Tales From The Borderlands Episode Two: ‘Atlas Mugged’ Review
You have every bounty hunter on Pandora chasing you and you’re making a sandwich
After a stunning opening episode, expectations were decidedly high for this second instalment of the wacky adventure series set in the Borderlands universe. The good news is that Telltale have delivered again, with another excellent episode packed with memorable encounters and hilarious dialogue. The cross-over that should never have any reason to work, is in fact firmly in the running to be Telltale’s best series to date.
‘Atlas Mugged’ takes place straight after the ending of the first episode, with Rhys trying to cope with the discovery of the holographic ghost of Handsome Jack that’s been somehow implanted in his head. Now there might be fears that Jack, one of the most charismatic and beloved characters from Borderlands may be shoe-horned into Telltale’s effort for cheap fan-appeal. This pre-conception however is quickly alleviated by how organic his role feels in the story; he acts as a focal point for major plot strands rather than just being there for mere service. He comes and goes as the episode moves along, usually when Rhys suffers some head trauma. Once he arrives on the scene, he offers his own morally questionable ideas to get them out of a tricky situation, which the player can take him up on in fact, for better or worse.
The other central plot point of the episode deals with the mystery of the ‘Gortys Project’ which the group believe holds the key to the locations of vaults hidden all across Pandora, and more importantly, untold riches waiting to be plundered as a result. They don’t have all the information they need on it just yet though, so the episode involves the group trying to desperately outrun Vasquez and various bounty hunters to get to the bottom of all this, and how to finally strike it rich.
‘Atlas Mugged’ is rife with deeply entertaining exchanges and set-pieces, all of which are deftly linked together through the perspective shifts that the narrative employs throughout. Again as with the first episode, the humour is allowed to shine here because many scenes are used by the characters to make themselves look good, even if it’s not what actually happened. You’ll likely only see a true account of the events when you shift perspective again to either Fiona or Rhys depending on the situation. As with any good second episode of anything, the characters are allowed to breathe a little, they gain additional layers to their personalities while their relationships with one another become stronger and more complex. Fiona for example is left reeling from the betrayal at the end of the last episode, her tale here is more a quiet reflection as opposed to the confident con artist she played before, but Rhys is still getting into ridiculous comedic hijinks as usual.
It mirrors the first episode in another way by using a similar plot device, namely where the group have to split up and then reunite again somewhere down the line. This doesn’t really feel stale though, the opening sequence is expertly choreographed and the overall structure of the episode flows so well that I didn’t get the sense I was merely retreading old ground.
What does seem unconvincing still however is the currency and loot systems in play here, these hallmarks of Borderlands gameplay just don’t seem to have a purpose in Telltale’s version. In Episode 2 you can collect random grenades and a ton of money, but it doesn’t do anything to change what happens in a meaningful way, sure the more money you have, the snazzier the ride you can purchase off Scooter but that’s about it. It does feel at this point that this system is going to amount to nothing, a mere distraction for players to remind themselves that these elements hold significance in the mainline series.
‘Atlas Mugged’ is a great second episode to what may be Telltale’s best series ever (so far), it embraces the wackiness of Borderlands to let its players embark on a hilarious, joyful time. It crackles with energy, by expanding handsomely (get it) on the personalities of existing characters and entertaining with hilarious set-piece scenes. It keeps the series moving forward in a strong way.
+Sense of humor remains brilliant
+Handsome Jack’s return
-Loot and currency systems feel pointless still