Jack Gardner

While most of us will be focused on Extra Life on November 7, it might be worth sparing a glance or two at the Mass Effect and BioWare Twitter accounts. There will be opportunities throughout the day for people to win a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One emblazoned with the N7 logo. 
"I'm Commander Shepard and this is my favorite console on the Citadel" - Commander Shepard (probably)
BioWare will also be streaming the entirety of the Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC as part of their Extra Life charity stream. All donations to the stream will be matched by the company up to their $10,000 goal. They'll be giving away a number of prizes directly on their stream, as well as taking audience input as to what decisions they should make throughout their stream. They will start streaming on Twitch this Saturday at 9am PST.

Jack Gardner

Have you been dying to see backwards compatibility for the Xbox One? The wait is almost over. Microsoft will be releasing a list of over one hundred Xbox 360 titles that will be playable on the Xbox One on November 9, next Monday. This was confirmed by lead Xbox engineer Mike Yabarra in a tweet earlier today.

Sean Rooney
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Hey there friend
You don’t know me but we’re friends because we’re both involved in Extra Life.
Maybe you got into it because you’ve got kids and know first-hand how important Children’s Miracle Network hospitals are.  Maybe you’ve been in one of those hospitals yourself. Heck, maybe you are right now.
Or maybe you want to feel a part of something bigger.
Whatever your reason, giving back feels amazing.  It’s what’s keeping me going.
My name is Sean Rooney and I live in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. It’s a three-hour drive to our nearest CMN hospital, Alberta Children’s in Calgary. Once my 11-month-old son Dominic was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, I made that trip twice a week for the better part of 18 months.
My wife Trish stayed in hospital with him while I went back-and-forth to work. Dom instantly made friends with everyone — fellow patients, nurses, the music therapist and child life support team members. When we were re-teaching him to walk after his first rounds of chemotherapy he’d chase the cleaning staff around the hallways of the cancer ward.
I started a blog early on, dominicaml.blogspot.ca. Then, a friend introduced me to Extra Life.
Our first marathon was the 25-hour one in 2013. Curse you, daylight savings time! I raised US$4,315, which in Canadian dollars is, like, a million bucks. Last year I raised US$8,100. I shaved my head and danced and made silly videos and whatever it took.
More importantly I found a network of people all across the continent who were giving back with me.
I met people in my own community. Brayden’s sister had died that summer. Krista had heart problems and still has the scars from her time in hospital.
I met people outside my community. Kye, a 19-year-old gamer who’s battling cancer himself. Lexi, our guild president who puts so much time and energy into it. And Jeromy, who started this whole thing seven years ago and whose heart is legendary.
Dom’s treatment was supposed to last four months. Then we found out it was worse than we thought, and he needed a bone marrow transplant.
 
Another six months.

But the cancer returned.
We started some experimental treatments. He laughed and giggled, started giving people thumbs-up at every opportunity no matter how bad it got.
On Dec. 24, 2014, we were told the cancer was back and there was nothing else we could do.  He was given weeks to live.
Dom defied the odds for 34 weeks. He visited Vancouver, getting blood transfusions every second day at the B.C. Children’s Hospital and having the time of his life riding horses, meeting pro hockey players and visiting the aquarium. Then, in Orlando for a wish trip, we got to Disneyworld. We had two hours at the Magic Kingdom because we had to go to Arnold Palmer Children’s for a blood transfusion that afternoon. They were the best two hours ever. He fell asleep in the Buzz Lightyear ride which is basically a moving video game complete with laser guns in every car.
 

He was done.
 

Two days later, Sept. 3, 2015, Dominic died.

In lieu of flowers or other gifts, we asked for donations to Extra Life. Our #dominicstrong team has raised more than US$40,000 as a result.
 
