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  1. Telltale Games has been experiencing a golden age since the release of The Walking Dead season one three years ago. I very much contend that the studio hasn’t made a bad game since, and their first season of Game of Thrones is no exception. That doesn’t mean, however, that Telltale’s Game of Thrones exists free of problems. Despite the backing name of HBO’s most popular show, this might just be one of Telltale’s most muddled offerings since Lee and Clementine turned the company’s fortunes in 2013. I believe that the core narrative problems stem from an effort to emulate the show and books by cutting between our five main characters combined with the limitations of Telltale’s aging storytelling infrastructure. *minor spoilers ahead* The first season of Telltale’s Game of Thrones focuses on the plight of the noble House Forrester. The small, but important, family tasked with supplying the kingdom’s ironwood falls into dark times as it becomes embroiled in the political fallout of the infamous Red Wedding. Rotating between five members of the Forrester household spread across Westeros and beyond, players are tasked with keeping House Forrester from being wiped out by the scheming Whitehills and their backer, Ramsey Snow. The first episode proves incredibly effective at illustrating this premise while also introducing all of the main cast and their individual plot threads. We have Gared Tuttle, a squire to Lord Forrester who hears the nobleman's cryptic last words that send him on a journey to the Wall and beyond. In their darkest hour, the Forrester family sends for the exiled Asher Forrester who has become a mercenary across the Narrow Sea. Stranded in King’s Landing, the political heart of Westeros, Mira Forrester plays a dangerous game to protect her house from afar. In the absence of his father and elder brothers, Ethan Forrester must put aside his childhood in order to keep the Forrester keep of Ironrath from falling into devious hands. Gravely wounded and presumed dead, Rodrik, the eldest son of the Forrester clan creeps back home to prevent almost certain disaster. These various plot threads weave together to form a narrative that is at turns compelling and frustrating. While cutting between the diverse cast of characters certainly provides an interesting dynamic that other Telltale series lack, it sometimes felt more like a gimmick than a genuine asset. This feels particularly true of episodes two through four which seems to have certain characters treading water while more interesting things happen elsewhere. Writing diverse storylines and characters can be incredibly difficult, but because of the dead air in those episodes the momentum of the story slows to a crawl. For example, we seem to spend an awful lot of time with Mira in King’s Landing as she tries to make allies, but the payoff for that time often feels unrelated to what actions were taken during the time we were with her. That time could have been spent building relationships between other characters, bolstering the importance of player decisions. That isn’t to say that Mira doesn’t have important things to do during the six episode series, but rather sometimes the story seems to be subservient to the format instead of the reverse. That isn’t to say that there aren’t really awesome moments in Telltale’s Game of Thrones. Choosing to defiantly stand up to the Whitehills; guiding Mira through a delicate dinner party to successfully uncover an infernal plot against the Forrester family; and the heartrending climax of episode six are some of the best written moments in Telltale’s catalog. Those moments really work and feel equal parts Telltale at the height of its powers and Game of Thrones offering its mix of honor, duty, and backstabbery. However, I think that above all, Telltale’s Game of Thrones reveals the limits of what their current engine and game design strategy is capable of accomplishing. I had almost nothing but good things to say about the Tales from the Borderlands series that released alongside Game of Thrones. However, it existed comfortably in a relatively linear story that could diverge and reconnect relatively easily. Telltale’s design formula and engine work best within those constraints. To say that the world presented in Game of Thrones operates on the same level misses the mark entirely. Throughout the series I was constantly questioning why there weren’t more options. “Why doesn’t Mira do this? Why doesn’t Rodrik say that?” I’d think, “Surely there are other ways of dealing with this situation.” Having an incredibly limited way of dealing with tricky political situations seems at odds with the setting depicted in Game of Thrones. Telltale needed to do something a bit different mechanically to really pull off this series, but it stuck to the formula. That decision ultimately works to the series' detriment. While many Telltale games offer relatively few truly game-altering choices, often the illusion of choice is enough. Not so with Game of Thrones. It is actually frustrating to lose favor