With Jon now well and truly off in the sunset, I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with me and my Handsome Jack fandom while we finish off the review process for Tales From The Borderlands. Chances are that if you’re reading this you’re already up to speed, but just in case you can check out our reviews for Episode 1: Zer0 Sum, Episode 2: Atlas Shrugged, and Episode 3: Catch A Ride.
Episode 3 provided a high point for the series for many reasons, so the pressure was on for Episode 4 to build upon what we called the best episode so far. In truth, Escape Plan Zero suffers from yet another slow start, but as soon as the introduction begins and To The Top blasts out the speakers you can tell what’s about to happen is going to be something special.
In fact, what we get is nothing short of an emotional roller coaster.
With our heroes at the mercy of the Queenpin, and two members down thanks to the events at the end of Episode 3, their task to restore the Gortys Project to its full power sends them back to where it all began – the Hyperion Space Station. The build up to this starts slow but eventually picks up the pace with familiar use of fantastic comedic timing. Conversations are just as brilliantly scripted as they have always been, no matter what route is taken by the player.
Despite how it's quite apparent that players are being forced in a singular narrative direction, you can see that the choices are going to have some rather far reaching consequences by the end of the series. There were several moments were I was agonising over decisions, especially in the case of Rhys (something we’ll come back to later.) It might be because I was already invested in the Borderlands series thanks to the FPS titles, but I honestly think it’s because Telltale have made me care about each and every character in the game, because they all have their role to play.
That said, fans of Loaderbot should know that our favourite hunk-of-junk doesn’t feature quite as much this time around, but Gortys is on fine adorable form. Ashley Johnson’s energetic performance as the ever-enthusiastic robot has done nothing but make me smile since her debut, acting as a counterpoint to the perilously escalating situations. Speaking of which…
There is one scene in particular that absolutely caught me off-guard. Considering the hilarity that preceded it, the end result genuinely brought me close to tears. Maybe it’s because of who was involved, maybe it was because of how Telltale set the scene, but either way it was a masterful suckerpunch I didn’t see coming (and one I expect will be greatly discussed in the weeks to come.)
It wasn’t all sadness, though. Episode 4 brought the ridiculousness by the bucketful as the heist on the station played out. Fiona has a wonderful scene with a group of enthusiasts, but personally speaking it is Rhys’ undercover confrontation with the accounting team that is my highlight of the episode. It’s a bold statement to make, but it was the best use of QTEs I’ve seen from Telltale, or at the very least the most entertaining one they’ve done.
Fans of the series will find Escape Plan Bravo to be the most easter-egg-filled episode so far, with throwbacks to all the other entries in the series popping up all over the place. Be it conversations, items, pictures, the episode cements Tales From The Borderland’s place in the overall narrative of the franchise. As such, It will be interesting to see how Gearbox approach future games considering how I suspect we’ll have some diverging paths emerge next time.
Which brings me to the final moments. While I’m not going to spoil anything here, Rhys’ final decision is something that I was agonising over for several minutes before making a choice. It actually comes as no surprise that (at the time of writing) the community appears split on what path they took, but either way sets up the finale to be a dangerous affair for everyone involved. If had to be picky and find complaints for Episode 4 – other than the slow start – is that some franchise fans may feel bitter about that particular scene, and that the engine really, really needs to get an upgrade sometime soon. The team have done great stuff with what’s available, especially with the facial expressions, but we keep coming back to the fact the engine is showing its age now. Let’s see some upgrades in future games, Telltale.
In the end, Escape Plan Bravo was the perfect penultimate episode that had it all – unexpected twists and turns, hilarity and ridiculousness, sadness and tenderness, and the stakes raised for the finale. I just hope that Telltale and Gearbox can execute a satisfying conclusion to what has been the superior offering from all of their games this year.
- Surprising twists and turns in the continually entertaining narrative.
- Brilliant pacing with the conversations and comedic moments.
- An unexpected scene really hits the emotional strings in fantastic fashion.
- Another slow start, although that changes fairly quickly.
- Telltale really need to upgrade their game engine.
The Short Version:
As the situation escalates for Fiona and Rhys, we’re treated to another slice of masterclass storytelling from Telltale. Hilarious, exciting, and containing several unexpected twists, Escape Plan Bravo delivers what can only be described as an emotional roller coaster.
We do not score episodic titles unless they can be purchased separately as standalone games, or at the reviewer's discretion. A score will be assigned to the entire season once complete.
Platforms: PC (reviewed) | PS3 | PS4 | Xbox 360 | Xbox One | iOS | Android
Developer: Telltale Games