Now that’s how you do a finale.
Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5: Vault of the Traveler is everything you’d want from an ending, as it’s simultaneously the darkest and most lighthearted way this season could possibly end. First, let’s cover the dark: from dealing with Handsome Jack’s schemes on Helios to Vallory’s vault plan on Pandora, our heroes are stretched thin and go through some extremely dire situations. You’ll actively participate in some rough positions, punctuated by equally rough decisions. After four episodes of dealing with the worst Pandora has to offer, it feels satisfying to see major story threads end in such a dramatic, emotional fashion. The highlight here is Jack and Rhys’ final scene, an incredibly tense and sorrowful moment that’s easily the best of the entire season.
The brilliance of this episode is that it delivers a lot of tough blows, yet still maintains comedy and heart at its center. Characters are still key, as every major player gets time to shine before their final bow. People grow and relationships flourish, and so many great moments are held within a few calm conversations. The most fun section of the episode is rightfully the defining part of any Borderlands game: the opening of the titular vault. Here Telltale more than delivers, giving players a massive action sequence that throws just as many jokes as it does punches.
What’s most impressive is that this is the moment where all your previous decisions converge; while in other Borderlands games the path to the Vault was all about gaining skills and powerful loot, here it’s all about the relationships you’ve made. Within this encounter there are loads of possible variations all based on everything you’ve done throughout the series, making for a super gratifying way to end the choice-based narrative.
Vault of the Traveler is a huge balancing act with no room for error, containing so many moving parts that are just pure awesome. The always-great dialogue and jokes. The big reveals and plot twists. The huge impact on the Borderlands canon. There’s so much to talk about, but it can all be summarized by one statement: Vault of the Traveler is perfect. This isn’t just the grand finale Tales from the Borderlands rightfully deserve; this is the greatest episode Telltale’s ever made.
Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5: Vault of the Traveler was developed by Telltale Games and published on Xbox 360 and Xbox One by 2K Games. It was released October 20, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided by Telltale Games for review purposes.
To find reviews of other episodes (as they become available), check out the Tales from the Borderlands review hub.