in court regardless of whether you play safe or live on the edge. That some important figures react the same way regardless of players’ decisions feels wrong for Game of Thrones. That I was so frustrated by the preordained decisions shows how attached I became to the cast through the well-written dialogue, but also shows that something else wasn't quite working. Not only does the story suffer from periods of treading water and impotence, the artistic style just doesn’t work the majority of the time. They were clearly going for an oil painting aesthetic that only sometimes hits the mark. More often than not, a strange background filter renders background objects to look incredibly pixelated or even poorly drawn. These starkly contrasting background objects appear most frequently in the first four episodes, but Telltale seems to have been aware of the problem as those jarring visuals are dimished in the final episodes. The only moments I wasn’t actively bothered by the visual choices for this style were in the establishing shots, but even those were often reused between episodes. Coming on the heels of Tales from the Borderlands, I expected to hear some captivating music. Perhaps Telltale would include a chilling rendition of 'The Rains of Castamere' or more variations of Talia’s lament. Unfortunately, that never happens. The music serves its purpose, but it never soars to the heights of tracks like 'In the Pines' or 'To the Top.' While Tales from the Borderlands feels like composer Jared Emerson-Johnson on his A-game, Game of Thrones feels more like his B-game. Conclusion: Telltale’s Game of Thrones is made for people who are already thoroughly invested in the world depicted in A Song of Ice and Fire. If you knew place names like King’s Landing, the Wall, or 'The Rains of Castamere,' you’ll thoroughly enjoy Telltale’s Game of Thrones. Just beware that this is definitively only the first season, and it does not end on a satisfying conclusion. The fate of House Forrester is left hanging in the wind and mysteries like the North Grove go unexplained. There are very genuine high points that will leave you gaping; moments that will have you giving an involuntary fist-pump; and periods of rage toward certain characters. The emotional highs are captivating, but it takes some patience to accept Telltale’s latest offering for what it is and bear with the plodding times between those highs. Game of Thrones – A Telltale Games Series was reviewed on PC and is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android.
  2. Telltale Games has been experiencing a golden age since the release of The Walking Dead season one three years ago. I very much contend that the studio hasn’t made a bad game since, and their first season of Game of Thrones is no exception. That doesn’t mean, however, that Telltale’s Game of Thrones exists free of problems. Despite the backing name of HBO’s most popular show, this might just be one of Telltale’s most muddled offerings since Lee and Clementine turned the company’s fortunes in 2013. I believe that the core narrative problems stem from an effort to emulate the show and books by cutting between our five main characters combined with the limitations of Telltale’s aging storytelling infrastructure. *minor spoilers ahead* The first season of Telltale’s Game of Thrones focuses on the plight of the noble House Forrester. The small, but important, family tasked with supplying the kingdom’s ironwood falls into dark times as it becomes embroiled in the political fallout of the infamous Red Wedding. Rotating between five members of the Forrester household spread across Westeros and beyond, players are tasked with keeping House Forrester from being wiped out by the scheming Whitehills and their backer, Ramsey Snow. The first episode proves incredibly effective at illustrating this premise while also introducing all of the main cast and their individual plot threads. We have Gared Tuttle, a squire to Lord Forrester who hears the nobleman's cryptic last words that send him on a journey to the Wall and beyond. In their darkest hour, the Forrester family sends for the exiled Asher Forrester who has become a mercenary across the Narrow Sea. Stranded in King’s Landing, the political heart of Westeros, Mira Forrester plays a dangerous game to protect her house from afar. In the absence of his father and elder brothers, Ethan Forrester must put aside his childhood in order to keep the Forrester keep of Ironrath from falling into devious hands. Gravely wounded and presumed dead, Rodrik, the eldest son of the Forrester clan creeps back home to prevent almost certain disaster. These various plot threads weave together to form a narrative that is at turns compelling and frustrating. While cutting between the diverse cast of characters certainly provides an interesting dynamic that other Telltale series lack, it sometimes felt more like a gimmick than a genuine asset. This feels particularly true of episodes two through four which seems to have certain characters treading water while more interesting things happen elsewhere. Writing