Still running strong off the highs of the penultimate Escape Plan Bravo, the final episode of Tales from the Borderlands had some pretty high expectations thrust upon it and while The Vault of the Traveller doesn’t really hit the emotional notes that Telltale’s previous series finales (or Dontnod’s Life is Strange finale which also released this week) have become known for, it was never really trying to. Rhys and Fiona’s final caper sees the series go out in a blaze of glory, dumb jokes and callbacks. With it, Telltale show they understand that a good finale doesn’t just have to be about pathos, it’s about pay-offs.
Minor Spoilers Below
Escape Plan Bravo closed out with the long-teased resurrection of Handsome Jack and the first part of The Vault of the Traveller pretty directly this cliffhanger. However, once this is out of the way, the episode pivots firmly towards shedding light on the series ongoing meta-narrative. It all comes together in an epic final battle that – at last – manages to top the action set piece from Zer0 Sum.
In fact, the action scenes are one of the things that’s stuck with about The Vault of the Traveller. Though Telltale’s engine remains its usual buggy self, there a number of small improvements and evolutions Telltale have made in their approach to combat encounters. There’s a particularly great moment where the game lets you string together a set of stylish combat maneuvers as Fiona in a very intuitive fashion and another brawl where they even bring Street Fighter combos into the mix. Even if Telltale remain reluctant to retire the engine that’s been with them since Jurassic Park, it’s encouraging to know they’re still finding ways to innovate within it.
However, the whole episode would fall flat if not for the big character moments it featured. A lot of these beats are somewhat-expected, sure, but considering the time that’s been invested in these characters – they come well-earned. You finally get to see Rhys and Jack face off, Vaughn makes his (triumphant) return and Fiona’s troubled relationship with Felix finally gets some closure. The Vault of the Traveller also leaves a lot of doors open in terms of bringing these characters back in future Borderlands games – which is naturally exciting for fans looking forward to Borderlands 3.
As the final episode of the series, The Vault of the Traveller has spent a bit of time juggling loose ends before everything falls into place. Unfortunately, as a consequence it feels like it lacks some of the same polish and attention to detail that made previous episodes shine. Some of the environments feel a bit flat and even the opening credits felt a little less inspired this time around – though the actual credits sequence for the series as a whole made up the difference on this front.
The Vault of the Traveller probably isn’t the best episode of the series. It’s not even my favorite episode of Tales from the Borderlands. But it feels like this is the best finale the series could have hoped for. Rhys and Fiona made one hell of a debut and now, perhaps just for the time being, they make an exceptionally-graceful exit.