'The Vault of the Traveler'
I never thought a pair of robots and a gang of con artists could make me misty-eyed. And then I played “The Vault of the Traveler,” Telltale Games’ terrific finale to Tales from the Borderlands, which has solidified itself as my favorite single season of a Telltale series yet.
It’s tough to talk about the finale without giving anything away, and even if I did, you might play a completely different story than I experienced. All of the choices of the last four episodes come to fruition in the packed finale in ways that surprised, touched, and delighted me.
So without spoiling the experience, “The Vault of the Traveler” wraps up both the frame story introduced in the season premiere, as well as detailing the dark and dramatic ways Rhys and Fiona ended up in that situation. There are a few twists I disappointingly could call out a mile away, and they were even more disappointing in that they took some of the narrative punch away from moments of the episode. But in general, the pacing, writing, and plotting was often Telltale at its finest, allowing me to beyond those points and continue enjoying the thrill ride.
Much of that is due to the cast. The core four of Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Erin Yvette, and Chris Hardwick have gelled well together since the start, but the finale delivers no shortage of sweet and memorable moments. In particular, Baker as Rhys and Bailey as Fiona maintain the emotional narrative core of the series with a friendship that feels earned and honest to the choices I’ve made in the last four episodes. And with Dameon Clarke, Ashley Johnson, Nolan North, and Raison Varner in important roles, I grew to not only enjoy watching and playing as these characters, but came to genuinely care for them.
Combined with the sharp writing of Pierre Shorette, Anthony Burch, and Zack Keller, Tales’ ensemble made me laugh out loud, audibly gasp, and squirm with anger in my seat throughout the course of “Traveler.” Again, it’s tough to say much without spoiling the experience, but for the most part “Traveler’s” plot clips along at an exciting and engaging pace.
There are the infrequent beats that sap some of the emotion out of certain moments, and a surprising short shrift is given to certain villains, but “Traveler” generally does right by its main characters and its players. From a Power Rangers-esque fight scene to genuinely hilarious conversations, the finale succeeds scene after scene.
Tales from the Borderlands is great, and “The Vault of the Traveler” ends it on a satisfying high note. It’s full of heart, humor both smart and base, and action, all wrapped up in one of my favorite video game stories of the year. Even if you don’t play games too often, still consider buying the series — you’ll find a better written and more engaging story than most of the fall’s new TV shows. Tales from the Borderlands delivers through to the end, and has raised the bar for Telltale’s future output just as The Walking Dead season 1 did years ago.
And after the finale, I was left with the same sentiment that The Walking Dead’s first finale left me with: Season 2 can’t come soon enough.
Tales from the Borderlands episode 5 is available this week on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS and Android. For more on Telltale Games, check out EW’s review of Minecraft: Story Mode.
The opening credits theme song is “Retrograde” by James Blake
And the finale ending credits theme song is “My Silver Lining” by First Aid Kit
End of Song Spoiler