Tales from the Borderlands, Episode 4: Escape Plan Bravo

After a strong opening and bland second and third acts, Tales from the Borderlands finally got its groove back. The weakness of the season’s middle section is that it had to deliver a lot of exposition and not so great character development which relegated a lot of the humor to the sidelines. Now that the band of characters have come together to complete a task forced upon them, the sense of humor so proudly displayed in its debut returns. “Escape Plan Bravo” makes up for the series' weakest moments by taking players deep into the rabbit hole that is Hyperion's corporate culture.

Rhys and Fiona find themselves in an uncomfortable compromise with Vallory, a Pandoran gangster that threatened to kill them if they refused to locate the final piece of the Gortys robot. A plucky little robot with an upbeat personality, Gortys holds the secret to the Vault of the Traveler, a special Vault containing a teleporter to be used for fun and profit. However, the location of Vault changes regularly and the Atlas Corporation designed Gortys to track its constant movement. Handsome Jack, the AI construct inhabiting Rhys’ head, reveals that the final piece is conveniently housed within his office at Hyperion headquarters.

“Escape Plan Bravo” taught me to laugh again. The absurd situations Rhys and Fiona find themselves in even before they get to Hyperion are a real treat such as Rhys forced into removing a fleshy face mask from a sleeping Psycho while a bemused Handsome Jack goades him. The script is funnier too as the player is given a glimpse into the stuck up assholery of the galaxy’s most. The episode also sees the grand return of Patrick Warburton as Vasquez. Note to developers: if you want to make a great game, include Patrick Warburton. Simple as that! Gortys shines and becomes an important member of the team instead of the MacGuffin I initially thought her to be. Ashley Johnson’s voice work gives a robot that can only emote with its eyes and hands a real sense of character, making her someone you want to care about. The robot’s eagerness and innocence are incredibly endearing, especially in light of the sheer insanity Pandora has to offer.

The technical issues that hurt the previous episode are thankfully non-existent. On the story side, however, there are issues I couldn’t ignore. There is a tendency for Telltale to bring people in and out only when they serve a purpose and failing to give them a proper out. Athena’s girlfriend, for example, suddenly works with Scooter at his Catch-A-Ride shop, something that I don’t ever remember being brought up. She is only there to shoehorn drama and tension between the two lovers, a minor quarrel that can go in different ways depending on your response. This merely feels like a scene designed to sneak in one more end game statistic, though I couldn’t be sure of that because my press copy did not display the complete list of choices.

This problem is better represented in a scene where a completely unnecessary tragedy could have been avoided were it not for sloppy and illogical writing. Essentially, the scene puts Fiona in charges of disabling a machine (built by Scooter and his assistant) by pressing a button placed just beyond a shutter that rhythmically opens and closes. What engineer in their right mind would design something so stupid? Furthermore, despite being in the cold vacuum of space, the characters have no problem breathing or seeing their exposed body parts suffer from the document injuries associated with unprotected space walks. For God’s sake, their “space helmets” are nothing more than Tron: Legacy masks with holes - HOLES! I’m not angry because one of my favorite characters dies, I’m angry with the slapdash effort made to his departure. It’s intended to be an emotional tug that is thoroughly undeserved.

Abnormally upset as I was over the above sequence, I still believe that “Escape Plan Bravo” pulls Tales from the Borderlands out of its slump and in good footing for the series finale. The time spent in Hyperion alone makes this entry worth playing. The characters are better (depending on your dialog choices, of course), the jokes are funny, and it features the longest and most epic fake gunfight in the history of video games. With only one episode left to go, eager to find out if Tales from the Borderlands has the capacity to make up for its slower, less interesting middle chapter.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.