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Found 72 results

  1. “Expect the unexpected” would have been an appropriate tagline for Batman’s first season. By the series’ end the Wayne Family name stands forever tarnished, a perennial ally turns becomes a major foe, and Harvey Dent’s scars may only be mental. The surprises keep coming in The Enemy Within. An eventful premier throws players for a loop right out of the gate with big shocks, difficult choices, and gut-punching consequences. A year removed from the triple threat of the Children of Arkham, Penguin, and Two-Face sees Gotham on the mend. Bruce Wayne’s reputation appears largely repaired. Batman’s publicized partnership with newly appointed police commissioner Jim Gordon resulted in dramatically reduced crime rates. But that delicate peace breaks when a dangerous shadow from Gotham’s past reemerges: The Riddler. I dug Telltale’s menacing take on this classic foe. Armed with a question-mark shaped sickle, this Riddler almost finds as much pleasure in slicing throats as perplexing victims with cruel conundrums–almost. He remains the long-winded, insufferable show-off, but now displays a nice, gritty edge. Riddler’s new character wrinkle as Gotham’s first costumed crook plays perfectly into his trademark narcissism and superiority complex. Believing himself better because he came first (among other reasons), his additional source of arrogance makes punching his teeth out all the more satisfying. Riddler’s penchant for puzzles works well with Telltale’s mechanics and dialogue choices. One neat segment involves unraveling one of his death games. Gameplay in general gets a good showing in The Enigma. Combat now presents slightly more dynamic options, like selecting multiple interactive points during battle. Last season’s worthless finishing move meter has thankfully been dropped. I never put the controller down for too long–always a positive for a Telltale title. Like Season 1, juggling the public perceptions of Bruce Wayne and Batman can create genuine decision-making crises. Choices feel less about right and wrong and more about which path might backfire less painfully. This creates a series of tricky moral tightropes to walk across. Batman’s relationship with the debuting Amanda Waller acts as a great example. Waller plays an exciting role acting as the controversial figurehead behind the Suicide Squad and leader of the shadowy government bureau known simply as The Agency. Her organization takes over Gotham’s authorities in pursuit of Riddler. Despite Waller and Batman sharing mutual goals, The Agency’s dubious history makes her difficult to trust. More importantly, a collaboration with her might chip away at Batman’s fragile relationship with Gordon. Do you jeopardize Gordon’s favor by working with Amanda in the name of the greater good? Or do you keep her at a distance and risk creating a powerful new adversary? Armed with years of comics history, I thought I knew that answer from the outset. As the episode progressed, though, my stance shifted in unexpected ways. Doing the “right” thing feels less obvious than ever, and I burned trusted bridges doing what I felt was necessary. Chalk that up to how Telltale skillfully paints choices with thoughtful coats of morally grey. Additionally, The Enigma reminded me to consider suspending any prior Batman knowledge because things don’t always play out as predicted. Bruce’s uneasy dealings with the pale, green-haired “John Doe” highlighted that point. The first conversation with this enigmatic figure had me biting my lip with nerves the entire time, unsure of how to react. His underlying insanity keeps you on edge, but his apparent need for approval from Bruce generates sympathy as well. Could it be he just needs someone good to lean on and perhaps guide him? Somehow, Telltale turned the no-brainer of “how to deal with The Joker” into a complicated dilemma. His arc thus far seems to signal a potentially different outcome than what I’m expecting. I look forward to seeing this simmering story reach its boiling point. A new on-screen indicator of a character’s shift in feeling gives immediate and helpful feedback during relationship milestones. I liked receiving validation that my current path may be working, as well as knowing exactly when I may have messed up with someone. A new post-game report card explains how big choices resulted in your current standing with someone, offering some good food for thought. I walked away from The Enigma pondering how to best improve certain relationships using the info given. Additionally, this provides a helpful reference to mix things up in future replays. Choosing a path can be a fun roller coaster overall, but I took umbrage with one scenario towards the end. Without spoiling, somehow the choice of saving lives led to Batman seemingly becoming more vilified than if he allowed someone to die on his watch. Other characters failed to see the big picture, and that questionable writing almost made me scream at my TV. Telltale continues to drop bombshells with a couple of shocking developments involving pivotal characters. These surprises do a nice job of keeping your emotions on guard. Exciting narrative threads emerge from these moments. One in particular concerns a potentially awesome new ally. I also love that The Enigma features its own self-contained arc, kind of like an episode of a Batman TV show. A central thread begins and ends here, providing an immediate sense of closure and giving the long-term stories some breathing room. The Enigma attempts to do a lot as a pilot and, impressively, accomplishes much of it with relative ease. Conclusion: The Enigma starts Batman’s second season on the right foot. Boasting several jaw-dropping moments, intense conversation scenes, a great villain, and promising story developments, there’s a lot to love here. Tack on a healthy dose of interactivity, and you’ve got the answer to the riddle “how do you open a new season with a successful bang?” Batman: The Enemy Within - The Enigma was reviewed on PlayStation 4. It’s also available now for Xbox One, PC and will launch later for iOS and Android. View full article
  2. “Expect the unexpected” would have been an appropriate tagline for Batman’s first season. By the series’ end the Wayne Family name stands forever tarnished, a perennial ally turns becomes a major foe, and Harvey Dent’s scars may only be mental. The surprises keep coming in The Enemy Within. An eventful premier throws players for a loop right out of the gate with big shocks, difficult choices, and gut-punching consequences. A year removed from the triple threat of the Children of Arkham, Penguin, and Two-Face sees Gotham on the mend. Bruce Wayne’s reputation appears largely repaired. Batman’s publicized partnership with newly appointed police commissioner Jim Gordon resulted in dramatically reduced crime rates. But that delicate peace breaks when a dangerous shadow from Gotham’s past reemerges: The Riddler. I dug Telltale’s menacing take on this classic foe. Armed with a question-mark shaped sickle, this Riddler almost finds as much pleasure in slicing throats as perplexing victims with cruel conundrums–almost. He remains the long-winded, insufferable show-off, but now displays a nice, gritty edge. Riddler’s new character wrinkle as Gotham’s first costumed crook plays perfectly into his trademark narcissism and superiority complex. Believing himself better because he came first (among other reasons), his additional source of arrogance makes punching his teeth out all the more satisfying. Riddler’s penchant for puzzles works well with Telltale’s mechanics and dialogue choices. One neat segment involves unraveling one of his death games. Gameplay in general gets a good showing in The Enigma. Combat now presents slightly more dynamic options, like selecting multiple interactive points during battle. Last season’s worthless finishing move meter has thankfully been dropped. I never put the controller down for too long–always a positive for a Telltale title. Like Season 1, juggling the public perceptions of Bruce Wayne and Batman can create genuine decision-making crises. Choices feel less about right and wrong and more about which path might backfire less painfully. This creates a series of tricky moral tightropes to walk across. Batman’s relationship with the debuting Amanda Waller acts as a great example. Waller plays an exciting role acting as the controversial figurehead behind the Suicide Squad and leader of the shadowy government bureau known simply as The Agency. Her organization takes over Gotham’s authorities in pursuit of Riddler. Despite Waller and Batman sharing mutual goals, The Agency’s dubious history makes her difficult to trust. More importantly, a collaboration with her might chip away at Batman’s fragile relationship with Gordon. Do you jeopardize Gordon’s favor by working with Amanda in the name of the greater good? Or do you keep her at a distance and risk creating a powerful new adversary? Armed with years of comics history, I thought I knew that answer from the outset. As the episode progressed, though, my stance shifted in unexpected ways. Doing the “right” thing feels less obvious than ever, and I burned trusted bridges doing what I felt was necessary. Chalk that up to how Telltale skillfully paints choices with thoughtful coats of morally grey. Additionally, The Enigma reminded me to consider suspending any prior Batman knowledge because things don’t always play out as predicted. Bruce’s uneasy dealings with the pale, green-haired “John Doe” highlighted that point. The first conversation with this enigmatic figure had me biting my lip with nerves the entire time, unsure of how to react. His underlying insanity keeps you on edge, but his apparent need for approval from Bruce generates sympathy as well. Could it be he just needs someone good to lean on and perhaps guide him? Somehow, Telltale turned the no-brainer of “how to deal with The Joker” into a complicated dilemma. His arc thus far seems to signal a potentially different outcome than what I’m expecting. I look forward to seeing this simmering story reach its boiling point. A new on-screen indicator of a character’s shift in feeling gives immediate and helpful feedback during relationship milestones. I liked receiving validation that my current path may be working, as well as knowing exactly when I may have messed up with someone. A new post-game report card explains how big choices resulted in your current standing with someone, offering some good food for thought. I walked away from The Enigma pondering how to best improve certain relationships using the info given. Additionally, this provides a helpful reference to mix things up in future replays. Choosing a path can be a fun roller coaster overall, but I took umbrage with one scenario towards the end. Without spoiling, somehow the choice of saving lives led to Batman seemingly becoming more vilified than if he allowed someone to die on his watch. Other characters failed to see the big picture, and that questionable writing almost made me scream at my TV. Telltale continues to drop bombshells with a couple of shocking developments involving pivotal characters. These surprises do a nice job of keeping your emotions on guard. Exciting narrative threads emerge from these moments. One in particular concerns a potentially awesome new ally. I also love that The Enigma features its own self-contained arc, kind of like an episode of a Batman TV show. A central thread begins and ends here, providing an immediate sense of closure and giving the long-term stories some breathing room. The Enigma attempts to do a lot as a pilot and, impressively, accomplishes much of it with relative ease. Conclusion: The Enigma starts Batman’s second season on the right foot. Boasting several jaw-dropping moments, intense conversation scenes, a great villain, and promising story developments, there’s a lot to love here. Tack on a healthy dose of interactivity, and you’ve got the answer to the riddle “how do you open a new season with a successful bang?” Batman: The Enemy Within - The Enigma was reviewed on PlayStation 4. It’s also available now for Xbox One, PC and will launch later for iOS and Android.
