REVIEW: Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 2 – Atlas Mugged

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Tales from the Borderlands is an episodic adventure series by Telltale Games. With that being said, I’m assuming that you’ve already played its inaugural episode and will not go out of my way to avoid spoilers. In fact, there will be spoilers for episode 1 in order to segue the plot points of episode 2. So again, fair warning: while there will be no major spoilers for episode 2, Atlas Mugged, there will indeed be spoilers for episode 1, Zer0 Sum. Also worth noting is that most of the gameplay elements were covered in my episode 1 review, so it’s to be expected that this one will be significantly shorter in length. Enjoy!

In Tales from the Borderlands’ first episode, Rhys, Fiona, and their ragtag group of friends narrowly escape death at the hand of psychos, bandits, their dubstep-loving superior Bossanova, and a giant skag, mostly due in part to the timely assistance of everyone’s favorite haiku speaking vault hunter, Zer0. Fiona’s mentor Felix has just double-crossed them, planning to take the $10 million dollars for himself–until the briefcase’s security system exploded him in to wet chunks. And in its final moments, the crew stumble upon the Gortys Project while Rhys discovers the ID information he jammed in to his brain wasn’t Nakayama’s, but none other than the murderous Handsome Jack himself.

It was an excellent conclusion to a strong opener for Telltale’s episodic series based in the Borderlands universe. But how does the 2nd episode, Atlas Mugged, fare? More of the same, really, as far as gameplay is concerned, but the story is as fine as ever. That’s what matters most, right?

Atlas Mugged doesn’t break any new ground, neither in terms of gameplay or storytelling. In fact, the group is split up shortly after the opening moments of dodging Hyperion moonshots and avoiding being squished by a massive rakk hive, which feels oddly similar to Zer0 Sum–where the party is separated for most of the episode and finally join together for a big push near the end. Both scenarios play out well and lead to some hilarious moments between Rhys, Vaughn, and Loader Bot (if you’ve played the episode and recall the “buff” and “bro” segments, you know what I’m talking about), and there’s even an extremely minor puzzle to solve near the end. Emphasis on minor, of course. This is mostly just Telltale Games’ approach to formulaic gameplay, so expect roughly 2 hours of interactive cutscenes and dialogue choices, and nothing more.

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The writing is still fantastic, and once again introduces new characters in such a way that forgoes the need for prior knowledge of the Borderlands series–namely a pair of hired goons named Kroger and Finch (Dave Fennoy of Bayonetta fame). I was intrigued by the return of Athena from The Secret Army of General Knoxx DLC and The Pre-Sequel, thrilled to see my personal favorite NPC Scooter, and I thoroughly enjoyed Handsome Jack’s more involved storyline that began at the end of Zer0 Sum. The real stars of the show, however, remain the core group of Rhys, Vaughn, Fiona, Sasha, and Loader Bot, who I’m convinced could easily carry the remainder of the series by themselves.

Fiona seems to be growing as a character a bit more than Rhys though, which is a little concerning. I found her largely forgettable in Zer0 Sum, so it’s nice to see her coming in to her own here in Atlas Mugged. Rhys is still the same cocky Hyperion, for better or for worse. He’s a great character, don’t get me wrong, and he definitely expands a bit later in the series, but when your primary character is continuously outshined by Vaughn (who is the unsung hero, in my opinion) and Loader Bot, it’s time to shock him in the ass a bit.

Without spoiling anything, it’s safe to say if you’re a fan of the series’ humor and you’re okay with Telltale’s relaxed gameplay features, you’re going to have a good time. Atlas Mugged successfully pushes the story forward, and pulls no punches with its epic conclusion. In the early goings of any episodic adventure series, that’s exactly what you need.

Also, as I mentioned in my review for episode 1, Zer0 Sum, my experience with the Xbox One version has been inferior to that on the PS4. The Xbox One version suffered from stuttering framerates, while the PS4 version ran flawlessly throughout and seemed to have noticeably shorter load times. If you have the choice, I highly recommend sticking with the PS4 version, as I would have gladly stopped playing on Xbox One after episode 3 (which performs significantly worse for the entire duration).

*So where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I did spend a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. 

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