a fan of films like Ocean's Eleven or Shaun of the Dead, you'll be immediately familiar with many of the references Telltale makes during the planning and execution stages of "Escape Plan Bravo." From the split-screen events to the discussions of the plans going a little too well in the minds of the people creating them, there are a lot of winks and nods to pop culture. That's been a hallmark of the Borderlands franchise in general, but where it can get a bit overplayed in the main games, Telltale's always managed to flirt with the line of referential humor without bursting through it and relying on it too much. The hints and nudges stay just that, and don't keep poking you over and over to make sure you got the joke.
This episode relies little on action sequences, and primarily focuses on conversational choices to keep things moving. That said, the big action sequence that does occur is a blast to take part in, and maintains Borderlands' over-the-top style while infusing it with a nice twist. It can get a little hairy at times on a keyboard and mouse set up, but that's more due to my own lack of practice with those kinds of controls. Not relying on so much action allows the characters more time to develop as well, and we get some really great moments with Fiona and Scooter, as well as Rhys and Handsome Jack. This episode features even more twists and turns, which is surprising given how many loops we've already been thrown for during this game. They all work though, and help make the story stronger by putting our characters in even tighter spots from which they'll have to escape. And that cliffhanger? Hoo-boy.
"Escape Plan Bravo" also provides some of the best visuals Tales From the Borderlands has seen so far. There are some inspiring sequences that give a great sense of scale, as well as the beauty of the world these characters inhabit. In fact, TFTB has been consistently easy on the eyes, which has been a boon to the overall experience from day one. While there are still a few framerate issues with the engine, at this point you know these kinds of hiccups will happen in a Telltale game. It's too late to really make any adjustments in the short term, but we can always hope things get tightened up for future titles that haven't already been going on for months.
As someone who flirted with the core Borderlands games, but never really latched onto them, I was unsure just how enjoyable an adventure game set in that universe would be, regardless of the developer's pedigree. Now, four episodes deep into Tales From the Borderlands, I can see how foolish my initial thoughts were. If you want to get technical, it only took one episode for me to get completely on board with Telltale's version of this universe. The humor has been continually hilarious, the storylines and characters have been compelling, and most of all, Tales From the Borderlands has been fun to participate in. There's only one episode left, but even if it's only half as good as the first four parts, Tales From the Borderlands will have been arguably Telltale's greatest effort to date.
This review is based on a download code for Tale From the Borderlands, Episode 4: Escape Plan Bravo provided by the publisher for PC.