diverse storylines and characters can be incredibly difficult, but because of the dead air in those episodes the momentum of the story slows to a crawl. For example, we seem to spend an awful lot of time with Mira in King’s Landing as she tries to make allies, but the payoff for that time often feels unrelated to what actions were taken during the time we were with her. That time could have been spent building relationships between other characters, bolstering the importance of player decisions. That isn’t to say that Mira doesn’t have important things to do during the six episode series, but rather sometimes the story seems to be subservient to the format instead of the reverse. That isn’t to say that there aren’t really awesome moments in Telltale’s Game of Thrones. Choosing to defiantly stand up to the Whitehills; guiding Mira through a delicate dinner party to successfully uncover an infernal plot against the Forrester family; and the heartrending climax of episode six are some of the best written moments in Telltale’s catalog. Those moments really work and feel equal parts Telltale at the height of its powers and Game of Thrones offering its mix of honor, duty, and backstabbery. However, I think that above all, Telltale’s Game of Thrones reveals the limits of what their current engine and game design strategy is capable of accomplishing. I had almost nothing but good things to say about the Tales from the Borderlands series that released alongside Game of Thrones. However, it existed comfortably in a relatively linear story that could diverge and reconnect relatively easily. Telltale’s design formula and engine work best within those constraints. To say that the world presented in Game of Thrones operates on the same level misses the mark entirely. Throughout the series I was constantly questioning why there weren’t more options. “Why doesn’t Mira do this? Why doesn’t Rodrik say that?” I’d think, “Surely there are other ways of dealing with this situation.” Having an incredibly limited way of dealing with tricky political situations seems at odds with the setting depicted in Game of Thrones. Telltale needed to do something a bit different mechanically to really pull off this series, but it stuck to the formula. That decision ultimately works to the series' detriment. While many Telltale games offer relatively few truly game-altering choices, often the illusion of choice is enough. Not so with Game of Thrones. It is actually frustrating to lose favor in court regardless of whether you play safe or live on the edge. That some important figures react the same way regardless of players’ decisions feels wrong for Game of Thrones. That I was so frustrated by the preordained decisions shows how attached I became to the cast through the well-written dialogue, but also shows that something else wasn't quite working. Not only does the story suffer from periods of treading water and impotence, the artistic style just doesn’t work the majority of the time. They were clearly going for an oil painting aesthetic that only sometimes hits the mark. More often than not, a strange background filter renders background objects to look incredibly pixelated or even poorly drawn. These starkly contrasting background objects appear most frequently in the first four episodes, but Telltale seems to have been aware of the problem as those jarring visuals are dimished in the final episodes. The only moments I wasn’t actively bothered by the visual choices for this style were in the establishing shots, but even those were often reused between episodes. Coming on the heels of Tales from the Borderlands, I expected to hear some captivating music. Perhaps Telltale would include a chilling rendition of 'The Rains of Castamere' or more variations of Talia’s lament. Unfortunately, that never happens. The music serves its purpose, but it never soars to the heights of tracks like 'In the Pines' or 'To the Top.' While Tales from the Borderlands feels like composer Jared Emerson-Johnson on his A-game, Game of Thrones feels more like his B-game. Conclusion: Telltale’s Game of Thrones is made for people who are already thoroughly invested in the world depicted in A Song of Ice and Fire. If you knew place names like King’s Landing, the Wall, or 'The Rains of Castamere,' you’ll thoroughly enjoy Telltale’s Game of Thrones. Just beware that this is definitively only the first season, and it does not end on a satisfying conclusion. The fate of House Forrester is left hanging in the wind and mysteries like the North Grove go unexplained. There are very genuine high points that will leave you gaping; moments that will have you giving an involuntary fist-pump; and periods of rage toward certain characters. The emotional highs are captivating, but it takes some patience to accept Telltale’s latest offering for what it is and bear with the plodding times between those highs. Game of Thrones – A Telltale Games Series was reviewed on PC and is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android. View full article
  3. 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!
