Tales from the Borderlands – Episode Two: Atlas Mugged Review

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Posted April 3, 2015 by Eduardo Gueiros in Nerdy Bits

Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two: Atlas Mugged

Developed by: Telltale Games

Published by: Telltale Games

Available on: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Release Date: March 17, 2015 (PS4, PC, PlayStation 3), March 18 (Xbox One, Xbox 360)

Leave it to Telltale Games to fuel the fire when it comes to the “are game delays actually worthwhile in the long-run?” debate. While Tales from the Borderlands – Episode 2: Atlas Mugged was only delayed a few weeks, it is clear that the extra time taken paid off, as the second installment of this series delights with a hilarious and profound progression of both plot and character.

As Rhys and Fiona continue to recount independent versions of their intertwined stories to their mysterious masked captor, we start to learn more about the deep-seeded traits of the characters we control. The amount of depth added to these two (as well as their respective companions – Vaughn and Sasha) allows us to begin crafting the story around their personalities, as the infamous Telltale decisions start to become more vital to plot progression. While complex personalities that illicit difficult choices has become a staple within Telltale games, it is especially impressive here given the fact that the game is not only able to craft unique characters expertly, but is also able to create simultaneously organic and entertaining interactions between distinct, yet entertainingly compatible, characters.

In Episode 2: Atlas Mugged, our two heroes are briefly separated. While this obviously helps add intrigue to the plot, it also facilitates the exploration of these vastly different characters’ personalities. Each side of the story carries a different tone: Rhys and Vaughn embark on a comedic, yet intense, journey that still effectively sheds some light on both characters’ motivations and desires, while Fiona and Sasha face a more emotional road that starts to unravel the inner workings of these Pandora natives. The duality in the story is consequently enhanced, but in a remarkably cohesive way that elevates the relationship the characters have with one another, as well as with the story as whole.

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As Rhys and Vaughn walk through the desert, they are accompanied be someone… unexpected. Handsome Jack, the leader of Hyperion and evil mastermind in Borderlands 2, inexplicably returns as a holographic figure visible only to Rhys. Needless to say, his presence instantly augments the comedic level of each scene, and comes to prove that the incredible voice acting and dialogue writing from Borderlands 2 is duplicated (and dare I say improved?) wonderfully by Telltale. Handsome Jack plays off of the other characters – even the ones who can’t see him – perfectly, and furthers Rhys’ personal story by creating some tension between our characters’ obsessive admiration toward the Hyperion leader, and his newfound questioning of the company’s morality. As the trio encounters Vasquez en route to Fiona, we are treated to an exceptionally funny set of scenes that highlights and establishes the comedic tone that we’re likely to see throughout this series.

Meanwhile, Fiona and Sasha make their way to the group’s final destination, but uncover some information about their past on the way. This half of the story has a slower pace, and allows you to explore the emotional depth of both Fiona and Sasha more fully. This purposefully adds complexity to the thick-skinned women, raised in the ruthless environment that is the moon of Pandora. However, Telltale expertly pairs this emotionality with fast-paced action that introduces new characters, and promotes the return of other favorites from the franchise (one of those being the lovably unintelligent Scooter). The result is an intriguing set of scenes that give us a more full-fledged experience on the character level than what we’ve seen so far.

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The episode obviously hosts key storytelling components focused on plot progression and character development, but is also packed with entertaining action scenes and hilarious exchanges that are merely there to delight. The group encounters a savage Raak Hive, Loader Bot continues to heroically thrive on Pandora, and Vaughn turns out to be weirdly buff in just a few of the purely entertaining moments scattered within the story. The art and the score further characterize this brutal universe, while is only slightly hindered by the occasional frame rate issues. However, these are such minor inconveniences that they become barely noticeable among all the positive elements.

Tales from the Borderlands- Episode 2: Atlas Mugged is a resounding success. The chapter builds off of the introduction fantastically, and leaves us craving more. Telltale cements the tone of the series, while simultaneously building up emotionally interesting characters who add depth to the story, furthering the plot with remarkable pacing and intrigue (leaving us with one of the best cliff-hanger endings from Telltale to date), and ensuring that the core components of both Telltale and Borderlands are heightened by their combination. I’m anxious for the next chapter of this series, and if this episode was any indication of what’s still to come, I really don’t mind waiting for the next release at all.


About the Author

Eduardo Gueiros