I hope you never have the same motivation that I do to give back.  
But you’re my friend, and I want you to know how important what you’re doing is. The money you earn for your local hospital helps kids like Dominic stay sane in the insanity of their situation. It provides research dollars to doctors working to cure things like cancer. And it makes parents like me feel confident everything possible is being done for our kids.
So as we head into our marathons this year, let’s remember to give thumbs up at every opportunity, and put our hearts into doing what we can.  These kids don’t get a break. For many of them, their entire life is a marathon. Let them inspire us and let us inspire each other.
Thank you for all you’re doing to support families like mine and little boys and girls like Dominic.
#DominicStrong,
Sean Rooney
Fellow Extra Lifer

Jack Gardner

The latest trailer for Spiders' upcoming sci-fi adventure set on Mars shows protagonist Zachariah making use of his technomancer training to manipulate electricity at will. The gameplay on display highlights the different technomancer fighting styles and powers as well as how players will advance through skill trees as the game progresses. We're briefly shown some of the supporting cast and a short snippet of the trailer outlines the crafting and equipment systems. The shanty-filled environments in the background are part of the markets of Noctis, a major location in the world of The Technomancer. The trailer ends with a glimpse of the monster shown at E3 earlier this year.
The Technomancer seems to be shaping up into a really confident project that holds a lot of promise. It releases next year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Jack Gardner

If you're looking for something creepy and unnerving to play around Halloween, Pathologic Classic HD might just be the perfect choice. Players choose one of three doctors: The Bachelor, The Changeling, and The Haruspex. The Bachelor possesses a refined education, while The Changeling is a young girl who believes she can heal the sick with her hands. The third doctor, The Haruspex, has no education, just a natural talent and a penchant for twisted surgery. As one of those doctors, players arrive as strangers in town just as a the deadly Sand Plague breaks out and threatens to wipe out everyone.
Pathologic is interesting because, while its primary antagonist is the plague, the townspeople are capable of turning against the player as well. When players begin in town, all the residents have pre-existing relationships with one another, which governs how they behave and react toward the player. Each person has their own motivations and intentions and you can never be truly sure of anyone's true allegiances in town. As the residents of the town become ill and die, their relationships will be tested and their minds could break leading to panic, chaos, and even deadly violence. You cannot save everyone in Pathologic and no one will save you.
A decade after it's release as an indie oddity, Ice-Pick Lodge has gone back to fix and revamp their original work. Updated graphics and effects make the game look and run better on modern systems. A new translation of the script from its original Russian makes it easier to understand, while new voice overs give nuance to the characters. Ice-Pick Lodge is currently working on a complete redesign the classic Pathologic called Pathologic Remake. The remake will be completely different from their remaster, which captures the essence of what they envisioned the original game to be. Pathologic Remake will be released sometime next year. 
 Pathologic Classic HD is available today for PC.

LeaveIt2Beaver

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WEEKLY BUNDLE!
What's the Day of the Devs? It's an annual gathering in San Francisco hosted by Double Fine, giving developers from far and wide the chance to show off their games to guests of all ages. Oh, and the admission is free! We figured what better way to mark the occasion than a bundle of great indie titles!
Pay what you want for Hack 'n' Slash, Costume Quest, and Lumino City. Pay more than the average price to also receive Escape Goat 2 andMercenary Kings. Pay $13 or more to get all of that plus Massive Chalice and Grim Fandango Remastered!
Choose the price. Together, these games ordinarily cost up to $142. Here at Humble Bundle, though, the price is yours to choose!
Cross-platform and on Steam. All games except for Lumino City are available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam. Lumino City is available on Steam for Windows and Mac. Select titles are also available DRM-free. Pay $1 or more for access to Steam keys. Please check out the full system requirements here prior to purchasing.
Support charity. Choose where the money goes -- between the developers, Extra Life and Humble Bundle

