Tales From the Borderlands: Episode 2 – Atlas Mugged PlayStation 4 Review

Article first published as PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Tales From the Borderlands: Episode 2 – Atlas Mugged’ on Blogcritics.

Tales From the Borderlands, Episode Two, Atlas Mugged, TellTale Games, Telltale Games’ Tales From the Borderlands: Episode 2 – Atlas Mugged continues the developer’s narrative driven adventure on Pandora. Where Gearbox’s original Borderlands take was a fast and furious loot driven shooter experience, Telltale places the focus on getting to know the crazy characters of this distant world, after the events of Borderlands 2. Cooperation between the two studios have made this pairing nearly seamless, and the original’s cell-shaded art style makes this spin-off almost indistinguishable from its source material. It’s only in actually playing the two series, that their differences are obvious.

Telltale has a long history of making adventure games, but Tales From the Borderlands is the first time they’ve made a video game about another video game. Because of the original Borderland game’s focus on loot and currency, Telltale was almost forced to include something similar in their game. While the currency made very little sense in the first episode, it is finally put to use in Atlas Mugged. Of course combat is also front and center in the source material. While it doesn’t feel quite as wonky in this episode, the Telltale game engine doesn’t exactly excel in this area.

Tales From the Borderlands, Episode Two, Atlas Mugged, TellTale Games, Where you would expect an adventure game to excel, is in puzzle solving, but like the whole batch of current Telltale episodes, this mechanic is all but absent. Their current round of games makes the timed dialogue choices the only real gameplay element, and while the writing and voice acting are the best in the industry, it’s a shame that it comes at the expense of other gameplay elements. If nothing else, you’d think Telltale would include more complex puzzles, if for no other reason than to extend the often criticized play time of the episodes.

These complaints aren’t entirely specific to Atlas Mugged, and as mentioned previously, Telltale has addressed some of its shortcoming this time around. Of course, all of their current games are really about narrative, and that is something they do really well. Atlas Mugged continues its two sides to the same coin, dual narrative approach with both Rhys and Fiona’s versions of the same story.  The relationship between the two borrows heavily from a Han Solo, Princess Leia dynamic, and is actually able to revel in it a bit more, thanks to the more adult humor and storyline.

Tales From the Borderlands, Episode Two, Atlas Mugged, TellTale Games, The first episode of Tales From the Borderlands was really just the first move for both Rhys and Vaughn, as well as Fiona and Sasha.  Atlas Mugged is essentially their opponents’ countermove, where the main characters begin to feel the consequences of all of their choices. Of course this means, much less progress is made, and more of the game’s focus is about relationships. While this helps flesh the characters out a bit more, there is considerably less action this time around. Unfortunately, this is just a byproduct of breaking a full game into episodes.

Though Telltale launched Tales From the Borderlands a week before their Game of Thrones series, Tales From the Borderlands has fallen an episode behind.  These delays weigh on the individual game’s success, which is a shame considering the quality of the storytelling that Telltale puts into them. I’m sure they’ve put plenty of resources into determining how to balance the economics, but I can’t help but feel that dragging out the episodes hurts the momentum building process. At a pace of almost four months between episodes, releasing a short episode with little overall progress surely can’t be a recipe for success.

Tales From the Borderlands, Episode Two, Atlas Mugged, TellTale Games, Be sure to check out our videos on YouTube and extra pictures on Facebooksubscribe to this page and check out my column on Examiner.com

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