Article first published as PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Tales From the Borderlands: Episode 4 – Escape Plan Bravo’ on Blogcritics.
Tales From the Borderlands: Episode 4 – Escape Plan Bravo is the penultimate chapter of the unlikely partnership between Gearbox and TellTale Games. Actually, with this Tales From the Borderlands release, both of TellTale’s current series are about to wrap-up, and the developer is about to make a slight detour by adapting the ultimate sandbox game, Minecraft into an adventure game. Before that happens, they have to finish the tale of Rhys and Fiona’s adventures on Pandora, and now in Episode 4, on the Hyperion moon base of Helios.
Before getting into talking about the actual content of Tales From the Borderlands: Episode 4 -Escape Plan Bravo, it’s worth noting that this is probably the shortest episode of any of TellTale’s recent games. At under an hour and a half, the episode is just a little longer than a cable television drama, and makes the argument for playing them as they’re released much harder to make. Of course, waiting until they’re all done opens players up to the risk of having the whole plot revealed before they ever start. While that might not matter with some games, TellTale has pretty much eschewed gameplay, save quick time events, and gone all in with their stories.
Escape Plan Bravo is one of those divisive episodes that some will love and some will hate. Unfortunately, there were only a handful of scenes that I really connected with, though those that have played the actual Borderlands games will probably appreciate the Handsome Jack tour segment. To be fair, while I do appreciate much of the absurd humor in the original Borderlands games, I’m not a fan of Clap Trap, and in the recent Tales From the Borderlands episodes, GORTYS really gets on my nerves. There is some real drama in the episode, but the majority of it is really pretty whimsical.
What TellTale’s Tales of the Borderlands does well, is add some context to the sometimes sparse narrative in Gearbox’s source material. That in itself is a somewhat tricky proposition, because Gearbox can’t afford to get painted into a corner. The problem for this reviewer, is that all too often TellTale seems to lose the Mad Max-style grittiness that inspired Borderlands, and maintaining the mature rating seems like a chore for the adventure game maker. With new competition in the adult adventure game genre, Telltale will have to adapt and find a more natural fit.
Tales From the Borderlands: Episode 4 – Escape Plan Bravo is a quick set-up for the series’ conclusion. With a mid-episode change of location, Episode 4’s plot is almost all TellTale and very little Borderlands. There are a couple of tender moments in this all too brief episode, but the rest of the story is all whimsy. Continuing with their trend, TellTale’s Tales From the Borderlands: Episode 4 – Escape Plan Bravo is also barely an adventure game. Except for a couple very short exploration sequences, the whole episode is a full motion video peppered with dialogue choices and quick time events.