Tales From the Borderlands Ep. 3: Catch a Ride Review – Stuck in the Middle (PS4)
Welcome to episode three of a five-part season. That’s right. We’re smack in the middle. Episode One gave us an introduction to the varied cast of characters, as well as definitively cementing that Telltale is playing around in the Borderlands universe. Episode Two let down its hair a little bit and allowed Telltale to play around with their characters after we had gotten to know them. Episode three subsequently tries to play a balancing act of upping the ante, adding new characters, and developing old characters.
We began right where Atlas Mugged left off, that is, you had just decided whether you were going to trust Handsome Jack or Fiona to get you out of a pretty hairy situation. This is a major decision that has some severe implications as you launch into Episode Three, changing up a little more than half of the episode before the story paths meet back up. My main save file — for the sake of my own continuity — was to trust Fiona. I mean, come on. That Handsome Jack’s a crazy, manipulative bastard. Would I really want to give him control over some of my core functions? There are two people living in Rhys’ body right now, and I intend to keep him definitively Rhys on my “pure” save file.
It’s All About Trust
Regardless of your choice, the episode leans heavily on action during the start and finish, while taking some time to meander and smell the flowers (quite literally) in the middle. Despite how slow Catch a Ride felt, there were some great character development moments that helped to build — or break — the relationships with those around Rhys and Fiona. Appropriately so, the theme of trust is heavy in Tales From the Borderlands, and Catch a Ride tests where each player’s allegiances lie. Does Rhys trust Handsome Jack? Is he falling for Sasha? Does Fiona want to take the extra steps to becoming a true Vault Hunter? All of things are within your control, and while it may not currently seem like it majorly changes the outcome of the story, Telltale games have always been about building your character, and the dynamics that are presented for Rhys and Fiona help to deepen each of their developments beyond anything we’ve seen thus far.
We are also introduced to two new major players in this story. The big baddie is revealed to be Vallory. She’s known as The Queenpin, and she would even give Wilson Fisk a run for his money. In some ways she reminds me of Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Weird comparison, I know, but the voice, look, and devilish way she plays with those she finds inferior strike a strong resemblance to this classic Disney villain. This is where Episode Three shines. Though at a slower pace, it starts to put together a few more pieces of the puzzle, introducing the major villain, and giving us a look at an adorable new robo-companion for our group of unwilling heroes, who quickly became one of my favorite characters.
Who’s My Adowable Widdle Wobot?
You may remember Ashley Johnson talking about getting a role in Tales From the Borderlands, and the little robot is her. I’ll avoid saying the robot’s name for the sake of leaving some spoilers sacred, but Ashley Johnson portrays the little automaton with a childlike disposition and innocence that contrasts harshly, yet beautifully with the violent world of Pandora and crazy tendencies of the cast. Ashley Johnson’s performance is so captivating, that when faced with the difficult decision of telling the little robot about death, I can’t bring myself to corrupt its purity, and opted to say something about them having stomach problems. Though I suppose a giant hole through your stomach area counts as some serious stomach problems.
While the other episodes’ opening sequences have usually been accompanied by some major action or crazy events (not to mention the series’ trademark awesome music!), Catch a Ride gave a much more mellow approach in the form of a travelling montage that didn’t leave me as pumped as hitting that intro moment on the previous episodes. This is emblematic of the slower pace of the episode overall, and exacerbates the feeling that this is the middle episode of the season. Near the end, Catch a Ride is graced with a couple of all-star cameo appearances, which felt more shoveled in for the sake of exciting an otherwise moderate episode.
Charting a Course
The conclusion isn’t a major cliffhanger like we were left with in Episode Two, but is satisfying in that it provides a direction and a goal for where the cast will be going. Given that Catch a Ride drifted through the unknown for much of its running time, it’s nice to have a solid destination as we begin taking that corner into the final stretch of the season.
The vast differences between the choices at the end of Episode Two, the introduction of two major new intriguing players, and the crucial development of some old ones kept Catch a Ride as a strong episode despite it’s much more leisurely pacing. It retains much of that humor and charm and the new characters don’t disappoint in this field either. While it’s obviously a midpoint piece and isn’t quite as strong as the first two episodes, Catch a Ride sets the stage to drive Tales From the Borderlands into what is certain to be an explosively violent, yet veraciously hilarious final half.
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