Jack Gardner

If you didn't have time to sit down and watch the announcements from Sony's press event in Paris yesterday, we've got you covered with a condensed version of the conference. You can view the recorded version of the entire Paris Games Week kickoff event.
Jim Ryan, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, took the stage to start the announcements. Ryan made it clear what Sony was going to be emphasizing with its bombshells. “Tonight is all about games,” he stated to applause. Things began relatively light, discussing European PlayStation 4 price drops and bundles before easing into the first game-related announcement. Sony is expanding its partnership with Activision. The first sign of this improved cooperation between the two corporations will be PlayStation gamers having access to all foreseeable Call of Duty map packs thirty days before any other platform. Following this announcement, a new trailer for Call of Duty Black Ops 3’s zombie mode on a bonus map called The Giant. 
A new trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront manipulates some serious nostalgia. The new trailer focuses on a variety of new heroes including Princess Leia, Han Solo, Boba Fett, and the Emperor. It also prominently features the different alien races that players will be able to customize their various avatars to look like.  Additionally, a new Darth Vader PlayStation 4 bundle releases when Battlefront launches next month.
A new Street Fighter V trailer displays almost the complete roster in action, debuting a bearded Dhalsim beating a poor Zangief into submission. Yoshinori Ono, executive producer of Street Fighter V made an appearance to give a few more details about the fighting title. On top of the revamped look, new moves and abilities complement Dhalsim’s new look. Six characters will be added over the year following release. All can be unlocked through normal play by using an in-game currency called Fight Money. An image accompanying this information hints at the identity of those characters. Street Fighter V will be coming to PlayStation 4 on February 16, 2016.
Transitioning smoothly from one fighting game into another, Sony pulled Tekken 7 out of the arcades and onto their console. The seventh installment of Tekken progresses the series’ storyline in a decidedly over-the-top and dramatic fashion. The secrets of the Mishima clan are teased in the latest trailer, which also features armies, fights in volcanoes, and people being thrown off cliffs. Later on in the show an off-hand comment revealed that Tekken 7 will be compatible with PlayStation VR
Gearbox Software showcased a new Battleborn trailer that gives a small tease of the tongue-in-cheek story while primarily focusing on the gameplay. Specifically singled out are the different gameplay modes and some of the mechanics of the first-person MOBA. PlayStation 4 owners will be the first to gain access to the console beta of Battleborn next year.
Sony made it clear that the next few games to be announced would be console exclusives for the PlayStation 4. Developer Wonderstruck presented a trailer of Boundless that revels in voxel visuals and dimension spanning works of wonder. The project looks like it has some definite Minecraft ambitions and seems like the grappling hooks, moving terrain, and large scale worlds might be enough to back those aspirations. 
Vector, a new indie music-rhythm game shows some promise. Taking a lot of inspiration from titles like Audiosurf, Hello There’s upcoming game allows players to design their own levels and compete against other one another. Trailer stars the artist Avicii talking about his collaboration on the project.
Finally, No Man’s Sky has resurfaced! The new trailer features an amazing voice over that many have related to an iconic speech from the movie Blade Runner. The trailer attempts to mash a lot of different gameplay demonstrations into its short duration while also flaunting the title’s scope. Most importantly, we now know that No Man’s Sky will release sometime June 2016.
Michael Denny senior VP of Sony’s World Wide Studios Europe took the stage to introduce Housemarque’s Matterfall, a voxel-based shooter with a main character that looks like a cross between the protagonist from Vanquish and Megaman.
A new trailer debuted for Insomniac Games’ Ratchet and Clank that shows off a wide range of activities. Players can expect the usual running, gunning, and rail grinding, but will also be flying jets, spaceships, and even scuba diving throughout the adventure. The title will release this coming spring.
Horizon Zero Dawn has been one of the most hotly anticipated games since it was first presented at this year’s E3. They demoed the gameplay on stage, showing how hunting colossal and dangerous machines would work in practice. Guerilla Games set traps, using specialized ammo to manipulate enemies. Described as an action-RPG, players will use materials picked up from fallen robots. The developer took pains to point out that damage to larger creatures is area-specific, leading to situations where you can systematically dismantle powerful foes. A variety of different tactics are available with the tools at the player’s disposal, whether that is a straightforward assault (generally not a good idea) or tethering enemies to the ground and leaving them defenseless AT-AT style. Guerilla plans for a 2016 release.
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters expansion teased in a new trailer that shows some of the new weapons and one of the grotesque fallen hunters that players will have to contend with should they brave the horrors. The expansion drops November 24.
Driveclub Bikes introduces the best super-bikes in the world to Drive Club. Players can purchase it either standalone or as an expansion for Driveclub. It released immediately following the conference and should be available to download now.
Japan Studio’s creative director Keiichiro Toyama took the stage to confirm that Gravity Rush 2 would be coming to Europe and North America (there had been some doubt on that point since its initial announcement during this year’s TGS). Toyama made it clear that a lot of new features differentiate the game from its predecessor. A new combat system was shown with gameplay demonstrating the three different gravity fighting styles: Normal style – as seen in the first game, Luna style – lighter and quicker, and Jupiter style – heavier and more powerful. Environments take damage and shift based on how players use their gravity powers and those changes persist as fights progress. The title promises challenging battles that you can tackle alone or with the assistance of an AI ally.