  4. 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! View full article
  5. Telltale concludes its Borderlands series next week and has one more trailer up their sleeves to build anticipation. The developer teases an unprecedented amount of explosions, revelations, and climactic tension as the cast of characters races for the riches of a vault with a nearly assembled key. Tales from the Borderlands Episode Five - The Vault of the Traveler releases on October 20 for PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3; October 21 for Xbox One and Xbox 360; and October 22 for iOS and Android.
  6. Telltale concludes its Borderlands series next week and has one more trailer up their sleeves to build anticipation. The developer teases an unprecedented amount of explosions, revelations, and climactic tension as the cast of characters races for the riches of a vault with a nearly assembled key. Tales from the Borderlands Episode Five - The Vault of the Traveler releases on October 20 for PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3; October 21 for Xbox One and Xbox 360; and October 22 for iOS and Android. View full article
  7. There are a lot of things to love about the Tales from the Borderlands series from Telltale Games. It’s often laugh-out-loud funny, equal parts charming and violent, and can even muster up the capacity to be heartfelt from time to time. There is this underlying sincerity to it all that makes the series work better than one might expect from a story-driven adventure set in the insane universe of Borderlands. While an enjoyable segment of adventure, Episode Three was essentially the set up for the craziness that makes up the meat of Escape Plan Bravo. Our heroes, backed into a corner and left with no other option, must undertake the biggest con of their lives to secure the final piece of the puzzle that will lead them to a legendary vault. Failure to secure the piece will mean death for everyone involved. It’s a classic set up that slowly becomes more and more convoluted as parts of the plan fail or run into snags. By the end of the episode, just when things couldn’t possibly become worse, the stage is set for the finale with an improbably catastrophic turn of events. In the middle of all the enjoyable con artistry, the game pauses for an unexpected character death. It serves as a reminder that Pandora is a harsh and violent place where death is never far away, even during hijinks and heists. More importantly, this scene again shows that Tales from the Borderlands can achieve more emotional high-notes than laughter and visceral excitement. The death hits home as genuinely sad. It is an effective send off for a character who has become a staple of the series, though I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if that character turned out to have survived through a series of improbable events. Picking the highlight of Escape Plan Bravo is easily done. Towards the end of the episode, an imaginary gun battle breaks out with a bunch of accountants who are upset about discrepancies with the books. The amazingly creative and hilarious scene features dozens of accountants getting finger-gunned down and imaginary grenade explosions. It injects some levity into an otherwise tense con. Those two aforementioned scenes demonstrate the solid construction of the individual episodes of Tales from the Borderlands. It all feels balanced. Events are funny, but never wander into outright farce territory. An element of danger always underlies the humor. However, that danger is managed in such a way that it never feels suffocating, allowing the humor to speak for itself while making the tragedies encountered over the course of four episodes feel earned or at least understandable. It’s a precarious path for the series to walk, but it manages to toe the lines with apparent ease. From a technical perspective, Escape Plan Bravo ran the smoothest out of any of the Tales from the Borderlands episodes to date. I encountered no graphical hiccups or bugs during my two hour playthrough, which led to a very pleasant experience. Not much else to say on this other than it works without a hitch. Visually, Escape Plan Bravo is probably the most diverse and eye-candy filled episode in the series to date. We get to see more than the blasted surface of Pandora, which makes for a nice diversion from crazy psychos, monsters, and eccentric locals. There is an air of novelty to the visuals that is hard to pin down on any one part of the visual design. Perhaps a part of what makes thing so interesting to look at is that they come with a lot of meaning. People who have played through Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Borderlands 2 will get a lot more out of Episode Four as it deals rather heavily with Handsome Jack. It manages to humanize the character to such a degree that it is perilously easy to forget that a cold-hearted villain lurks beneath Handsom Jack's outward charms. The one complaint that I can possibly level against Escape Plan Bravo is that the