Spoilers will be kept to a minimum, although it's hard to get through a review of a game that is ALL narrative with a sprinkling of quick-time events without revealing one or two details. The general story so far sees two groups, combining their efforts to retrieve a fortune. The only catch is, both groups believe it belongs to them...
Taking quite the turn from Telltale's other works, players periodically swap between two characters instead of the regular solo act. Play switches between Fiona, a tough and slightly stubborn con artist, and Rhys, a weak and slightly stubborn Hyperion Employee. The two have very different characteristics, however, there's plenty of flexibility left to the player on how their character wants to act. In the latest episode, for instance, Rhys can begin to show affection and romantic interest towards a supporting character, or if that's not your style, he can show no interest (or even neglect) towards her!
This instalment is a real turning point in the series on numerous levels. For instance, the setting is changed up from dusty, empty wastelands to an abandoned terraforming centre in a world of perpetual snow and auroras. This is an extremely welcome change. The locale for this episode is incredible, and the quality oozes from the screen and onto your keyboard (which really makes it difficult to tap the Q button, as one often finds themselves doing during a Telltale game). Some people are reporting small frame-rate drops, however we didn't see anything too severe. Perhaps it's time Telltale updated their engine. Maybe it'll come with a third poker game!
As well as the setting though, this episode seems to be the one designated to everything going to hell. The first two chapters were all fun and games, but when a new antagonist steps up to the plate, the likes of Vasquez and August are left quivering in fear (a practical demonstration of this new villain's power and influence is given, with one of the pair being a ‘volunteer’). It was a real shock to see how the episode played out, considering the previous two seemed relatively calm and death-free (but then again, this is Telltale. We should have known something was wrong.)
Anything you ever cared about is thrown out the window, when we are introduced to a naïve little robot. We're not going to say too much due to the fact that this robot is basically a spoiler in itself, but you may be extremely relieved to know that it isn't Claptrap. Which is a good thing, because this reviewer is too focused on hating August to start hating anyone else. The robot we're given is adorable, quite the contrast to the rest of the borderlands world. She's like the half-full glass to the half-empty planet of Pandora. The writers have done the unthinkable. They've made a cutesy robot in a rugged, dangerous world that isn't annoying or grating, and we love it.
Many people believe that with most scenarios put forward in Telltale's games, the choices you make don't actually make that big a difference, but that just isn't the case here. The decision you make at the end of Episode Two; who to trust out of two people, actually has an incredible, episode-wide effect. The opening scenes of the episode can either be a sneaky espionage mission, or a devastating firefight. After that, various events throughout the episode are altered, for better or worse, and it'll really be worth another play-through.
With all this in mind, is Episode Three of Tales from the Borderlands good? Yes. Catch a Ride is so far the strongest episode in an already-strong series. For years, Telltale have been focusing on more serious games, and don't get us wrong, these games have all been incredibly well done, but it's a real breath of fresh air to get away from the sombreness of The Walking Dead, the grittiness of The Wolf Amongst Us, or the sense of innate doom that comes with Game of Thrones. Tales from the Borderlands is able to joke about itself, and with Telltale holding the pen, it does this with ease (keep an eye out in Episode Three, when one of the characters notices and comments on the typical “X will remember this” text).
Many people will argue that you won't get any enjoyment out of the game if you've never played Borderlands. However, plenty of enjoyment is still to be had from the game (you may miss one or two references, but nothing important to the plot.) Telltale have done an excellent job of making the game playable for everyone, whether you're a fan of Borderlands, or a newcomer. If you've never touched a game in the series, we'd still highly recommend Telltale's iteration. Take it from this reviewer, who was in the same boat.
Despite the humour, Tales from the Borderlands is really beginning to get tense, particularly this episode, with characters actually beginning to suffer the consequences of their actions. This is amongst Telltale's best work, and we cannot wait to see what is next for Rhys, Fiona and the rest of the plucky group on their adventures.
Let's just hope we don't have to wait three bloody months this time!
TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS EPISODE 3: CATCH A RIDE / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: TELLTALE GAMES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW