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Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2 Review

When I played Season 1 of Telltale’s unique storytelling game set in the world of The Walking Dead, I absolutely loved it – it was my game of the year of 2014.

Will season 2 of this series be able to retain everything which made the first so great? Or will it fail?

Game: Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, PS Vita (Reviewed)

Price: $25 for the full season ($5 per episode)

For those of you that have never played, read, or watched anything to do with The Walking Dead, it’s essentially a zombie apocalypse story that focuses on the survivors and their problems in a world where everything is scarce.

Following on from the events in the first game, you control Clementine, a nine year old girl. The opening starts only a couple of months after the ending of the first game, but before long the game skips eighteen months. This is done, partially, to allow Clementine to develop into her own character. In Season 1 she was a major secondary character, but here she is the playable character, so it’s important to distinguish her a little.

clementine

What I immediately noticed about this game is how much darker it is. This is evident not only from its high age rating, but also from the general atmosphere and artwork. While the first game did have some bright artwork, here the majority of the action is gloomy and upsetting: and sure, this is a gloomy and upsetting story, but some variation would have been nice. At the moment, there’s barely any sort of variation between episodes.

Each episode is its own story, but they all are part of a larger arc. The main story here revolves around Clementine trying to find a new group of survivors and her journey with them, which is an interesting story as she soon gets swept up into a series of events that affect her and her group.

One of the problems I had in this season is that it felt like my choices didn’t matter. Now while I don’t mind the illusion of choice, this game doesn’t allow the role-playing experience the first season had. In the first game you controlled Lee, who acted as a father figure to Clementine since the death of her own parents. Some of the best choices you made as Lee had nothing to do with the story, but how you personally chose to raise Clementine. Examples that spring to mind include punching someone a few times but not enough to seriously damage him, not stealing out of the boot of a car, and so on. These choices had little-to-no effect on the story, but it felt like I was choosing what to do in this world, which I feel is just as important as the major decisions. Here, it’s fairly obvious the major decisions don’t have a major effect (saving characters will just result in them silently in the background) but there’s so little of these minor, role-playing decisions that it doesn’t matter anyway.

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The linear plot itself is pretty decent, featuring some returning characters from season 1 and an exhilarating final episode climax.

The artwork is quite nice, as mentioned previously it’s dark and gloomy but it suits the story. This is definitely a cinematic experience, so I would recommend playing it on a big screen. Season 1 was pretty good on the small Vita screen, but season 2 wasn’t as good on the small screen. I would recommend a console purchase for the full experience.

The sound was decent, the highlight of course being the songs that play during the credits of each episode. There’s nothing really special about the in-episode sound though, but given this is a dialogue-heavy game I don’t expect much from the music anyway.

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The biggest failure of this game was its lack of optimisation. It was occasionally slow and had some bugs; for instance at one point the dialogue for a scene played while the scene was still loading and then I had to watch the scene in silence. Episode 3 also crashed to the home screen at one point, which was a little upsetting but fortunately I was able to load from the most recent scene. I can’t comment on the other platforms, but I would recommend avoiding the PS Vita version, as it is, out of the platforms I’ve played Telltale games on, the least optimised.

So let’s some up what we have here: a good plot, decent storytelling, good gameplay, and good graphics. What we have here is a good game, but unfortunately one that just falls shy of the great and amazing games I am used to from Telltale. I give The Walking Dead: Season 2 a 3.5/5 objectively and a 3.5/5 subjectively.

Positives

+ Good Plot

+ Good Graphics

7/10

Negatives

– Decisions not as good as expected from Telltale

– Bugs and other optimisation issues

 

Tales from the Borderlands Review

Tales From the Borderlands – Full Season Review

Telltale’s become really famous the past couple of years, in part due to their fantastic emotional storylines and tough decision making gameplay. And when the company announced its partnership with Gearbox Software and 2K Games to deliver Tales from the Borderlands, I was a little surprised. But then I started thinking – and the two seem like they could be a good combination. The art is similar, the world is large, so surely this game would have to be somewhat decent, right?

