Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 3: Catch a Ride review

    The third installment of gaming's most funny action-adventure series in at least five years.
Catch a Ride begins following the cliffhanger ending where Rhys must choose between trusting Handsome Jack and Fiona for who is going to get them out of their current predicament (which is being held hostage by Pandoran criminal August and Hyperion executive Vasquez). Really, I almost regret trusting Fiona because I think trusting Handsome Jack might have been funnier in this madcap exercise.

    We're about halfway through the Tales of the Borderlands episodes and the plot is shaping up to be that most archetypal of Borderlands quests: to find and loot a Vault. In a way, I'm almost disappointed this is what the game is about because they were doing a wonderful job keeping me interested in the characters without getting the Eridian's leftover junk involved.

He has forgotten he doesn't have a hand-blaster.
     One thing I liked about this installment is that it's possible to kill one of your enemies from the previous two chapters: Vasquez and August have proven to be incredible pains in the ass and villains you love to hate. When I was given the option to eliminate one of them, I seized upon the opportunity and was pleasantly surprised I could do it. I've often complained in the past about the inability to make meaningful choices in these games so this one amused me. I doubt the other candidate will live much longer but it felt good seeing it happen. [Note: I've been informed the character who dies always does no matter your choice--a pity.]

    Indeed, Catch a Ride is pretty good about following up on the emotional weight of previous episode's content. My Fiona chose to shoot her adoptive father Felix and, thus, lead to his accidental death at the hands of a Hyperion bomb. This allowed me to feel immensely guilty when a certain character's arrival triggers a revelation about the measures he took to protect Fiona and Sasha.

Vallory just doesn't have the inherent hateability of abusive-stalker August or rich douchebag Vasquez.
    We also get what I presume to be the "major" villain of the series in Vallory introduced. While she was foreshadowed in the previous episode as the force we should be watching out for, I wasn't really all that impressed with her character. Vasquez and August both had more intimidating introductions so discovering she's just another Pandoran crime-boss didn't really persuade me she's all that impressive. I was hoping we'd find ourselves set against whoever is in charge of Hyperion now but I suppose there's still a couple of episodes left for that.

    Another major character character introduced this time around is Gortys, who turns out to be our substitute for Claptrap. An adorable child-like robot, it speaks in a cute squeaky voice that seems designed to invoke paternal feelings in even the hardest hearts. However, frankly, I prefer the good-old Claptrap units and wish we had one of them join the party. While "our" Claptrap is supposedly the last of his line, there's nothing preventing our heroes from finding one and repairing it.

This makes sense in context.
    A character I didn't expect to play a big role in the game but who did was Athena, ensemble darkhorse of both the original Borderlands game (via DLC) and the Pre-Sequel. I'm not, honestly, a big Athena fan. When my favorite character, Lilith, decided to execute her in the Pre-Sequel, I was on her side because Lilith > Everyone Else on Pandora.

    Likewise, I'm not a huge fan of her fanbase, which tends toward the rapid. However, she acquits herself well and I like the relationship she has with Janey Springs as well as the option to realize her one-woman-war on the Atlas Corporation has passed to the amoral rather than vengeful. We also get a tie-in to the Pre-Sequel as Brick and Mordecai, two of my favorite Vault Hunters, come to collect her for the framing story from Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

     While I'm not one of those people who think Handsome Jack should be in everything Borderlands, I must say I'm really enjoying his presence in Tales (at least his A.I. clone). He's quite a bit more likable than the original version and watching him try to make friends despite being, you know, evil is delightful. I chose to have my Rhys make friends with his digital ghostly buddy and I hope they're able to take Hyperion back from, well, whoever the hell is presently in charge of it.

Not so much this.
    Catch a Ride's strongest appeal, indeed, is probably the fact we're actually allowed to see the characters of Rhys and Fiona change rather than remain the static archetypes they began as. Rhys gets a story arc with the option to pursue a romance with Sasha while Fiona realizes she has the potential to become a Vault Hunter every bit as deadly as Athena. Well, maybe not as deadly as Athena, but at least as deadly as the Fragtrap or Doppleganger.

    The zany comedic action of previous installments continue and I'm really starting to believe Telltale should continue this series past this game. They manage to capture the essence of Pandora and its quirky oddball fun. There were a few parts which were a bit slow but, overall, I find this section to be highly recommended.


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