The one thing that few products (or companies, or single individuals) do very well in the medium of gaming is comedy. Films and literature do it often, but, aside from Tim Schafer, it’s hard to think of anyone that consistently nails comedy in games. That’s why it’s nice to see Telltale returning to form and doing the one thing that the pioneering, ex-Lucasarts founders of the studio excelled at; some damn funny plotting.
On the technical side of things, this second episode is in the same boat as the previous episode, with much better performance on current gen consoles than its last gen predecessors, so we don’t need to go into that again. The audio however, gets a real workout this time as all sorts of crazy chases and explosions bring the subwoofer to life, so if you have a home theater setup like Fluance XL series used in the review, this will be a surprisingly robust audio experience for an adventure game of all things.
Now, the real star of the show here is the comedy. Telltale has a little bit here for everyone, though it’s clearly the fans of the Borderlands franchise that stand to benefit the most from the almost uncountable number of in-jokes strewn throughout the episode. Rhys and Fiona continue to recount their tale in their own way, with their own self-aware commentary of the nature of an unreliable narrator, and here’s where some of the wry, observational humor comes in. But when it comes to remarks from Scooter the loveable hick mechanic, or even passing mentions of the Torgue company and explosions, these throwaway jokes will leave knowledgeable fans grinning or even howling with laughter.
The game still utilizes the by now standard Telltale “tricks” of mixing in some (ludicrous) action through QTEs, and there are a few major choices to make that will play out at a later date in the series. However, unlike the concurrent Game of the Thrones series currently also running, episode 2 of Tales From The Borderlands slows down the rollercoaster plot developments a bit to have fun with the characters and revel in the kind of wonky, surreal moments that could only occur in adventure games, and specifically one taking place in the Borderlands universe. The personalities of the main cast really shine in this episode, and while it was light on puzzles, as most adventure games are today, Atlas Mugged was an opportunity to get to know all of the cast members better and find out some surprising things about them. The fact that this second episode is designed to make the characters more likable probably just paves the way for Telltale to do something terrible later for a greater emotional trauma, but since this is a comedy game, and not The Walking Dead, I have hopes that this game isn’t designed to leave people in emotionally devastated tears.
If you’re more a fan of plot points moving along and wanting to see things “happen” at a breakneck pace, this second episode might feel like a little less substantial compared to the careful set up of episode one. For people that love the world of Borderlands, and people that appreciate snappy writing and surreal comedy, episode two is a definite winner, and probably the single funniest gaming experience you’re going to have for the entire month. It really doesn’t get much funnier than this, and that’s a rarity in gaming. Borderlands fans, you’re in for a treat, and this will tide you over if you’re waiting for the remastered collection to ship next week.