Developer: Telltale Games, Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: March 17th, 2015
Available On: Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
The first episode of Tales From the Borderlands, Zer0 Sum, was one of my biggest surprises of 2014. It was a fantastic combination of humor and drama, all rolled into the Borderlands setting. After a long delay we finally got Atlas Mugged, the second chapter to Tales From the Borderlands. Good news: my worries of a quality drop were unfounded.
Atlas Mugged picks up directly where Zer0 Sum leaves off: Rhys, Fiona, Vaughn, and Sasha have just found a mysterious map leading to an Atlas project no one really understands, and Rhys is now seeing images of a ghostly Handsome Jack. If that wasn’t bad enough, Hyperion CEO Vasquez is now personally hunting Rhys and Vaughn, while Fiona and Sasha have to deal with Borderland’s resident badass assassin Athena. The latter scenario is actually really cool, as up until now Athena has always been an ally of the Borderlands protagonists. As a whole Atlas Mugged’s plot is another success for Tales From the Borderlands. It moves the story forward more in interesting ways while still keeping the humor of Borderlands intact. This is one of the few games I have genuinely laughed at in a while.
Atlas Mugged plays about how you’d expect it: you’ll explore the environment a little, solve a couple really simple puzzles, participate in a bunch of quick time event action scenes, and make dialogue choices that effect how characters think of your character. To get this out of the way now, since its been one of my most common complaints about Telltale’s recent efforts, yes the quick time events work perfectly. They’re a little repetitive, there’s a lot of quick time events that boil down to “highlight the object and press R2 while characters dive to catch it in slow-mo”, but there’s nothing offensively broken or problematic. One impressive mid-game chase sequence has Fiona and Sasha fleeing from Athena, ducking and dodging her shield while trying to decide weather to stick together or split up to throw her off. An early game sequence has the four cast members trying to escape from a giant Rakk Hive, dodging moonshots from Hyperion’s moon base, and trying to keep each other from falling out of their car. All of this is set to Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra’s awesome song Kiss the Sky. While Atlas Mugged may not be as action-filled as Zer0 Sum, when it does it it does it right and each scene had me on the edge of my seat.
It also makes far better use of Rhys’ special ability: the Echo Eye. In Zer0 Sum it was basically useless outside of getting flavor text for certain objects. This time around Rhys uses it several times to get out of bad situations and solve puzzles. Handsome Jack upgrades it to basically be useful, and one segment of the game allows Rhys to use it to follow wires to find hidden control panels to open up a secret door. Another part has him using it to get out of a sticky situation. While the Echo Eye sees more use, Fiona’s money is still worthless. You can use it to make the car look a little different, but it doesn’t really have any bearings on game play and outside of that one time I can’t think of any other point where the money was good for anything. It’s a shame seeing the mechanic go to waste so far, but there’s still three more episodes where this can hopefully be fixed.
Atlas Mugged manages to continue the fantastic momentum started with Zer0 Sum. While Telltale may also be putting out their Game of Thrones game based on the more popular IP, I’m finding Tales From the Borderlands to be much more entertaining. So far not only is this tale worth telling, but it’s also worth listening to.