  3. Telltale Games announced a couple weeks ago that we would be getting another episodic series based on Batman. Today, they released the official launch trailer for Batman: The Enemy Within along with a few key details about what players can expect from the five-part series. Episode one, titled 'The Enigma,' releases next week on August 8 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac. Those looking for an Android or iOS release will have to wait until early October. The episode focuses on the return of The Riddler, a sadistic villain with a love for constructing brutal puzzles that torture his victims. Batman's investigation is complicated by the arrival of a federal agent and the appearance of the Joker. To accomplish his mission, Bruce Wayne will have to navigate a web of deceit and decide who to trust when he dons his cape to become Batman. Telltale Games has put an effort into making The Enemy Within welcoming to those who never played the first series as well as veterans. Players can come in completely blind or carry their decisions over from Batman: The Telltale Series for smooth continuity. The multiplayer Crowd Play feature will be available to players who want to play as a family or group, allowing multiple people to vote on what course of action should be pursued. Troy Baker returns as the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman alongside Anthony Ingruber who voiced the mysterious John Doe in the previous series. The physical disc will hit store shelves on October 3 for Xbox One and PS4 (expect to see the Android and iOS version around this same time). The disc will contain the first episode and allow for downloadable access to all future episodes. View full article
  4. Telltale Games announced a couple weeks ago that we would be getting another episodic series based on Batman. Today, they released the official launch trailer for Batman: The Enemy Within along with a few key details about what players can expect from the five-part series. Episode one, titled 'The Enigma,' releases next week on August 8 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac. Those looking for an Android or iOS release will have to wait until early October. The episode focuses on the return of The Riddler, a sadistic villain with a love for constructing brutal puzzles that torture his victims. Batman's investigation is complicated by the arrival of a federal agent and the appearance of the Joker. To accomplish his mission, Bruce Wayne will have to navigate a web of deceit and decide who to trust when he dons his cape to become Batman. Telltale Games has put an effort into making The Enemy Within welcoming to those who never played the first series as well as veterans. Players can come in completely blind or carry their decisions over from Batman: The Telltale Series for smooth continuity. The multiplayer Crowd Play feature will be available to players who want to play as a family or group, allowing multiple people to vote on what course of action should be pursued. Troy Baker returns as the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman alongside Anthony Ingruber who voiced the mysterious John Doe in the previous series. The physical disc will hit store shelves on October 3 for Xbox One and PS4 (expect to see the Android and iOS version around this same time). The disc will contain the first episode and allow for downloadable access to all future episodes.
  5. Telltale followed up their first entry into the world of The Walking Dead with a second season that did a number of risky things in the world of video games. Players took on the role of Clementine, a young girl who has been burdened with the onerous task of growing up during the apocalypse. The brutality, the cruelty of life under those desperate circumstances permeate Season 2. Tough decisions allow players to shape what kind of a person our hero may become and the haunting prompts from the previous season, "Clementine will remember that," are now left unsaid, but hang heavy in every facial expression. As a sequel to an episodic game that some claimed was the greatest adventure game of all time, does The Walking Dead: Season Two stand up on its own merits as one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Walking Dead: Season Two 'In the Pines - Credits Theme' by Jared Emerson-Johnson & Janel Drewis (https://telltalegames.bandcamp.com/) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  6. Telltale followed up their first entry into the world of The Walking Dead with a second season that did a number of risky things in the world of video games. Players took on the role of Clementine, a young girl who has been burdened with the onerous task of growing up during the apocalypse. The brutality, the cruelty of life under those desperate circumstances permeate Season 2. Tough decisions allow players to shape what kind of a person our hero may become and the haunting prompts from the previous season, "Clementine will remember that," are now left unsaid, but hang heavy in every facial expression. As a sequel to an episodic game that some claimed was the greatest adventure game of all time, does The Walking Dead: Season Two stand up on its own merits as one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Walking Dead: Season Two 'In the Pines - Credits Theme' by Jared Emerson-Johnson & Janel Drewis (https://telltalegames.bandcamp.com/) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  7. Well, look at that! Telltale Games has decreed that today they would release the fully titled Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series - Episode One: Tangled Up in Blue (phew, try saying that five times fast). The first episode sees the Guardians responding to a distress call from the Nova Corps, entering ancient ruins, and doing battle with Thanos himself. While Thanos might be the biggest bad in the Marvel cinematic universe and the trailer shows the Guardians trying to fight him, he's not the main antagonist of Telltale's series. Who is it? We'll probably have to play it to find out. The first episode releases digitally today for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Android and iOS, but physical copies will be available in retail stores starting May 2.
  8. Well, look at that! Telltale Games has decreed that today they would release the fully titled Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series - Episode One: Tangled Up in Blue (phew, try saying that five times fast). The first episode sees the Guardians responding to a distress call from the Nova Corps, entering ancient ruins, and doing battle with Thanos himself. While Thanos might be the biggest bad in the Marvel cinematic universe and the trailer shows the Guardians trying to fight him, he's not the main antagonist of Telltale's series. Who is it? We'll probably have to play it to find out. The first episode releases digitally today for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Android and iOS, but physical copies will be available in retail stores starting May 2. View full article
  9. In the years since Minecraft's release, one of the communities most requested features has been some sort of narrative. Mojang struggled internally on how to best deliver on a story set in the world of Minecraft. Today, they announced that they are working with Telltale Games for a 2015 release of their five episode Story Mode series. Though due sometime next year, not many details have been revealed about the game. Here is what we do know. The game will be primarily developed by Telltale with input from both Mojang and the Minecraft community. It will not be about Minecraft's mascot, Steve, rather it will focus on completely new characters. According to Mojang, Story Mode will not be establishing any sort of official lore, just presenting Telltale's interpretation of the world. Despite Mojang's recent acquisition by Microsoft, Minecraft: Story Mode will be released on PlayStation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android, as well as Xbox systems. For more information or clarification, check out the Telltale blog, Mojang blog, or play the interactive announcement, Info Quest II.