Christophe Balestra, co-president at Naughty Dog, hopped up on stage following Gravity Rush 2 to talk about Uncharted 4, specifically its multiplayer. Using lessons learned from Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us, Naughty Dog has implemented some intriguing features to A Thief’s End. Balestra stated that players will be able to summon sidekicks, use supernatural relics, and more. Uncharted 4 releases March 18, 2016. If that sounds like too long a wait, Balestra also stated that the multiplayer beta will be active from December 4 through December 18 of this year.
Media Molecule followed up Naughty Dog’s Uncharted announcements with new information on their creation tool/game Dreams. The title’s technical director, Alex Evans, talked about what the game will actually be like when players get their hands on it. To do this effectively, Evans demonstrated the game live on stage, the first time it has ever been seen outside of their studio. Every player creates a customizable imp that goes everywhere in Dreams and is used to explore and communicate. Imps follow the movements of the PlayStation controller and players can give them different expressions with the controller’s touch pad. “You use the imp to grab, pull, and poke at the world. It’s very direct, tactile, and intuitive,” said Evans. The imp can also possess characters, vehicles, or inanimate objects, which allows players to move them around inside the game worlds. Creation and gameplay are intertwined. “Each dream can go from traditional platforming, to racing, to sandboxes, puzzles, and of course making things.” Doors are special in Dreams. Each door can take you to a completely different place, and almost anything can be a gateway to another world. No premade assets were shown in the gameplay demo; everything was made on the PlayStation 4. The beta begins sometime during 2016.
Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s World Wide Studios, arrived on stage to show Sony’s commitment to bringing virtual reality to mainstream gaming with PlayStation VR. “We believe that virtual reality doesn’t have to be a solo experience. There’s unlimited potential for social and competitive interaction in VR,” said Yoshida. He then went on to introduce RIGS Mechanized Combat League, a competitive shooter in which players battle in giant mech suits in sporting arenas. RIGS makes a compelling case for competitive VR experiences and invites the comparison to modern sports through bright visuals and sports commentators in the trailer.
The existence of a VR game based on the surprise hit Until Dawn was revealed. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood could best be described as a roller coaster in which everything is out to kill you. Players must try to survive the hazards of the track and escape unscathed. Beware, dangers can come from any direction. 
Cevat Yerli, the co-founder, CEO, and president of Crytek, ascended to the stage to discuss Crytek’s VR effort with PlayStation. Robinson: The Journey looks like an amazing adventure with dinosaurs that will make everyone who ever dreamed about Jurassic Park being real a little bit giddy inside. Walking around with the robot from Destiny and seeing colossal dinosaurs seems like a good time to me!
Rebellion debuted their geometric VR title following Crytek’s announcement, showing a flashing tank combat game called Battle Zone. Without a whole lot of details, it looks fairly straightforward, flashy, and fun.
Yoshida then shifted from talk of VR games to VR movies, giving a small demonstration of the VR experience from The Walk, a film about a man who walked on a tightrope suspended between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. And, just in case there was any lingering doubt over PlayStation’s commitment to making VR work, Yoshida casually mentioned that over 100 developers are currently working on VR projects for PlayStation. This segment of the show was largely to show that PlayStation VR is strong and in it for the long haul. The gaming landscape could look very different in a few years if this technology catches on.
A few final surprise announcements landed after the VR showcase. First, Polyphony Digital showed the debut trailer for Gran Turismo Sport, which will appear on PS4 for the first time. Kazunori Tamauchi, president of Polyphony Digital, talked about the improvements in graphical fidelity they were able to make with the hardware of the PS4. Additionally, Polyphony will be partnering with the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) for Gran Turismo Sport. Two flagship FIA championships will run simultaneously throughout the year within Sport. One will be the Nations Cup where players represent their country. The other will be the Manufacturer Fan Cup where players represent their favorite car manufacturer. The champions of these competitive racing circuits will be awarded their prizes alongside the winners of real-world FIA races around the holiday season. This partnership between the Federation International Autosport and Polyphony Digital represents efforts from both sides to move racing ahead into the future. A beta test should be going public in early 2016. Gran Turismo Sport will be compatible with PlayStation VR.
Wild Sheep Studio’s creative director, Michel Ancel, stepped up to talk about their upcoming project Wild, another PlayStation console exclusive. Gameplay depicts animal summoning, possession, and combat as players try to solve problems and allow their primitive tribe to survive. The segment shows one route a player might take to attempt to heal a poisoned clan member.
The final announcement of Paris Game Week featured David Cage taking the stage to reveal Quantic Dream’s new project. It’s an extension of the Kara tech demo that the studio released several years ago to show what was possible with the PlayStation 3’s technology. The new title, called Detroit: Become Human, stars a robotic woman who has gained sentience in a world where robots are resented and treated as tools. However, the trailer makes it abundantly clear that there is something different about Kara and that other robots might not be as robotic as they seem.
There were a lot of really phenomenal announcements at the show and a fair number of downright surprising reveals. PlayStation’s dedication to making VR a viable thing shows a lot of confidence in their technology and the draw of its novelty. The sheer number of exclusives for PlayStation 4 was a bit staggering, though it was surprising that Sony made next to no mention of the PlayStation Vita, PSTV, or the PS Vue service that they pushed so strongly earlier this year. Most importantly, a lot of actual gameplay was shown. Only a few trailers were composed of entirely cutscenes or pre-rendered animations. Notably, we saw more of No Man’s Sky, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Wild, Uncharted 4 multiplayer, and Street Fighter V. While the wait could be quite long for some of these titles, there seems to be a lot of good things coming down the pipeline for PlayStation owners.
 