overarching plot is very predictable. If you have ever seen a heist or con movie, you’ll understand where Episode Four is going. Even if you haven’t, the set up leads to a large chunk of the episode feeling like formulaic moving from Point A to Point B in the most over-the-top ways imaginable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but part of the fun of previous episodes was the blindsiding unexpectedness of encountering Pandorans living their hyperbolic lives. Conclusion: It is a Telltale Game. Expect great writing, game-changing choices, and some really interesting scenarios. Escape Plan Bravo comes close to being a new high for the series between its dramatic and comedic turns. With the overarching mystery laid out in the framed narrative still unsolved, Episode Five is sure to hold a lot of bombshells and insanity. As it stands, if you played the first three episodes of Tales from the Borderlands, you will be doing yourself a favor by playing Episode Four. Tales from the Borderlands Episode Four – Escape Plan Bravo is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android devices. View full article
  8. There are a lot of things to love about the Tales from the Borderlands series from Telltale Games. It’s often laugh-out-loud funny, equal parts charming and violent, and can even muster up the capacity to be heartfelt from time to time. There is this underlying sincerity to it all that makes the series work better than one might expect from a story-driven adventure set in the insane universe of Borderlands. While an enjoyable segment of adventure, Episode Three was essentially the set up for the craziness that makes up the meat of Escape Plan Bravo. Our heroes, backed into a corner and left with no other option, must undertake the biggest con of their lives to secure the final piece of the puzzle that will lead them to a legendary vault. Failure to secure the piece will mean death for everyone involved. It’s a classic set up that slowly becomes more and more convoluted as parts of the plan fail or run into snags. By the end of the episode, just when things couldn’t possibly become worse, the stage is set for the finale with an improbably catastrophic turn of events. In the middle of all the enjoyable con artistry, the game pauses for an unexpected character death. It serves as a reminder that Pandora is a harsh and violent place where death is never far away, even during hijinks and heists. More importantly, this scene again shows that Tales from the Borderlands can achieve more emotional high-notes than laughter and visceral excitement. The death hits home as genuinely sad. It is an effective send off for a character who has become a staple of the series, though I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if that character turned out to have survived through a series of improbable events. Picking the highlight of Escape Plan Bravo is easily done. Towards the end of the episode, an imaginary gun battle breaks out with a bunch of accountants who are upset about discrepancies with the books. The amazingly creative and hilarious scene features dozens of accountants getting finger-gunned down and imaginary grenade explosions. It injects some levity into an otherwise tense con. Those two aforementioned scenes demonstrate the solid construction of the individual episodes of Tales from the Borderlands. It all feels balanced. Events are funny, but never wander into outright farce territory. An element of danger always underlies the humor. However, that danger is managed in such a way that it never feels suffocating, allowing the humor to speak for itself while making the tragedies encountered over the course of four episodes feel earned or at least understandable. It’s a precarious path for the series to walk, but it manages to toe the lines with apparent ease. From a technical perspective, Escape Plan Bravo ran the smoothest out of any of the Tales from the Borderlands episodes to date. I encountered no graphical hiccups or bugs during my two hour playthrough, which led to a very pleasant experience. Not much else to say on this other than it works without a hitch. Visually, Escape Plan Bravo is probably the most diverse and eye-candy filled episode in the series to date. We get to see more than the blasted surface of Pandora, which makes for a nice diversion from crazy psychos, monsters, and eccentric locals. There is an air of novelty to the visuals that is hard to pin down on any one part of the visual design. Perhaps a part of what makes thing so interesting to look at is that they come with a lot of meaning. People who have played through Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Borderlands 2 will get a lot more out of Episode Four as it deals rather heavily with Handsome Jack. It manages to humanize the character to such a degree that it is perilously easy to forget that a cold-hearted villain lurks beneath Handsom Jack's outward charms. The one complaint that I can possibly level against Escape Plan Bravo is that the overarching plot is very