  10. I was sorely tempted to just write, “It is a Telltale game,” for this review, because I think that over the last three years or so people have come to understand a lot about what that means in terms of gameplay, graphics, and overarching game design. However, I think that you all probably expect a bit more effort from me than that, so hopefully as we go through this spoiler-free review we can better our understanding of Telltale Games and their body of work. One of the most refreshing things about Telltale Games is that they don’t do the same thing twice when it come to their narratives. The Walking Dead tells a gripping tale of grisly sacrifice and survival. Both seasons focused on a single protagonist and developed them over the course of five episodes into characters for whom players really cared. More than that, the first season was about a leader, the second was about a follower struggling to grow up. The Wolf Among Us spins a dizzying tale of neo-fantasy noir, complete with suitably muddy issues of crime and justice. Players become a moral authority within the Fable universe, the word of law for the denizens of Fabletown, no matter how much they grumble. Each season that Telltale has made tells a different narrative in a different way while still using the same underlying game mechanics and graphics engine. Tales from the Borderlands sticks with the mechanics, but adopts a more comedic, lighthearted tone that stands out from three seasons of grim and gritty violence. Tales from the Borderlands Episode One - Zer0 Sum kicks off the five part season by introducing players to Rhys and Fiona, the unreliable protagonists of the series. They’ve been captured by an enigmatic resident of Pandora who wants to know the stories that led them both to him. They each take turns telling their version of events, sometimes breaking in on one another to correct a misremembered moment or interject what “really” happened. Rhys, a corporate ladder climber for the evil Hyperion Corporation, and Fiona, a fast-talking Pandoran con artist, make for an entertaining duo. Telltale successfully plays off of their differences to great comedic effect. I love these choices for the narrative direction of their fourth game series, if for no other reason than because it is a different approach to video game narratives. It is far from the first video game to have a framed narrative told through unreliable narrators, Dragon Age II used the same storytelling device, but game developers rarely opt to try to take their stories this direction. Unreliable narrators and framed narratives present numerous difficulties, especially in video games, but when it works, it works fantastically. The best part about Zer0 Sum is that the writers, Pierre Shorette and Adam Hines (presumably with some input from Gearbox’s Anthony Burch), use the unusual narrative mechanics of framed storytelling for some great laughs. They aren’t using the device just because; the use has a definite goal in mind and it pays off, which testifies to how well Shorette and Hines know their business. In addition to the functional narrative difference between Telltale Games’ previous efforts, Zer0 Sum represents a huge change of tone from what many people have come to expect from the studio. Tales from the Borderlands takes a very lighthearted stance when it comes to its world and characters. Everything is clever, a little bit tongue-in-cheek, even the violence. You can kind of see Telltale’s roots in the Sam & Max adventure games shine through if you squint a little. The changed attitude and infusion of humor make Tales from the Borderlands pop. It comes as a breath of fresh air released between the ends of both The Walking Dead Season Two and The Wolf Among Us and the release of Telltale’s six part Game of Thrones series. It would be a mistake to place the tonal change completely in the writer’s hands when the art direction perfectly captures the Borderlands vibe. Telltale’s game engine really thrives when it is paired with graphic novel or comic book material, which proves to be very helpful when adapting it to Borderlands. The stylized world of Pandora lends itself very well to Telltale’s art style, resulting in a very aesthetically appealing game. Players of Tales from the Borderlands will notice the improvement and appreciate it, especially if they have played previous Telltale series and felt underwhelmed by the visuals. For all of my talk about story mechanics and visual styles, like all Telltale games, Tales from the Borderlands lives and dies on the strength of its narrative. In that regard, Telltale came out guns blazing. Zer0 Sum propels itself along at an almost breakneck pace. There are few dead moments where it feels like nothing is happening. I loved the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but one of the things that I felt held it a bit back was the occasionally ponderous pacing. There was a lot of quiet that served less as introspection and more as waiting to find the thing that moves the story forward. In the grand scheme of that first run of five episodes, it wasn’t a big deal, but there were definitely moments I found myself wishing it would move along. There are relatively few quiet moments in Tales from the Borderlands, but even the rare opportunity to relax has something going on that makes player decisions and actions feel immediate. Beyond pacing, Tales from the Borderlands begins answering one of the big questions I had while playing through Gearbox's Borderlands games: Where are all the "normal" people? Tales from the Borderlands helps players understand how Pandora functions as a society. It turns out that the people who live there aren't all insanely violent and some are just average people trying to make their way on a world gone mad. Really, that's probably part of the core message of the Borderlands games. The world, life, is crazy and there aren't really any normal people. Just some that act a bit crazier than others. I'm interested to see if that message evolves as the future episodes release. I have a bit of a test that I sometimes run to see how people with short attention spans and less inclined toward games might react toward a more story-heavy game. I play the first half-hour of a game with a family member or friend and get some feedback on what he or she thinks about what they just saw. I usually don’t mention the test in my reviews since it only tangentially helps me to get a fresh perspective on what I just played. However, it is interesting in this case because I did the test with the same person for both the first thirty minutes of The Walking Dead Season One and Zer0 Sum. I was a bit shocked that they had completely different reactions to both. The Walking Dead gameplay left such a small impression on them that they didn’t remember the experience at all. On the other hand, they really wanted to see more of Tales from the Borderlands. In both instances, this person insisted on just watching the gameplay unfold. The results of those informal tests tell me that the narrative is strong enough to inspire interest that exists separate from the typical Telltale game mechanics. Ideally, I think that game developers should approach game design in a way that weaves mechanics and narrative together. I loved this year’s Transistor so much precisely because everything in it, gameplay, narrative, setting, etc. furthered its message. Usually it isn’t a good idea to separate mechanics from storytelling, but in Telltale’s case, the mechanics aren’t important to what they’re trying to say with their games. In fact, the biggest criticism I can level against Tales from the Borderlands is that it doesn’t do anything interesting with the mechanics that have now supported three complete episodic games, all three of which have been insanely successful. It is hard to fault them for staying their course or from arguing that the design is ineffective. Choosing dialogue options invests players in the protagonists and makes the story feel personal. Participating in combat via quick-time events makes the danger feel more immediate. Placing the burden of gameplay almost entirely on directing conversations and making decisions eases development for Telltale. I get it. However, I think the challenge for Telltale in the years ahead will be blending gameplay and story together more effectively. They found a combination that functions, but until they find a better way to present their amazing work they’re barely scratching at the surface of something incredibly powerful. Conclusion: Tales from the Borderlands Episode One – Zer0 Sum is a Telltale game. Expect a lot of story, dialogue choices, and quick-time action sequences. If you were too impatient for their earlier titles, Zer0 Sum might have enough momentum to sweep you up into the larger drama. However, if the gameplay of previous Telltale adventure titles turned you off, Tales from the Borderlands doesn’t do anything that might change your mind. On the whole, I found it laugh-out-loud funny more than a few times, was generally smiling, and thought that it was one of Telltale’s best efforts to date. Tales from the Borderlands Episode One was reviewed PC and is now available for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android (so, basically everything)
  11. "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." - Cersei Lannister Much like last month's first episode of Tales from the Borderlands, the first installment of Telltale's six part Game of Thrones series quietly launched today. The story follows members of House Forrester, a noble family that has fallen into a precarious position during the War of the Five Kings. In terms of continuity with the HBO show, the game takes place roughly around the end of Season Three and continues until the beginning of Season Five. The press release also notes that several actors will be reprising their roles from the show for the game, including Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer, and Iwan Rheon. Telltale hints that additional cast members could be appearing in later episodes. Iron from Ice is available now for PC, Mac, and PlayStation 4. It will be releasing on Xbox One and Xbox 360 this Wednesday. This Thursday the iOS version will make its way to the App Store, while an Android version will become available sometime later this month.
  12. Telltale snuck the first episode of their Borderlands series into digital stores today along with a brand-spankin'-new trailer that shows off some of the over-the-top situations players can expect to encounter. The Telltale Game of Thrones title is slated for release sometime next month, too. Maybe we should expect another sneaky release in December?
  13. Just when people thought their time on Pandora might be taking a hiatus, Telltale swoops in with a trailer that teases the first episode of their Borderlands series. Unfortunately, the trailer doesn't give any hints as to a release date, but it looks like Telltale is still planning to release it in 2014. While we were shown a preview of the first episode in action back during E3, the first episode finally has a name: Zero Sum. Additionally, we now know the official casting details, final casting details. The season will feature Troy Baker as Rhys, Laura Bailey as Fiona, Chris Hardwick as Vaughn, Erin Yvette as Sasha, Patrick Warburton as Vasquez, and Dameon Clarke reprising his role as Handsome Jack. We can also confirm that there will be five total episodes of the Tales from the Borderlands series. Tales from the Borderland will be available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC, with some slight variations in price. It looks like the console versions will retail at around $4.99 per episode with season pass options for $19.99. The PC version will be a season pass for $24.99. Android and iOS devices will also see the first episode of the Telltale's Borderlands before the year is out.