Jack Gardner

A terrible evil threatens to consume the fabric of the world and only the scattered Order of the Stone can even hope to halt its inexorable advance. Jesse and company must set out to find the remaining members of the Order in Episode Two - Assembly Required. That episode becomes available digitally for consoles in North America today. Physical copies of the game will be making their way to retail today, as well. Retail discs of Minecraft: Story Mode cost $29.99 and come with Episode One on-disc. The disc will then grant access to all future episodes as they are released by Telltale Games via online updates.  
"Premiering 'Minecraft: Story Mode' this month, we've been overjoyed by the reception from both the Minecraft community and fans of Telltale across the world diving into the all-ages adventure and making key decisions that will craft their own stories throughout the rest of the season," said Kevin Bruner, CEO and Co-Founder of Telltale Games. "This week, we're happy to offer the game on a special disc at retailers worldwide, including access to the thrilling second episode, 'Assembly Required,' which will feel like a completely different chapter for players depending on their paths taken in episode one."
Minecraft: Story Mode Episode Two - Assembly Required is now available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. Later this week the second episode will make its way to PC and mobile devices. The series will also be coming to Wii U and PlayStation Vita, but no word yet on release dates for those systems.

Jack Gardner

If you've played Tales from the Borderlands, you'll definitely remember the licensed music tracks that seemed to fit perfectly with each episode. However, if you're anything like me, sometimes you forget to check out the track names when the credits roll. Sure, you could use Google to find the track names, but you'd have to sift through a dozen pages for each one and ain't no one got time for that in today's busy world.
Luckily, Telltale has our backs. They've kindly thrown together a Spotify playlist with the tracks that appear in Tales from the Borderlands, which also includes a selection of music from Borderlands 2. If you don't have or want a Spotify account, we've included the track names below.
Episode One - Zer0 Sum
"Busy Earnin'" - performed by Jungle from their self-titled album Jungle.  
Episode Two - Atlas Mugged
"Kiss the Sky" - performed by Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra from the album Voices and Choices.
Episode Three - Catch a Ride
"Pieces of the People We Love" - performed by The Rapture from the album Pieces of the People We Love. 
Episode Four - Escape Plan Bravo
"To the Top" - performed by Twin Shadow from the album Eclipse.
Episode Five - The Vault of the Traveler
"Retrograde" - performed by James Blake from the album Overgrown.
"My Silver Lining" - performed by First Aid Kit from their album Stay Gold.
"Carfire on the Highway" - performed by Chrome Canyon from the album Elemental Themes.
Who is ready to bust out some Claptrap dance moves while grooving to these Borderlands tracks? Throw in a little Cage the Elephant and a track or two from The House That Dirt Built and you could have a pretty killer Borderlands party playlist! 

