Game Review | Tales from the Borderlands | Season 1, Episode 5 | "The Vault of the Traveler&quo
Episode Summary: Jack attempts to take control of Rhys' body by grafting a robotic endoskeleton into Rhys. Fiona, Sasha, and Gortys take the upgrade to the hanger. (Wikipedia)
*** SPOILER ALERT – Do not read any further if you don’t want any spoilers ***
And so a mixed bag of an episode is how Tales from the Borderlands finishes its first season (as the ending certainly indicates a second will be coming at some point), a finale which represents the overall quality: when it works, it’s fantastic; when it doesn’t, it’s mediocre.
In fact, the best term for this episode is anti-climactic. One large battle takes up a big chunk of the episode and everything during that sequence is Tales from the Borderlands at its best: the dialogue is smart and funny, the interactions between the characters are great, and the action is pretty damn fun to watch too.
It’s the stuff that happens either side of it that really lets the episode down as it’s during these sections that the game is obviously trying to be more serious and it just doesn’t fit with the tone of the series, or even the fantastic battle sequence.
To start with, the episode opens with the gang in danger on Helios, which Handsome Jack’s AI form now controls. This was set up as a very big deal as an episode-closing scene, only for the situation to be resolved in very little time and not a particularly satisfying manner either.
The next hiccup occurs with the timeline soon jumping forward to the present day so we're up to speed with the framing device used to tell the story so far. The problem here is that a hell of a lot happens off-screen, seriously screwing with show-don’t-tell by doing the exact opposite.
I realise there had to be some time-skip so Rhys and Fiona’s clothes would match what they were wearing in their scenes with the Stranger, rather than the outfits that could be chosen by the player during the season, but so much else happens that it’s more than a little jarring.
Why couldn’t there have been a montage or something just to show even briefly what had occurred? Yes, to maintain certain surprises about certain characters, they couldn’t have been shown, but what about everyone else? I can’t think of any reason why we couldn’t have seen what Rhys and Fiona were up to during that time, especially as they’re the main characters.
Then there’s Sasha. Fiona’s sister was one of my favourite characters early on, but over the second half of the season, she seemed to just be there and felt more often like a plot device for Rhys and Fiona than a character in her own right.
Then there’s her new look for the present day: I had assumed from appearance, temperament and behaviour that she was a fair few years younger than Fiona. Thanks to the increasingly-thin characterisation, the latter two pretty much became irrelevant, but her new appearance makes her look very much the elder of the sisters. It’s a drastic change considering Fiona keeps her look the same.
Anyway, as stated at the beginning, the battle sequence is the centre-piece of this episode and it is wonderful, especially in comparison to everything else that happens. A giant mech v teleporting rock monster battle, controlled by a team of your choosing, with video game, movie and animated series’ references? It has to be seen to be believed.
The biggest plus point of "Vault of the Traveler" is that this episode struck me as being particularly great to look at, despite the standard Telltale animations. Some of the lighting tricks are pretty nice and the initial battle between mech and monster is very well done, with only lights, glows and shadows to let us know what is going in the smoke.