  14. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series made some waves when adventure game developer Telltale Games teased it at the tail end of last year. We now have a narrower release window with the series set to premiere this spring on consoles, PC, Android, and iOS. Much like Telltale's Game of Thrones, their Guardians of the Galaxy series will tell a new story set within the universe seen in the films. Familiar characters such as Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot all return with a redesigned that aims to fit them in with the art style of Telltale's vision. The new tale follows the galactic group of reluctant heroes as they discover an artifact of immense power following a climactic encounter. Each member of the team has a competing interest in the item, but so does an enemy who represents the last of a dying race who will hunt the team to the ends of the galaxy to obtain it. The Guardians will be traveling to a wide number of locations including Earth, the starship Milano, the hollowed out space titan skull called Knowhere, and beyond to locations not seen in the films. Borrowing from the films (and Telltale's natural affinity for including fantastic musical accompaniments to their games), the Guardians of the Galaxy series will feature a licensed soundtrack of its own to help players slip into the retro-camp fun in store for them. today at PAX East in Boston at 6pm in the Albatross Theater, so if you are at the show be sure to stop and give it a look. Telltale Games will be hosting a panel discussing their creative process on the title. Those who can't be there in person can check it out live on Twitch. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series premiers on March 17 at SXSW in Austin, TX at the Paramount Theater. Telltale will be hosting a Crowd Play event where attendees can help decide what decisions are made on the big screen during the live gameplay via their mobile devices. In order to attend, interested people will need to obtain either an SXSW or SXSW Gaming badge and seats will be available on a first come, first serve basis. The voices for the Guardians of the Galaxy series won't be the same as the ones from the movies. Instead, Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series) will take on the role of Star-Lord, Emily O'Brien (Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor) tackles Gamora, Nolan North (basically all games with voice acting, Uncharted) becomes Rocket Raccoon, Brandon Paul Eells (Watch Dogs) gives life to Drax, and Adam Harrington (The Wolf Among Us, League of Legends) groots his best as Groot. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 releases on May 5 and with a narrower release day centered on this spring, I'd be willing to bet Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series will be releasing around that same time, possibly in late April. View full article
  15. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series made some waves when adventure game developer Telltale Games teased it at the tail end of last year. We now have a narrower release window with the series set to premiere this spring on consoles, PC, Android, and iOS. Much like Telltale's Game of Thrones, their Guardians of the Galaxy series will tell a new story set within the universe seen in the films. Familiar characters such as Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot all return with a redesigned that aims to fit them in with the art style of Telltale's vision. The new tale follows the galactic group of reluctant heroes as they discover an artifact of immense power following a climactic encounter. Each member of the team has a competing interest in the item, but so does an enemy who represents the last of a dying race who will hunt the team to the ends of the galaxy to obtain it. The Guardians will be traveling to a wide number of locations including Earth, the starship Milano, the hollowed out space titan skull called Knowhere, and beyond to locations not seen in the films. Borrowing from the films (and Telltale's natural affinity for including fantastic musical accompaniments to their games), the Guardians of the Galaxy series will feature a licensed soundtrack of its own to help players slip into the retro-camp fun in store for them. today at PAX East in Boston at 6pm in the Albatross Theater, so if you are at the show be sure to stop and give it a look. Telltale Games will be hosting a panel discussing their creative process on the title. Those who can't be there in person can check it out live on Twitch. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series premiers on March 17 at SXSW in Austin, TX at the Paramount Theater. Telltale will be hosting a Crowd Play event where attendees can help decide what decisions are made on the big screen during the live gameplay via their mobile devices. In order to attend, interested people will need to obtain either an SXSW or SXSW Gaming badge and seats will be available on a first come, first serve basis. The voices for the Guardians of the Galaxy series won't be the same as the ones from the movies. Instead, Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series) will take on the role of Star-Lord, Emily O'Brien (Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor) tackles Gamora, Nolan North (basically all games with voice acting, Uncharted) becomes Rocket Raccoon, Brandon Paul Eells (Watch Dogs) gives life to Drax, and Adam Harrington (The Wolf Among Us, League of Legends) groots his best as Groot. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 releases on May 5 and with a narrower release day centered on this spring, I'd be willing to bet Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series will be releasing around that same time, possibly in late April.
  16. If you haven't bought Telltale's fantasy noir saga yet, physical copies of Telltale Games' The Wolf Among Us will be on store shelves at the beginning of November for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita..
  17. Review: The Walking Dead - Season Two

    The second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is a harsh slog through death, violence, and zombies. Which makes it all the more incredible that Season Two manages to be masterfully, achingly human. I’ll be attempting to keep this review spoiler-free since the main draw of the Telltale adventure games has always been experiencing the story. The Walking Dead Season Two places players in the shoes of Clementine, the young girl who was a staple character of the previous season. Soon after the second season begins, Clementine becomes separated from her friends and meets a new group of survivors. Players follow her trials and tribulations with the new group and the people they meet as they go through their ordeals. At its core, The Walking Dead Season Two knows how to construct drama. That mastery immediately sets it apart from many other blockbuster video games that rely on set piece spectacle, graphical horsepower, and marketing. Those bigger titles forget that effective drama relies on the audience empathizing and understanding the motivations of the characters. In this area, The Walking Dead Season Two excels. We understand the motivations of the characters, usually within the first few minutes of being introduced to them. Each character, even the bit players, have their own wants and needs, their own motivations. When we see those needs and wants clash, we can genuinely empathize with the situation, even if that situation is full of zombies. If any game makes a compelling case for more diverse video game casts, it is the second season of The Walking Dead. The most interesting characters of the second season are mostly women. There are several non-white characters. There is even a great moment involving a male character who is in a relationship with another man. All of this comes together to create a more interesting narrative. Seeing different views and ideologies collide is fascinating, especially when you can understand their viewpoints. As the season progresses, the player comes to an understanding of the level of violence permissible in the world of The Walking Dead and that understanding elevates the drama. When characters that we care about are threatened by intense, graphic violence we don’t want that to happen on a very fundamental level. When I say that the violence is some of the most graphic I have seen in a video game, I am not being hyperbolic. In particular, one scene stands out. There is a segment that involves a character being beaten into an unrecognizable, bloody mess with a crowbar. It is nauseatingly awful to witness and that is precisely the point. The Walking Dead’s second season makes a statement about how easily we accept horrific acts in our video games and how those acts are almost always treated casually or loosely justified with statements like, “It was war,” or even more simply, “they were the bad guys.” The brilliance of The Walking Dead Season 2 is that instances of violence, even in the most extreme cases, are never cheap and there is always an underlying point to their existence. I’m currently playing through Wolfenstein: The New Order, so it is hard for me not to compare how violence works in each title. Don’t get me wrong, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a great game, but it falls into a category that I like to call, “well executed dumb.” It is trying to take players on a violence fueled romp through the ranks of Nazi’s who have taken over the world. The core mechanics all revolve around killing. I’d argue that violence is the end goal of Wolfenstein. If you take away the violent interactions there is no game left. You are never meant to think about the Nazi soldiers you kill in Wolfenstein as human beings. You are meant to think of them as monsters. There is nothing wrong with violence for its own sake, sometimes it can be very cathartic. However, violence by itself is empty excitement. When you compare the violence of The Walking Dead Season Two with that of Wolfenstein, you find that The Walking Dead uses violence with a purpose. For Telltale, violence is the means to an end. Let’s return to the crowbar scene that I mentioned earlier. What end does the incident serve? On a purely base level for the player it provides a certain amount of catharsis seeing an “evil” character get some form of retribution. On a character level it is a statement about what kind of a person Clementine is becoming. It is a pivotal moment where she, and by extension the player, is given multiple opportunities to leave and let the event go unwitnessed. Whether the player decides to stay or leave says something about what Clementine has learned in her time surviving the apocalypse. Then the scene drags on and on. It becomes grotesque. It is not pleasant to sit through, nor was it intended to be. Why does such an occurrence of violence feel so strange and unique in the gaming world? In fact, it is remarkable how often games create similar scenes or situations and treat them casually. How many soldiers have we mowed down in Call of Duty without giving it a second thought? How about Grand Theft Auto? In real life the acts we see performed in most video games would be utterly awful. In that way, despite its cel-shaded graphics and preposterous setting, The Walking Dead Season Two feels like one of the most honest depictions of violence that video games have to offer. It is enough that it makes one question; should violence be so easily digested? Midway through episode two Clementine is asked what she thinks is the most important thing in the world. No matter what response the player chooses the answer, Telltale’s writers tell us, is family. Where growing up was the central idea of the first season, family is the theme of the second season. We see Clementine through the struggles of surviving alone and then through the struggles of surviving with the people with whom fate has stuck her, much like how we are all stuck with our own families. In fact, there are a lot of different topics that are brought up over the course of playing the Walking Dead Season Two. A lot of people die, causing many characters to question the meaning of life and whether living is worth the trouble. Some find it hard to go on, others soldier on because it is the only thing they know how to do. How important is friendship and family in the face of life or death? Do children belong in such a world? Are the zombies or the humans the real monsters? Often Telltale forces players to make split second decisions; choices made in the heat of the moment that perhaps reflect a truth about how the player views the world. All of this serious talk might make it seem like The Walking Dead Season Two is doom and gloom all the way through, but that would be a misrepresentation. There is real joy and laughter nestled amongst the sadness and loss. I laughed out loud at several moments and smiled through others. A lot of the humor derives from Clementine being a young girl who is treated out of necessity as an adult. Most of the time she rises to the occasion admirably, but sometimes she can’t help but show how in many ways she is still a kid. Maybe those moments taken out of context weren’t hilarious, but any levity serves such a contrast against the dismal backdrop of the world that a good guffaw isn’t too far away when the comedy hits. You’ve probably noticed by now that I haven’t said much about the gameplay. That’s because there isn’t much to say about it. It is the least interesting aspect of Telltale’s recent adventure games and The Walking Dead Season Two isn’t an exception. Between the decisions that players will make are action segments comprised of quick time events. They’re not interesting by themselves, but the context of what players view on the screen makes them bearable. Tapping the Q key is not an interesting way to interact with a game. Often, interactivity is limited even during the moments when players are allowed to search an environment. However, I am more than happy to put up with the annoyance of quick time events and limited interactivity if I can experience more narratives of the quality produced by Telltale Games. The third season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead has been confirmed which leads me to wonder how the next season will work. The ending of the second season diverges wildly after a certain point of decision the player makes as Clementine, resulting in three different core endings, two of which have several different ways they can play out. This would make it very difficult to start the third season with Clementine remaining as the main character. Perhaps Telltale’s writers will perform some complicated word jiu-jitsu and make it work, but I think it is more likely that next season will have a different protagonist and Clementine will make an appearance as one of the side characters. Only time will tell for certain, though. Conclusion: The Walking Dead Season Two is one of the best narrative-focused games to be released this year. The writing is excellent, the performances are compelling, and the emotions it evokes are potent. The lack of variety in the interactions with the game world is overshadowed by the powerful narrative. Anything that might distract from the core experience with the story has been stripped away, revealing a journey with characters that will break your heart, mend it, and then shatter it all over again. The Walking Dead Season Two is available on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.