predictable. If you have ever seen a heist or con movie, you’ll understand where Episode Four is going. Even if you haven’t, the set up leads to a large chunk of the episode feeling like formulaic moving from Point A to Point B in the most over-the-top ways imaginable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but part of the fun of previous episodes was the blindsiding unexpectedness of encountering Pandorans living their hyperbolic lives. Conclusion: It is a Telltale Game. Expect great writing, game-changing choices, and some really interesting scenarios. Escape Plan Bravo comes close to being a new high for the series between its dramatic and comedic turns. With the overarching mystery laid out in the framed narrative still unsolved, Episode Five is sure to hold a lot of bombshells and insanity. As it stands, if you played the first three episodes of Tales from the Borderlands, you will be doing yourself a favor by playing Episode Four. Tales from the Borderlands Episode Four – Escape Plan Bravo is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android devices.
  9. Tales from the Borderlands Episode One – Zer0 Sum did a lot of heavy lifting when it came to establishing characters. By the time we saw the credits roll, we knew what our protagonists’ goals were, some of their personality quirks, and understood the insanity of the planet Pandora. Episode Two fleshes out the supporting cast and allows them all to bounce off of each other, interacting in fun and unexpected ways. Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two - Atlas Mugged was reviewed on PC. The basic conceit of Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two is that of an extended chase sequence that slowly transitions into a series of madcap scenarios that would feel right at home in a heist film with a sense of humor. The pacing keeps up the breakneck momentum of Zer0 Sum, but interjects a few slower segments for dramatic effect. The first episode ends with the discovery of a device that puts protagonists Fiona and Rhys on a path toward untold riches while also painting a massive target on their backs. Powerful people want what the duo have and would like to see them dead, just for kicks. The two schemers and their companions struggle to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and reach a cache of valuable technology. Chases can be tricky to pull off well. They walk a tightrope between the basic tension that exists within pursuit (will the heroes be caught or will they escape?) and the desire for novelty. The best chases are straightforward, with just enough of a twist to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Atlas Mugged manages to toe this line well, keeping things fairly simple (if you can call getting shot at by a giant space gun “simple”) while also introducing new elements that keep the chase fresh, like bounty hunters, colossal monsters, and character reveals. I noticed one thing that gives me very slight pause. There seems to be a lot of deus ex machina moments involving a servile Loader Bot. I don’t know if this is an intentional move or if it is just how the writing shook out for the first two episodes, but I count around five times that Loader Bot has shown up at the last second to save everyone. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was leading to an intentional dramatic/joke payoff in future episodes. Given how well the other aspects of the story are coming together and the sheer level of narrative competence on display, it’s likely that a subversion of some sort is in store for this trope. Atlas Mugged deserves praise for how it fleshes out the supporting cast. There wasn’t a whole lot of downtime dedicated to exploring the characters of Vaughn, one of Rhys’ best friends, or Sasha, Fiona’s sister. I didn’t even mention their names in the review of Episode One because the focus was so clearly on Fiona and Rhys, building them up to be protagonists in whom players could invest themselves. We learn that even though Vaughn remains prone to cowardice he tends to rise to the occasion, even finding the experiences on Pandora to be a bit liberating. We also learn more about Sasha through her interactions with Fiona when they revisit their home in the city of Hollowpoint. She and Fiona don’t always agree on important issues and her stubbornness can lead to problems when it comes to forgiveness. These are all little things, but they are important piece of information that serve to humanize the cast in the grand scheme of this episodic series. They have motivations and desires as individuals that are distinct from those of the protagonists. Those differences make the narrative, and by extension the entire game, more thought-provoking. It has been interesting to see Telltale’s take on violence in Tales from the Borderlands differentiate itself from the violence depicted in The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead. A scene early on in Episode Two brought to mind the part of The Walking Dead Season One where players can try to