Jack Gardner

Since going free-to-play Guild Wars 2 has a reach of over seven million people. Those players now have the opportunity to purchase the MMO's first major expansion, Heart of Thorns. Players will still be able to play the base version of Guild Wars 2 for free, but ArenaNet is hoping that players who enjoy the vanilla game can purchase the expansion. 
Among numerous improvements and tweaks, Heart of Thorns adds several new features. An entirely new class called the Revenant enters the mix of classes for players to level, while all classes also gain new specializations and weapon sets. New raids, endless dungeons known as "fractal dungeons," and a new map called Endless for the world versus world PvP also come along with the expansion. 
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Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life’s Thunderclap to donate a tweet or Facebook post on October 24 to help raise awareness of Extra Life! It’s super easy and will only take you a minute to set up. 

Jack Gardner

The first dedicated trailer for Just Cause 3's story has released and has some of the explodiest exposition imaginable. Rico Rodriguez is out to tear down the dictatorship of General DiRavello. Explosions happen. Friends are made. More explosions happen. People are incredulous that Rico has crossed DiRavello. Final explosion happens.
All joking aside, I'm really looking forward to Just Cause 3's release on December 1. The absolute chaos and kinetic action really sell the series and Just Cause 3 looks on track to top itself in both respects. 
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Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life’s Thunderclap to donate a tweet or Facebook post on October 24 to help raise awareness of Extra Life! It’s super easy and will only take you a minute to set up. 

Jack Gardner

The Tales from the Borderlands series stands as the most entertaining collection of episodes released by Telltale Games to date. I can’t remember the last time I smiled and laughed during a game as much as The Vault of the Traveler. Through the obscure alchemy known as “fantastic writing,” Tales from the Borderlands elevates itself from simply being funny (a difficult feat by itself) to a place where it conveys genuine pathos. By Episode Five, we’ve grown attached to the characters and we’ve become invested in the stakes. Important figures in both Tales from the Borderlands and the broader Borderlands universe have died in previous episodes, but The Vault of the Traveler ups the body count considerably. While the finale powerfully hits other emotional notes like sadness or anger, it remains fundamentally lighthearted.
Some of what lies ahead could be considered spoilers. If you haven’t played any of Tales from the Borderlands yet, do yourself a favor and download the first episode for free. It comes with our recommendation.
Tales from the Borderlands Episode Five was reviewed on PC.

Telltale Games has been given an almost shocking freedom to change the game world of Borderlands. Previous episodes in the series have made smaller changes, but Episode Five goes all out and completely changes the fabric of the in-game universe. By the time the credits roll, staples of the Borderlands franchise have been left shattered and broken, leaving an exciting and intriguing future in store for upcoming entries in either the Gearbox or Telltale series. We’ve grown so used to game worlds and characters that remain relatively static that something as simple as following a story through and leaving the world different seems novel and progressive. While there have been no announcements regarding future Tales from the Borderlands seasons, the cliffhanger ending of Episode Five practically begs for a follow-up.
As the series has progressed it has become clear that Telltale made a conscious decision to incorporate the jokes directly into the story. What might have seemed to be a funny, one-off moment in the first episode becomes a hilarious gag an episode or two later and somehow grows into a huge set piece during the finale. This does two things that are vitally important and really difficult to pull off. First, it cultivates humor and attachment. Sure, it might have been funny the first time Rhys and Vaughn fist bump and call each other “bro,” but seeing that friendship develop and those fist bumps become more and more ridiculously elaborate eventually makes the gesture really meaningful during the more serious moments. We understand that it means something more to the characters in whom we’ve become invested, so we empathize and feel closer to them by proxy when things become solemn. Second, the jokes become ground the serious moments of the story in a happy-go-lucky territory. Sure, the finger-gun segments at Hyperion were smile-inducing in the first episode. Sure, they were hilarious during the infiltration segment. But that particular joke coming back as a large-scale plot device during a tense life-or-death battle? Brilliant.