  18. The fifth and final installment of the second season of Telltale's zombie adventure is coming next week. Titled 'No Going Back,' a new, spoiler-filled trailer teases players with what to expect from the conclusion of season two. The Walking Dead Season Two will come to a close on the following release dates: August 26th Episode Five will be accessible on the PC and Mac via Steam and other digital distribution services, as well as on the PlayStation Store for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita owners. August 27th will mark the finale's release on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for Xbox 360 owners. Additionally, the iOS version of Episode Five hits the App Store on August 28th. More release dates for various other platforms will be announced in the future. As for the trailer, it brings players up to speed on the key events of the series, as well as containing a scene created exclusively for the trailer. Warning: The trailer below contains major spoilers for both seasons one and two of Telltale's Walking Dead series. Watch at your own risk.
  19. Video Games Can Change the World

    I’m going to be trying something a little different with this article and, if you will graciously allow me, I’ll explain why (I apologize in advance if you get no enjoyment out of this or find it altogether terrible). I take my job as a critic seriously. As a result, I have a tendency to read/watch/listen to criticism of not only games, but also of other forms of media. My basic college education focused heavily on literary analysis, which proved early on in my career to be surprisingly applicable. I say “surprisingly” because one of the sentiments I often read in comment sections or hear in conversation whenever a topic compares mediums is how diverse storytelling mediums are too different to have common traits. I am probably simplifying to suit my needs here; however, I can agree that it may seem a bit odd that literary criticism can be helpful when looking at and making sense of video games. But that background is what shapes my perceptions and ultimately shaped how I think about games. To me, video games are another vehicle for narratives. The medium itself has its own language, but it is a Frankenstein’s monster of a language made up of disparate elements from other mediums. For example, have you ever thought while playing a game with fancy, new-fangled graphics, “Why is there a lens flare?” Why do we call them “camera controls” instead of something more blunt, like screen adjustment controls? The answer is because video games often borrow from film. The language isn’t what is important, though. My main point in bringing up the example of film is to be able to segue into the fact that I love reading criticism of all kinds, especially of film, because I find that it often deepens my insight into the medium that I have chosen to involve my life with personally and professionally. In other words, to better understand video games I think it is important to look at what other mediums can teach us about video games, even if it is often an indirect education. There is one critic in particular that I would like to call out as someone who, though primarily focused on film, routinely delves into issues that plague narratives in a way that I find particularly helpful when approaching video games. I am, of course, referring to Film Critic Hulk. Now, I’m not going to go into much detail about who Film Critic Hulk is or his credentials or anything like that, primarily because doing so isn’t terribly important, but also because this person writes anonymously under a pseudonym. Suffice it to say, that this individual is both incredibly smart, eloquent, and someone who can articulate what makes stories work and what makes them buckle or break. The reason I bring up this particular critic goes back to what my first paragraph outlined; namely, I enjoy reading other criticism focusing on other mediums because it broadens my knowledge of those mediums while also shedding light on the one toward which I find myself most attracted. Several nights ago, I found myself reading an older article from back in January of this year about a documentary called The Act of Killing* (which is seriously a fantastic film and an important one, though not necessarily enjoyable or pleasant). In the article, Hulk doesn’t provide a review, but instead dissects how the film succeeds in truly moving an audience to achieve something that can truly change society for the better. I’m afraid that my meaning in the previous sentence was a bit vague, so let me rephrase: Hulk dissects how the film reveals an honest truth about life to the audience. The article is great and I highly recommend that you both read it for yourself and go on to read some of Hulk’s other writings about movies and the film industry. Now you might be wondering about the purpose of all of this preamble. While I was in the process of reading through Hulk’s article, I made numerous connections between the world of video games and the world of film. As I was in the process of making those mental leaps, I thought of how neat it would be if I could give readers a way to arrive at the same conclusions in a similar manner. To that end, I encourage readers to follow me on a small mental excursion to examine video games through (if you will pardon the parlance) the lens of film criticism. And so, we begin. (Note: The writing style of Film Critic Hulk is all caps. I apologize in advance if that irritates you.) --- To begin his essay on The Act of Killing, Film Critic Hulk uses a quote from Andrei Tarkovski: The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good. Now, people can debate the definition of art and what art is capable of and how it functions until the end of time, but what Tarkovski seems to be getting at here is that art, all art across all mediums, functions as a way to challenge the soul and mold it into something that can do good in the world. In other words, art reveals an honest to goodness truth about human nature, which is a topic that often leaves people staring at their feet. Real truth is something that forces us to confront reality, an experience that can often be unpleasant, and motivates us to change for the better. Hulk then goes on to say in the essay proper: THE BLUNT TRUTH IS THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T EVEN THINK OF MOVIES AS BEING VEHICLES FOR IDEAS... OR EVEN AS ART. TO MANY, CINEMA IS A SOMEWHAT DISPOSABLE THING. A WAY TO PASS TIME. A MODE OF ESCAPISM. A LARK. This is where video games come in. You can replace the words “movies” and “cinema” with “video games” and the same blunt truth that applies to film also applies to games. I’d argue that even more so than movies, most people don’t think of video games as being vehicles for ideas, let alone vehicles for truth or something that could be capable of ‘harrowing’ a soul. I’d argue that the average person considers video games to be power fantasies, time sinks to while away youth, or a mental escape from the daily grind of life. Perhaps I am doing the average person a disservice by giving only three very narrow ways of looking at video games as a medium. I think a more accurate statement would be that the average video game player views video games as something trivial. The truth is that many people view video games as 'just games,' a train of thought that the very name of the medium both implies and reinforces. While I do think that there are games that have important ideas to convey and that the medium is capable of revealing human truth, many, many, many video games do their utmost best to be indulgent, escapist, power fantasies. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with a game being an indulgent, escapist power fantasy, but I do think it is easier to carelessly transmit a message that could be harmful through a project that is trying its best to be devoid of narrative ideas. Hulk gets at one of the powerful aspects of stories in the second paragraph which is that, “STORIES CAN TAKE THAT DIDACTIC THING WE CALL ‘ADVICE’ AND RENDER IT INTO EXPERIENCE; MEANING IT CAN MAKE US EXPERIENCE THINGS BEFORE WE ACTUALLY HAVE TO DEAL WITH THEM AND GUIDE US IN THAT PURPOSE.” Empathy is one of the most powerful motivators for human beings and it is empathy that allows us to learn from the experience of others. Video games in particular are suited to learning vicariously through others without having to live through the reality first hand due to how strongly people bond with in-game characters. Or rather, people have a tendency to insert themselves into video game narrative. I’ll approach that previous sentence a bit backwards: Of those of you who played Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which of you talked with friends about the decisions you made? I’m going to take the liberty and assume that it was most of you. Strictly speaking, however, “you” are not a character in the The Walking Dead universe, but that doesn’t seem to matter so much, does it? It still feels like you are the one responsible for whatever befalls Clementine because you were the person making Lee Everett’s decisions. If people can empathize with a character to the extent that they consider the decisions they made for how that character should act as their own actions, that goes far beyond the amount of empathy typically experienced while watching film. We feel as if the challenges and problems faced by the video game protagonist were actually our own. While none of us are likely to live through a zombie apocalypse, the sad truth is that every one of us will at some point struggle with very real issues like depression, hatred, domestic violence, or death. In recent years, there has spring up a small subset of games that explore some of the more deeply tragic and personal aspects of being human. The currently-in-development That Dragon, Cancer puts players in the shoes of a father whose son is going through cancer treatment. Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest attempts to convey what it is like to exist with depression. Papo y Yo deals with alcoholism and abusive fathers. Papers, Please puts players behind the desk to deal with the paperwork of an immigration officer. Cart Life asks players to try to live as one of three street vendors on a small budget. These are games that use stories and mechanics in an effort to promote understanding of and empathy for these various situations. As time goes by there are more of these games being released and concepts outside of “shoot bad guy” being explored. To me, that means I can hold out hope that one day video games will inspire the type of social and societal change that The Act of Killing seems to have produced in Indonesia. Hulk puts The Act of Killing alongside movies like The Thin Blue Line (which gave a man his life back after being wrongly sentenced to life in prison) and Harlan County U.S.A. (the filming of which prevented violence and allowed the coal miners of Harlan County to live better lives without dying from the black lung). While I can rattle off a dozen games that have revolutionized game development or inspired social change within the gaming community, the fact is that, outside of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. catapulting Mario into cultural ubiquity, I can’t think of a video game that has had an impact on society at large. I believe there are four reasons for this. First, video games are the newest storytelling medium. Film and photography have had over a century to mature and hone their respective crafts, while widespread video game development has been around for less than half that time. This puts video gaming at a severe disadvantage when trying to enact change outside of the core gaming community. Second, though photography and moviemaking both rely on technology for their arts, video games are the most technologically reliant medium. As technology has progressed, the ways games are both presented and played have drastically changed. Compare Pong to Missile Command to Super Mario Bros. to Chrono Trigger to Ocarina of Time to Halo to BioShock to The Last of Us (I know that was a long string of _____ to _______’s. I apologize). Yes, the graphical differences are plainly evident, but generally speaking the advances in technology have affected how well games could tell their stories. In fact, the improvements in graphical fidelity have allowed games to draw upon film for language cues that people new to gaming can more readily understand. Third, though 58% of the American population plays video games, that still leaves 42% who don’t have anything to do with gaming. Gaming probably needs to be as ubiquitous as music and film, or at least close to the level of consumption, in order to really bring about a widespread change that everyone can see and understand. Finally, it is hard to for anything to be taken seriously when its own definition trivializes its importance, which is exactly what the term “video game” accomplishes. According to Google’s dictionary, the definition of a video game is, “a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or other display screen.” Google then defines the word game as, “a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.” There are numerous problems with these definitions, but for the purposes of this essay the primary difficulty is that narratives aren’t strictly won or diversionary and the games we are ideally talking about here are the ones that make use of effective narratives. I am convinced that video games will one day move society, but they just aren’t quite there yet. Imagine that the following quote from Hulk’s essay replaces the word “cinema” with “narrative” to illustrate how far video games have left to go: WHAT CAN BE SUGGESTED IS THAT THE ACT OF KILLING IS AN ATTACK ON MITIGATION ITSELF. ONE THAT ZOOMS IN ON THE SPECTACULAR COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND REFUSES TO RELINQUISH UNTIL WE ACTUALLY FACE IT. AND WHAT THIS FILM IS DOING IN INDONESIA IS SO MAGNIFICENTLY REAL; PRECISELY THE KIND OF REAL-LIFE EFFECT THAT IS SO UNIQUE TO POPULAR CINEMA THAT, QUITE FRANKLY, IT RENDERS ALL THE OSCAR TALK KIND OF SMALL. The plain and simple truth is that video games, for as heartrending, adventuresome, fantastic, and magnificent as they can be, are still in the stage of development where the industry struggles to have award shows. It is an environment where the prospect of putting on an award show with some semblance of dignity is a goal for which many strive. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either, a quick look at any part of the VGX award show from 2013 proves those people have their work cut out for them. But it is important to remember, especially in a medium as new as video games, that awards should not the end goal. When we are talking about video games that hit the world straight in the gut; games that grab onto a truth and refuse to let go until we collectively face said truth and are changed by it for the better… well, games like that haven’t been made yet, but they are worth waiting for. It should be noted that I am not saying that the narrative-focused video games that we have now are rubbish or that they don’t have great stories or messages. I mean to say that there is nothing like The Act of Killing in video games. The Act of Killing gives its audience something that they need. In fact, most games strive for the direct opposite of need and merely try to deliver what their players want. There is a very large difference between what people need and what people want. Most games cater directly to what people want: power, escape, excitement, puzzles, etc. But very rarely do video games aim to give players something that they might need; video games that present hard truths in a way that we can accept. For that very reason, the number of games that have personally affected me and changed the way I look at the world seems to be miniscule compared to the number of games that I have played. For the record here they are: Shadow of the Colossus, The Stanley Parable, BioShock, BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, and Mass Effect 3. *Spoilers for Mass Effect 3 in the following paragraph* In fact, many of the points I’ve been getting at so far can be perfectly summed up in going back to Mass Effect 3 and how people reacted to its ending. Now, there are certainly a lot of people out there who felt the original ending didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the narrative (and also that the “extended cut” of the ending didn’t go far enough). I never really felt that way either before or after BioWare released the patch which clarified several lingering questions. The internet threw around the term “entitled gamers” like a slur as tens of thousands of players expressed their dissatisfaction by petitioning BioWare to change the ending of their game. At the time, I questioned why people had the unprecedented outrage that is usually reserved for angry mobs or human rights violations. Let’s be honest, many games have unsatisfactory endings or laughable writing, but even the most disgruntled of gaming communities don’t usually file complaints with the FTC. With the distance of a couple years, it seems obvious that this is a potent example of players inserting themselves into the story; they felt responsible for the actions that Commander Shepard was taking and that gave many a sense of ownership toward the narrative of the Mass Effect franchise. I’d guess that there were a lot of people at BioWare who actually wanted players to feel like the story of Mass Effect was really theirs, but the nature of the story they were telling wasn’t conducive to a satisfying ending catharsis. Mass Effect 3 requires that the Commander Shepard that players have developed and bonded with throughout the course of three games released over five years sacrifice his/her life. That is a huge amount of time and effort put into this story and the ending! While perfectly sound in a traditional narrative sense, it clashed so much with what people wanted from the story that people felt slighted; they felt wronged. The outrage was very real, but so were the other emotional reactions to Mass Effect 3 which at the time were largely overshadowed by the ending controversy. It made people laugh, cry, and rage. It motivated tens of thousands of people to band together for a common purpose. Now that I think about it, Mass Effect 3 could very well be the best example we currently have of how video games can enact change on a large scale. The pressure from the gaming community eventually caused BioWare to buckle and release the extended ending DLC (something that has never sat right with me). It might not be an example of motivating change in a positive or productive direction, but it did unite people to a collective cause on a scale that I haven’t seen in the video game community. Perhaps all of this talk about video games being anything more than fun distractions from real life seems ridiculous to you. But, then, why do we tell stories in video games? Are they just to add texture and context to the gameplay? Why do developers like BioWare attempt to tell nuanced stories dealing with weighty issues in