“Touchgoals All Day”
Tales from the Borderlands is shaping up to be one of Telltale’s best series yet. Now comfortable with the development of its ensemble cast over the last two stellar episodes, Tales’ is now fully underway, moving the needle forward to some hilarious and creative outcomes. The fantastic, witty writing and lovable characters are at the top of their game in Catch a Ride, culminating to form Tales’ most extravagant and energetic chapter yet.
Similar to previous episodes, Catch a Ride hits the ground running. It opens with a busy action sequence, picking up directly after the cliffhanger ending of Atlas Mugged. Setting the tone, right out of the gate, Catch a Ride rarely falls from its comedic highs and impactful choices over the course of its two-hour run. It’s all wonderfully paced and infused with infectious enthusiasm, making every scene a joy to playthrough.Following Atlas Mugged, our heroes were left in a bit of a kerfuffle. Telltale has always offered players with choice, and a somewhat branching narrative, but Catch a Ride successfully takes the formula to new heights. Depending on your final decision during episode two, completely different sequences play out from the get-go, giving plenty of reason for a second playthrough for those eager enough to revisit. It’s not a necessity to explore all possible outcomes, for both versions offer plenty of their own memorable interactions and nonstop delivery of hilarity.
Moving past the action-packed opener, Catch a Ride puts focus on its core characters for a large portion of the episode. The two leads, Rhys and Fiona, are given their own room to grow as characters, as well as leaving plenty to decide from a player perspective. It’s a tedious and often challenging prospect, but Telltale manages to strike a close to impeccable balance between who the cast of characters really are, and who the player portrays them as. There’s always a sense of past and mystery following closely behind the decisions and dialogue choices the players make on behalf of these already developed people. As much control as you’re given, the robust script always manages to allude to something bigger, something beyond what the button prompts allow. Tales from the Borderlands succeeds in making its direction and unique style come together to form the weight and payoff of a great tale, most importantly one worth sharing.Perhaps Catch a Ride’s biggest surprise is Ashley Johnson’s debut as the character Gortys, a cute little robot with some of the best one-liners the series has offered. Not only did she steal the show in terms of comedic relief, but also in terms of narrative progression. Gortys is exactly what Tales’ needed before it really needed it. Her presence is forward thinking, preventing the series from falling dull, as well as adding to the already stellar humor. Her irresistible charm weaves its way into the entire episode, as her naive and innocent personality differs completely from her environment. Pandora is both a silly and vicious place, juxtaposed with beauty and gruesomeness. Tales’ brings both sides to light with ease, as the increasingly identifiable cast begins to face conflict larger than themselves. I’ve grown to emotionally relate and root for these characters over the last three episodes.
The only major issue that continues to act as a thorn in the side is Telltale’s unstable game engine. The condition of the engine has been questionable in most products the developer has touched, yet the outstanding writing and characters have always outweighed that which remains subpar on the technical side of things. The transitions are commonly rickety and unnatural, the frame rate during busy moments stutters along, and pauses between dialogue during conversation are still awkward. It’s not that Catch a Ride stoops in terms of writing and characters, rather the unflattering technical prowess, and inability to break the cycle begins to wear. Telltale has stumbled upon something special with Borderlands, and it’s a continuous let down to witness technical presentation fumble along.Conclusion: Tales from the Borderlands Episode 3: Catch a Ride is testament to what makes Telltale’s games great. The joining of the little things like the moment-to-moment dialogue and dry, somewhat childish humor continue to remain the driving force of the series. Just as its predecessors, the final moments of the episode will leave you yearning for more, wondering where Telltale might take us next. The messy state of the engine is just as irritating as it’s been all season, standing as the only consistent downfall. Regardless of its questionable technical fidelity, Catch a Ride left me grinning and chuckling to myself long after the credits had rolled.
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