A masterful finale for Telltale’s best series
One of the most difficult parts of writing a quality narrative is finding the means to close it properly. It is particularly essential in Telltale’s episodic, storytelling style of creating games. Whereas others game like it sometimes falter while leaving an opening for new seasons, The Vault of the Traveler provides one of the most satisfying endings to a video game I’ve ever played. Tales from the Borderlands is far and away Telltale Games best series to date.
The previous episode, Escape Plan Bravo, left our gang, particularly Rhys, with quite a cliffhanger. Handsome Jack successfully manipulated the player, causing him to be uploaded to Helios’ computers. The remaining threads left over from last episode are taken care of in the first portion of the episode. The gang must come face to face with Yvette’s betrayal as well as plot a way to safely get the vault key back to Pandora. Rhys in particular is faced with one of the most difficult, and surprisingly profound moment in perhaps the Borderlands franchise. The series continues to find ways to weave heartfelt yet philosophical moments into the game’s otherwise zany and hilarious narrative. Comparing where the series is to its beginnings with Zer0 Sum, a largely humorous episode that led me to believe my decisions wouldn’t be as weighty, to where it is now is a testament to the superb writing.
Following the obvious plot points requiring resolution, The Vault of the Traveler continued to bring sequences and story beats that I wasn’t even aware I needed. Carrying the weight of the discussions and decisions with Rhys early on affected my attitude for the rest of the experience. Unlike another series which will not be named, I was confronted with these thoughts by way of revisiting characters from previous episodes in one hectic final chapter. Even the most minute decision I made (withheld for the sake of preventing spoilers) came back around in the most unexpected moment, and I felt satisfied and rewarded for the choice that I made.
Telltale does not settle for an excellent narrative only. Where their past games have struggled to produce quality, exciting action moments, episode five brings expertly crafted, tension-filled moments that prove their growth as a developer. One sequence in particular provided the most yell-out-loud sequence in a game that I’ve experienced in ages. Combining the insane action of every 90’s cartoon you’ve ever seen with Borderlands insane style leads to a thrilling finale that I never knew I could want or need. And it did so in a way that only the Borderlands universe can, by throwing all of those troublesome rules that other games must follow by the wayside. Oddly enough, these startling tone shifts actually make those touchy moments even more emotional, and the ridiculous ones all the more chuckleworthy.
Tales from the Borderlands finishes by doing everything required of a quality narrative. Each and every plot point that the writers to decide to open was finished in a very satisfactory way by the episode’s end. Sasha, August, Vallory, Gortys, Loader Bot, and even other minor characters get their chance to shine through one last time. Whereas episode four was guilty for having periods of too much slow-down, episode five is a nonstop thrill ride that offers no time for breathing until the credits are already rolling.
The Vault of the Traveler proves there is a way to successfully end a journey without sacrificing key elements. It provides not only a satisfying end the entire cast, but completely leaves Pandora open to future adventures. If the series has just one fault, it is that it ended so well that it’s painful to say goodbye to Rhys and Fiona. The main characters became such well-developed catalysts that all of the moments they shared and characters they touched burrowed themselves into our hearts. A series not afraid to be ludicrous and heartwrenching, Tales from the Borderlands is an example of masterful storytelling in video games, and we cannot wait for the next adventure.