stave off a zombie infection by performing an amputation. The scene is, as you might imagine, painful, uncomfortable, and horribly unpleasant. However, Tales from the Borderlands is not The Walking Dead. Without mincing words, Atlas Mugged requires players to remove someone’s eyeball with a spork. Framed as highly comedic (I mean, it DOES involve a spork!) and gross, the scene manages not to be overly graphic while incorporating slapstick, puns, and situational humor. Two similar situations, one played for horror, the other played for laughs, and both work very well in their respective contexts. This represents another tangible example proving the skill of Tellltale’s writing staff. As far as visuals and gameplay go, Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two is identical to Episode One. The Borderlands aesthetic lends itself very well to Telltale’s game engine leading to a great looking game that is carried along on the strength of its narrative. The only difference between Episode One and Episode Two was that I thought Atlas Mugged ran a tiny bit smoother on my PC. There were a few graphical hiccups, a background mountain flew along with the characters when they were in flight to a different location and Sasha seemed to blink out of existence once or twice. None of these interruptions took me far out of the narrative or would be enough for me to hate the three hours or so I spent playing. Conclusion: Tales from the Borderlands Episode One set a really high bar for Episode Two and I believe Atlas Mugged passed in truly magnificent style. For as much as I love the human drama of The Walking Dead seasons and the fantasy-noir of The Wolf Among Us, for as much as I cried and raged in those games, Tales from the Borderlands makes me laugh and smile, while still retaining an emotional core. Atlas Mugged stands as one of the finest episodes Telltale Games has ever released. Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two - Atlas Mugged is now available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. View full article
  10. Tales from the Borderlands Episode One – Zer0 Sum did a lot of heavy lifting when it came to establishing characters. By the time we saw the credits roll, we knew what our protagonists’ goals were, some of their personality quirks, and understood the insanity of the planet Pandora. Episode Two fleshes out the supporting cast and allows them all to bounce off of each other, interacting in fun and unexpected ways. Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two - Atlas Mugged was reviewed on PC. The basic conceit of Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two is that of an extended chase sequence that slowly transitions into a series of madcap scenarios that would feel right at home in a heist film with a sense of humor. The pacing keeps up the breakneck momentum of Zer0 Sum, but interjects a few slower segments for dramatic effect. The first episode ends with the discovery of a device that puts protagonists Fiona and Rhys on a path toward untold riches while also painting a massive target on their backs. Powerful people want what the duo have and would like to see them dead, just for kicks. The two schemers and their companions struggle to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and reach a cache of valuable technology. Chases can be tricky to pull off well. They walk a tightrope between the basic tension that exists within pursuit (will the heroes be caught or will they escape?) and the desire for novelty. The best chases are straightforward, with just enough of a twist to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Atlas Mugged manages to toe this line well, keeping things fairly simple (if you can call getting shot at by a giant space gun “simple”) while also introducing new elements that keep the chase fresh, like bounty hunters, colossal monsters, and character reveals. I noticed one thing that gives me very slight pause. There seems to be a lot of deus ex machina moments involving a servile Loader Bot. I don’t know if this is an intentional move or if it is just how the writing shook out for the first two episodes, but I count around five times that Loader Bot has shown up at the last second to save everyone. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was leading to an intentional dramatic/joke payoff in future episodes. Given how well the other aspects of the story are coming together and the sheer level of narrative competence on display, it’s likely that a subversion of some sort is in store for this trope. Atlas Mugged deserves praise for how it fleshes out the supporting cast. There wasn’t a whole lot of downtime dedicated to exploring the characters of Vaughn, one of Rhys’ best friends, or Sasha, Fiona’s sister. I didn’t even mention their names in the review of Episode One because the focus was so clearly on Fiona and Rhys, building them up to be protagonists in whom players could invest themselves. We learn that even though Vaughn remains prone to cowardice he tends to rise to the