Tales From the Borderlands: Escape Plan Bravo PS4

Tales From the Borderlands
Tales From the Borderlands. Telltale Games

I’d like to hug the creative director at Telltale Games who has allowed me to stay in the world of Pandora and the Vault Hunters long after the crew behind “Borderlands 2” closed up shop and while we wait the long days until the inevitable “Borderlands 3” (which is reportedly not even close to being completed; it’s at least two years away). I spent hundreds of hours in the world of “Borderlands 2” and all of its DLC, and I’ve naturally been forced to move on in the years since, but “Tales From the Borderlands” has kept this world alive. I first assumed it would do so in kind of a transitional way, almost like how fan fiction appeals to the diehards between installments in a franchise movie series—sure, it’s fun, but it’s not essential. Playing the fourth episode of “Tales From the Borderlands,” “Escape Plan Bravo,” which hit the PSN last week, I realized that this is no “tie-in” or “companion”—it is essential to the “Borderlands” experience. In fact, it has deepened my appreciation of the games and the world they have created.

When I go back to Pandora either to replay “Borderlands 2” or its inevitable sequel, the experience will be richer. “Tales” is canon. And it is a game you simply must play.

At the end of “Catch a Ride,” the gang of “Tales From the Borderlands” were in an awkward, deadly predicament under the gun of Queenpin Vallory. To open “Escape Plan Bravo,” Vallory forces Rhys, Fiona, and the rest of the gang to go back to Hyperion to retrieve the final part of the Gortys Project and take over the world. Yeah, this can only end poorly. After making a few decisions, I ended up on a rocket with my close friends, including old buddy Scooter. What happened next won’t be spoiled here, but it shocked the Hell out of me, reminding me that Telltale Games has an unsurpassed ability to go from casual gameplay to emotional turmoil in the blink of an eye. There are points in all of these games—“The Walking Dead,” “Wolf Among Us,” “Game of Thrones,” and this one—in which the either/or decision-making process doesn’t give you the Option C that you so desperately seek. It’s a choice between the lesser of two evils.

It’s no major spoiler to say that you make it back home, dressed in a human disguise of the deceased Vasquez (which allows the great Patrick Warburton a chance to return and do the voice work thing that the star of “Family Guy” and “The Tick” does so well). From here, “Tales From the Borderlands” gets weirder than ever, including a “shoot-out” with a team of accountants using their fingers as guns and a final encounter with the Handsome Jack that’s been living in Rhys’ head that really has the chance to alter “Borderlands” mythology forever. I wonder how much 2K Games will use the story of “Tales From the Borderlands” in the canon when it creates “Borderlands 3.” I hope it’s a lot because that’s what’s been so great about this adventure—the storytelling.

The fact of the matter is that “Borderlands” has never been a franchise primarily known for narrative. Sure, Claptrap was funny, and it was the remarkable array of supporting players who really made “Borderlands 2” work, but the narrative grounding that “Tales From the Borderlands” has given this franchise can’t be undervalued. And with this penultimate episode, I had the strangest feeling when it was over. I realized that with only one episode to go—“The Vault of the Traveler”—that I would soon miss these characters and this world. Hopefully, not for long.