video games? IT WAS A QUESTION ABOUT THE EXISTENTIAL HEART OF WHY PEOPLE WANT TO DO SOMETHING SO TRIVIAL AS TELLING STORIES IN THIS MEDIUM. IT SEEMS SO SILLY IN A WORLD FULL OF PEOPLE WHO DO REAL THINGS. TEACHERS. DOCTORS. FIREFIGHTERS. THE KINDS OF FOLKS WHO FILL THEIR DAYS WITH MUNDANE HEROISMS AND GET LITTLE TO NO RECOGNITION FOR IT (AND OFTEN, THEY GET OUR DISDAIN). BUT THE REASON THIS INDUSTRY CAN FEEL SO HOLLOW AT TIMES IS THAT WE ARE ACTUALLY MESSING WITH SOMETHING INCREDIBLY POWERFUL: THE AFOREMENTIONED LETHAL COMBINATION OF IMAGE AND SOUND. AND IF WE HAVE MADE SOMETHING WITH THE POWER TO MAKE PEOPLE CRY IN 30 SECONDS, THAT CAN MAKE PEOPLE OPEN THEMSELVES UP AND LEARN TO WALK A MILE IN ANOTHER MAN'S SHOES, THEN WHY DO WE JUST KEEP USING THAT INCREDIBLE POWER TO MERELY INDULGE PEOPLE? […] [WHEN WE ASK THAT QUESTION] WE ARE WRESTLING WITH THE FACT THAT WE ARE USING ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL TOOLS ON THE PLANET FOR TRIVIAL PURPOSES. OR WORSE, WHEN WE THINK OF ANWAR RECREATING HIS FAVORITE GANGSTER SCENES, WE CONTEMPLATE THAT WE MIGHT BE DOING SOMETHING THAT COULD EVENTUALLY LEAD TO GREAT HUMAN COST IF NOT HANDLED RESPONSIBLY. Gaming is still at a place where, for all of the digital bullets, death, and games about war, the game that most effectively understands violence is a post-apocalyptic zombie narrative. Seriously, have you ever taken a minute to think about how weird it is that compared with The Last of Us, the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises feel tame and sterile? The main difference there is that The Last of Us shows us the human costs of taking a life, both in the brutality of animations and in the way the characters are affected by their own violent actions. In comparison, our digital war games approach their topic with all of the nuance, depth, and seriousness of a group of second graders on the playground pretending to have a shootout. I’ve never been a person who thinks that video games inherently make people more violent, but I do think that video games can influence how we think about the world when we accept them without thinking. It isn’t wrong to have dumb shooters set in times of war, but I think there is something wrong and perhaps even irresponsible when almost all war shooters that approach the topic are silly, empty, and fangless. For all of the emphasis Infinity Ward puts into making Call of Duty look and sound authentic, how is it that Valiant Hearts captures the humanity of war better than the last six Call of Duty games? The video game industry is capable of great things, I know it in my bones. Why do we keep using that incredible power to merely indulge people? We have seen through Extra Life that people uniting around their common interest in video games can save lives and change their communities for the better. Imagine if that passion was backed up by games that could inspire a similar revolution in the world. Let us know in the comments if you found this type of writing helpful/interesting or if you weren't to keen on the idea. We'd love to hear from you either way! *The Act of Killing is available on Netflix Instant if anyone is interested in checking it out for free, and a variety of other services for around $9.99. **The image of the sunflower is actually not a real sunflower. It is from Mass Effect 3. Anyone remember where?
  20. On the second day of E3 I was led into a small, dark theater for a live demonstration of the first half hour of Telltale Games' Borderlands title. Here is what I saw. Obviously, Spoiler Warning for the first 30 minutes of Tales from the Borderlands and for Borderlands 2. Before beginning the demo, the PR team assured everyone that the game was about 85-90% complete in most places and that any awkward or stilted animations were due to the game being incomplete. With that, Borderlands as told by Telltale began. Tales from the Borderlands begins with a clandestine meeting between main characters Rhys, Fiona, and a mysterious wasteland samurai-type character. Both Rhys and Fiona are surprised to see each other and initially refuse to work together until the samurai forces them to tell their respective stories. Rhys begins with his side of the story. The Hyperion corporation has descended into a strange corporate bloodbath since the death of Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. Rhys is an eager corporate climber who has almost made it to the Handsome Jack's office. Unfortunately, his jerky acquaintance Vasquez (voiced by the hilarious Patrick Warburton) beat him to the seat of power. In a threat-filled meeting with Vasquez, Rhys happens to overhear that a deal for a Vault Key will be going down on Pandora in the next couple of hours. Eager to hog the glory a Vault Key would bring, Rhys and two of his friends concoct a scheme to beat Vasquez to the deal and purchase it for themselves. As anyone who has played a Borderlands game could tell you, plans made involving Pandora rarely end well. At this point in the demo, a few things were readily apparent. Telltale has gone to great lengths to emulate the style of the Borderlands franchise; it really does look right at home next to Borderlands 1 and 2. However, while it has the look of a Borderlands game, it maintains the mechanics of traditional Telltale adventures like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The timed conversation options return, but this time there are also opportunities to examine objects, people, sounds, etc. with technology that Rhys has had embedded into his body. Though similar to more recent Telltale games, Tales from the Borderlands diverges in its tone. Whereas The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us are fairly dark and grim, Tales from the Borderlands embraces the series penchant for humor and I often found myself chuckling and outright laughing. The plan to beat Vasquez to the Vault Key appears to go smoothly right up until Rhys and company try to interact with one of the Pandora-dwellers whom they affectionately refer to as Grease Face. Understandably, Grease Face doesn't take kindly to Hyperion employees calling him Grease Face. As a fight seems to be imminent, Rhys calls down a combat ready robot from Hyperion headquarters. There are additions to the gameplay that could prove interesting in later episodes. There are loot crates and money that can be picked up and used to bribe characters or buy items, though we never saw how this mechanic would work in-game. The robot Rhys calls upon can be outfitted with different weapons prior to being called down and player's decisions regarding its loadout will affect how the battle progresses. After Rhys escapes the enraged Grease Face and his crew, he makes it to the meeting with the Vault Key dealers. After some tense dialogue and a standoff between the two parties, Rhys straight up rips a guy's heart out. At this point, Fiona interrupts to tell the samurai that Rhys' description of how the standoff ended was a complete lie. She begins to tell her version of the story and how she was there to see what happened and depending on her response three wildly different versions of events can be created. With that, the demo ended. I'm still not sure that the five part Tales from the Borderlands will be able to deliver the same dramatic punches that The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us have proved capable of pulling, but that might not be an issue if it can sustain its level of comedy. Overall, I found Tales from the Borderlands entertaining. I'm still not completely sold on the concept, but I'm willing to strap myself in for another Telltale adventure when it releases later this summer on PC, XBLA, and PSN.
  21. The song that appeared in the credits of A House Divided, the second episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2 developed by Telltale Games, is now available to download for free. "In The Pines" was arranged by series composer Jared Emerson-Johnson and performed by Janel Drewis, who also works for Telltale as an animator. The song is an adaptation of an Appalachian folk song dating back to the 1870s. The full soundtrack to Season 2 will release after all five episodes have been released. However, for those who can't get enough of the heartful music found in The Walking Dead games, there are several other tracks available for purchase from the Andadel Bandcamp page. You can download "In The Pines" here.
  22. Over the weekend, Telltale Games held a panel at SXSW where they discussed a few tantalizing tidbits from their upcoming adventure series set in the Borderlands universe. Tales from the Borderlands is set after the events of Borderlands 2 and will follow the two new characters shown in the reveal trailer. These newcomers, Fiona and Rhys, will tell the episodic story through a series of flashbacks centered around their adventures on the planet Pandora. Given that there are two main characters, players will be able to play through events from different perspectives. Polygon has reported that designer Harrison Pink has confirmed that there will be some of the shooting that Borderlands fans have come to expect from the franchise, just that it will be done in a "Telltale way." Telltale is clearly aiming to have a new episodic venture with a bit more of a lighthearted tone. Tales from the Borderlands seeks to capture some of the spirit from Tales of Monkey Island and set itself apart from grim and gritty worlds of The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead. What do you think? Are you guys ready for a Borderlands adventure game or do you think that it is better left as a gun-filled loot fest?