occasion, even finding the experiences on Pandora to be a bit liberating. We also learn more about Sasha through her interactions with Fiona when they revisit their home in the city of Hollowpoint. She and Fiona don’t always agree on important issues and her stubbornness can lead to problems when it comes to forgiveness. These are all little things, but they are important piece of information that serve to humanize the cast in the grand scheme of this episodic series. They have motivations and desires as individuals that are distinct from those of the protagonists. Those differences make the narrative, and by extension the entire game, more thought-provoking. It has been interesting to see Telltale’s take on violence in Tales from the Borderlands differentiate itself from the violence depicted in The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead. A scene early on in Episode Two brought to mind the part of The Walking Dead Season One where players can try to stave off a zombie infection by performing an amputation. The scene is, as you might imagine, painful, uncomfortable, and horribly unpleasant. However, Tales from the Borderlands is not The Walking Dead. Without mincing words, Atlas Mugged requires players to remove someone’s eyeball with a spork. Framed as highly comedic (I mean, it DOES involve a spork!) and gross, the scene manages not to be overly graphic while incorporating slapstick, puns, and situational humor. Two similar situations, one played for horror, the other played for laughs, and both work very well in their respective contexts. This represents another tangible example proving the skill of Tellltale’s writing staff. As far as visuals and gameplay go, Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two is identical to Episode One. The Borderlands aesthetic lends itself very well to Telltale’s game engine leading to a great looking game that is carried along on the strength of its narrative. The only difference between Episode One and Episode Two was that I thought Atlas Mugged ran a tiny bit smoother on my PC. There were a few graphical hiccups, a background mountain flew along with the characters when they were in flight to a different location and Sasha seemed to blink out of existence once or twice. None of these interruptions took me far out of the narrative or would be enough for me to hate the three hours or so I spent playing. Conclusion: Tales from the Borderlands Episode One set a really high bar for Episode Two and I believe Atlas Mugged passed in truly magnificent style. For as much as I love the human drama of The Walking Dead seasons and the fantasy-noir of The Wolf Among Us, for as much as I cried and raged in those games, Tales from the Borderlands makes me laugh and smile, while still retaining an emotional core. Atlas Mugged stands as one of the finest episodes Telltale Games has ever released. Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two - Atlas Mugged is now available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
  11. The second episode of Telltale Games' Tales from the Borderlands series, titled Atlas Mugged, is releasing this month. The five part series continues with Rhys and Fiona following up on the discovery made at the end of Episode One. Between vault hunters, hallucinations, planetary bombardments, colorful locals, and some rather hostile wildlife, the two protagonists and their friends have their work cut out for them just staying alive. Atlas Mugged will be available for download on March 17 for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Android, and iOS. Be sure to read our review of Tales from the Borderlands Episode One: Zer0 Sum for an idea of what Atlas Mugged might have in store. View full article
  12. The second episode of Telltale Games' Tales from the Borderlands series, titled Atlas Mugged, is releasing this month. The five part series continues with Rhys and Fiona following up on the discovery made at the end of Episode One. Between vault hunters, hallucinations, planetary bombardments, colorful locals, and some rather hostile wildlife, the two protagonists and their friends have their work cut out for them just staying alive. Atlas Mugged will be available for download on March 17 for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Android, and iOS. Be sure to read our review of Tales from the Borderlands Episode One: Zer0 Sum for an idea of what Atlas Mugged might have in store.
  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. View full article
  14. 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.
  15. 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. View full article
  16. 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.
  17. 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?
  18. 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? View full article
  19. 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? View full article
  20. 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?
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