That kind of set-up and pay-off is one of the hallmarks of great writing. Lesser writers often don’t look that far ahead in their stories. The hero just happens to be fluent in Mandarin for reasons that are explained in a bit of throwaway dialogue. The escaped heroine stumbles randomly into the room where the pivotal McGuffin has been hidden. Less talented writing occur when things just happen; where cause and effect don’t seem to exist. Tales from the Borderlands sets everything up from the beginning and propels itself forward with the almighty writers’ rule of “and then.” Beginning with Rhys and Fiona making active decisions to engage in a risky endeavor, every story beat from then on is a series of “and then” moments deriving from those fateful decisions. This leads to an unprecedented, breathless pacing that manages to move assuredly even in the insane world of Pandora. Because of that logical structure, players are able to easily understand the stakes and the various motivations of everyone involved with a minimal amount of effort.
The entire finale is one big highlight of the best that Tales from the Borderlands can offer. Rhys finally confronts Handsome Jack. We at last learn the identity of the masked man who kidnapped Fiona and Rhys back in the first episode. The Gortys Project reaches its full potential. Players get a chance to assemble a team of vault hunters to take down the vault guardian. Fiona and Sasha fly into an alien portal and encounter vault dwellers. There are few moments that feel anything less than awesome.

One of the few studios that puts a heavy emphasis on writing, Telltale Games will have put out six entire games in the past two years when the final episode of their Game of Thrones series lands next month (seven if you include Minecraft: Story Mode, though that won’t conclude until next year). That kind of output seems insane for such a small studio. Since the release of their first season of The Walking Dead, all of those games have ranged in quality from good to superb. I’d argue that the reason both seasons of The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones, and Tales from the Borderlands have been so successful has been because of the commitment Telltale shows to high caliber writing. People don’t play Telltale games because they have fun quick time events or heart racing gameplay mechanics; they do it to experience a well-told story and make meaningful choices. Storytelling carries the entire company.
If a smaller studio like Telltale Games can be so successful by emphasizing story above AAA graphics and revamped gameplay mechanics, why can’t other studios learn from their example? Or rather, why are we content with lesser, lazier writing when we know how much better it could be? We should expect from all our games because of what Telltale routinely shows us is possible on a shoestring budget. On that small budget, Telltale delivers swashbuckling space heists, world-shattering disasters, giant robot fights, and gorgeous scenes that play just as well on a mobile phone as on a tricked out PC. Constrained art direction combined with some fantastic composing and licensed music selection by Jared Emerson-Johnson really elevate the presentation above what many have come to expect from Telltale Games, which is no small feat.   
There are very few criticisms to level against the conclusion of the Tales from the Borderlands series. The largest problem I encountered was the lip syncing running off track once or twice for a few jarring seconds. I also noticed some graphical stuttering, but given the sheer number of effects and moving objects on screen it’s likely that the fault lies with the aging Telltale engine which allows for so much multiplatform flexibility. The only other thing that really stood out to me as being moderately irritating were a few instances of obvious set ups for dramatic turns. Episode Five contains some incredible surprises, but a few of its most meaningful moments are a bit too obviously telegraphed. All told, however, these insignificant nitpicks didn’t really detract from my enjoyment.  

Conclusion:
Tales from the Borderlands begins as one of the best game series Telltale Games has made to date and ends as a serious contender for Game of the Year. Vault of the Traveler is the perfect conclusion for the series. It will tickle your funny bone, pull your heartstrings, and punch you in the gut while keeping plenty of surprises and fake-outs in store to keep things incredibly interesting. I wouldn’t be upset Episode Five was the last we saw of Tales from the Borderlands, but I hope we see more and that we don’t have to wait years for a season two to become a reality. If you value games as vehicles for compelling stories, you owe it to yourself to play Tales from the Borderlands.
Tales from the Borderlands Episode Five is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android.
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Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life’s Thunderclap to donate a tweet or Facebook post on October 24 to help raise awareness of Extra Life! It’s super easy and will only take you a minute to set up.