  23. During the VGX award ceremony this past weekend, Telltale announced that they were currently developing games based in both the Borderlands and the Game of Thrones universes in addition to The Wolf Among Us and the second season of The Walking Dead. Telltale exceeded all expectations by announcing not one, but two new franchises that both have immense promise in a similar game format as the immensely popular The Walking Dead adaptation the developer released last year. Indeed, many were not expecting anything at all given the recent release of the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, a Telltale series based on the Fables graphic novels and season two of The Walking Dead dropping this month. Both Tales from the Borderlands: A Telltale Series and Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series appear to be developed along with the content creators in both cases. Gearbox Software will provide input on the Borderlands title, while HBO will have some say in the Game of Thrones game. Currently, both series are slated for a 2014 release alongside The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead.below you can view the announcement trailers and get excite for what the future may bring. We can only guess that Telltale is keeping so many plates spinning in order to distract fans from the one or two gaps between episode releases, which plagued the initial stages of their episodic gaming model. What do you guys think? Is Telltale trying to do too much too soon?
  24. Telltale’s Batman kicked off with a promising, but so-so, pilot and goes home with a triumphant bang. City of Light combines dramatic storytelling with an increased focus on gameplay to conclude Bruce Wayne’s struggle on an overall high note. The final episode impresses right out of the gate by presenting two vastly different opening chapters (determined by the player’s final choice in Guardian of Gotham). Both introductions kick things off in high gear with tense conversations and high-octane action. I also enjoyed seeing how the effects of the previous episode’s ending ripple throughout City of Light. These differences chiefly affect Batman’s tech and provide worthwhile differences in gameplay, including a neat little costume makeover midway through. After playing every chapter in the series twice, City of Light’s playthroughs feel the most unique from one another. Villain arcs wrap up in satisfying, if bittersweet, fashion. It feels liberating to finally knock off adversaries after being pressed under their thumbs for so long. I especially enjoyed the dark revelation to Catwoman’s story, which manages to surprise even a wised-up fan like myself. Lady Arkham, however, left me wanting a bit more in terms of development. Although City of Light illuminates her shadowy origin in a chilling segment, key questions I’ve been pondering in regards to her rise to power remain shrouded in mystery and feel like plot holes. On a positive front, Telltale succeeds at hammering the idea that she’s ultimately a disturbing, twisted reflection of the type of person Bruce Wayne could have potentially become. In a tale centered on Bruce’s identity crisis – both as a Wayne and under the cowl– Lady Arkham stacks up as an appropriate foil. Her climatic encounter with the Bat ends in spectacular fashion as well. Witnessing the strained bond between Alfred and Batman has been a highlight throughout the series and comes to an emotional head. Their relationship has been severely tested; Alfred blames his lack of honesty regarding the Wayne family’s sinister past for causing many of Bruce’s current woes. He’s not completely wrong, but I always did my best to mend that crumbling bridge. That love endures nerve-wracking trials in the third act that, while ultimately leading to the same outcome regardless of making a pivotal choice, leads to one of the series’ more touching scenes. Speaking of choices, do yours matter in the end? Yes and no. In traditional Telltale fashion, the story wraps up largely the same with notable differences peppered about to highlight your decision-making. However, City of Light’s final decision, as well as an ominous favor promised to a certain character, are seemingly poised to pay off in a potential second season. If a sequel comes to pass – and I expect/hope it will – I don’t mind Telltale leaving these enticing threads dangling as they’ve already got me itching to see more from this universe. If not, then they’ve left some large narrative holes, to say the least. A lack of engaging gameplay hindered previous entries in the series. That’s not the case in episode five. City of Light showcases everything Telltale’s Batman has to offer with the most interactive sequences yet. The latest detective puzzles require increased deductive effort making them more fun to unravel. Even a fresh (albeit simple) spin on the concept appears when Batman must locate a missing ally. Unlike certain previous gameplay activities, nothing here feels uninspired or tacked on. Fast-paced and frequently occurring fight sequences entertain more so than in any other episode. Frustratingly, enduring technical flaws occasionally mar the fun. A stuttering frame rate and hard crashes to the home screen make the experience feel like it’s held together by bat guano at times. One especially bizarre (and humorous) bug caused an NPC to become invisible save for his floating eyes and teeth, sucking much of the gravity from an otherwise violent combat segment. Conclusion Technical flaws and a strange, underwhelming final scene aside, City of Light closes the book on Telltale’s captivating Batman saga in good form. A wonderful balance of high drama and interactive thrills kept me glued to the screen in a way that hadn’t happened since the stellar Children of Arkham. It’s been a lot of fun watching Telltale successfully shake-up Batman’s mythos while simultaneously making a Bruce Wayne-focused experience genuinely enjoyable. City of Light is a fine conclusion that inspires hope for a sequel. Batman: Episode 5 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is available for Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android View full article
  25. Review: Batman Episode 5 - City of Light

    Telltale’s Batman kicked off with a promising, but so-so, pilot and goes home with a triumphant bang. City of Light combines dramatic storytelling with an increased focus on gameplay to conclude Bruce Wayne’s struggle on an overall high note. The final episode impresses right out of the gate by presenting two vastly different opening chapters (determined by the player’s final choice in Guardian of Gotham). Both introductions kick things off in high gear with tense conversations and high-octane action. I also enjoyed seeing how the effects of the previous episode’s ending ripple throughout City of Light. These differences chiefly affect Batman’s tech and provide worthwhile differences in gameplay, including a neat little costume makeover midway through. After playing every chapter in the series twice, City of Light’s playthroughs feel the most unique from one another. Villain arcs wrap up in satisfying, if bittersweet, fashion. It feels liberating to finally knock off adversaries after being pressed under their thumbs for so long. I especially enjoyed the dark revelation to Catwoman’s story, which manages to surprise even a wised-up fan like myself. Lady Arkham, however, left me wanting a bit more in terms of development. Although City of Light illuminates her shadowy origin in a chilling segment, key questions I’ve been pondering in regards to her rise to power remain shrouded in mystery and feel like plot holes. On a positive front, Telltale succeeds at hammering the idea that she’s ultimately a disturbing, twisted reflection of the type of person Bruce Wayne could have potentially become. In a tale centered on Bruce’s identity crisis – both as a Wayne and under the cowl– Lady Arkham stacks up as an appropriate foil. Her climatic encounter with the Bat ends in spectacular fashion as well. Witnessing the strained bond between Alfred and Batman has been a highlight throughout the series and comes to an emotional head. Their relationship has been severely tested; Alfred blames his lack of honesty regarding the Wayne family’s sinister past for causing many of Bruce’s current woes. He’s not completely wrong, but I always did my best to mend that crumbling bridge. That love endures nerve-wracking trials in the third act that, while ultimately leading to the same outcome regardless of making a pivotal choice, leads to one of the series’ more touching scenes. Speaking of choices, do yours matter in the end? Yes and no. In traditional Telltale fashion, the story wraps up largely the same with notable differences peppered about to highlight your decision-making. However, City of Light’s final decision, as well as an ominous favor promised to a certain character, are seemingly poised to pay off in a potential second season. If a sequel comes to pass – and I expect/hope it will – I don’t mind Telltale leaving these enticing threads dangling as they’ve already got me itching to see more from this universe. If not, then they’ve left some large narrative holes, to say the least. A lack of engaging gameplay hindered previous entries in the series. That’s not the case in episode five. City of Light showcases everything Telltale’s Batman has to offer with the most interactive sequences yet. The latest detective puzzles require increased deductive effort making them more fun to unravel. Even a fresh (albeit simple) spin on the concept appears when Batman must locate a missing ally. Unlike certain previous gameplay activities, nothing here feels uninspired or tacked on. Fast-paced and frequently occurring fight sequences entertain more so than in any other episode. Frustratingly, enduring technical flaws occasionally mar the fun. A stuttering frame rate and hard crashes to the home screen make the experience feel like it’s held together by bat guano at times. One especially bizarre (and humorous) bug caused an NPC to become invisible save for his floating eyes and teeth, sucking much of the gravity from an otherwise violent combat segment. Conclusion Technical flaws and a strange, underwhelming final scene aside, City of Light closes the book on Telltale’s captivating Batman saga in good form. A wonderful balance of high drama and interactive thrills kept me glued to the screen in a way that hadn’t happened since the stellar Children of Arkham. It’s been a lot of fun watching Telltale successfully shake-up Batman’s mythos while simultaneously making a Bruce Wayne-focused experience genuinely enjoyable. City of Light is a fine conclusion that inspires hope for a sequel. Batman: Episode 5 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is available for Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android