There’s one problem: I’ve never properly played any Borderlands game. I played about half an hour of the second game with a friend once, but that’s all I had when I started playing Tales from the Borderlands. So I was not discovering whether this game is good from the point of view of someone who is familiar with the franchise, but a newcomer, who knows next to nothing about the world.

Game: Tales from the Borderlands
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS3, XB1, XB360, iOS, Android (mobile versions are the full game)Price: ~$25 USD for the complete season on PC. On other platforms, the first episode can be played for free, and the other episodes can be bought together in a season pass for about ~$25 USD.
A Copy of this Game was Provided for Review

For those of you unfamiliar with Telltale Games, allow me to fill you in on the genre of games they make. Telltale develops episodic adventure games. The games generally revolve around a character that the player controls, and makes decisions, dialogue choices, and also solves basic puzzles to advance the game. Telltale games are known to have tough decisions to make, such as choosing whether to keep a character alive. If that sounds a little boring, its because Telltale games are a heavy, emotional narrative that causes you to become emotionally attached to the characters, which is what makes these decisions so difficult.

Episode One, Zer0 Sum, opens with the player-controlled character Rhys, his accounting buddy Vaughn, and their helpful secretary friend Yvette. Rhys is expecting a promotion at his company, Hyperion, famed for the psychopath Handsome Jack, and Rhys has killed a lot of people to get to his position. However, he finds his rival, Vasquez, at his old boss’s desk, as Rhys’ old boss floats past the window. Vasquez demotes Rhys, and Rhys wants revenge.
To take revenge, Rhys and Vaughn head down to Pandora, the planet their space station orbits around, to take advantage of a deal Vasquez was going to make regarding a “vault key”, which can open a vault which leads to treasure. But the deal starts going wrong.

At this point, we’re introduced to a second player-controlled character, Fiona, at a camp in the future (the majority of this game is told as Rhys and Fiona were telling it to their kidnapper). Fiona promptly explains that Rhys is wrong, and starts telling her side of the story.

Fiona is sisters with Sasha, and they work with their father, Felix (who adopted Fiona and Sasha). They’re con artists, and are attempting their biggest con yet: to sell a fake vault key to a Hyperion employee (Hyperion isn’t liked much on Pandora). This is, of course, how they run into Rhys and Vaughn. A host of unlikely events ensue, and ultimately the characters must work together.

That’s all the necessary context you really need to understand the game, and since so much of this game revolves around the plot, I won’t talk about any other part of the plot in order to prevent spoilers.

Because the plot in this game is really, really, good. I thought episode one was a rather bland affair, with too much backstory, and then it just seems to drag on and on. The first episode took two and a half hours for me to complete, whereas the others only took about two. And even though its only an extra half an hour, in the first episode when you haven’t developed an emotional attachement to the characters, it just seems to drag. But episode two is a lot better. And episode three was even better. And episode four was even better. And episode five was a thrilling and fantastic conclusion to the series. Each episode seems to take everything up a notch, and it really works. In Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I thought the series dropped off a little after episode three. In Tales from the Borderlands, each episode keeps getting better and better. And I think that’s because there’s several constantly developing mysteries that expand over the course of the episodes.

The plot is also helped with the fantastic voice acting. These characters all manage to convey so much with their voices, and also have a varied cast. There’s a few robots, for example, that behave like the other characters in that you can interact with them. The superb acting in this really makes it feel like it’s real. It helps a lot with the immersion.

The graphics in the game are Telltale’s usual affair, cel-shaded graphics, and they looked pretty good. The Steam page says its not recommended for computers with Intel Integrated Graphics, which I have, and so I was surprised the game even ran. I had the graphics on low, but the game still looked nice. The art is superb, and it fits in the Borderlands universe perfectly.

Tales from the Borderlands Full Season Review

An example of the art and humour that is in Tales from the Borderlands

The gamplay was also great. Dialogue choices are displayed on four lines at the bottom of the screen, and you just choose one with your mouse to advance the plot/make a decision. All of the decisions are timed as well, and if you don’t make a decision quickly enough, you say nothing. Fortunately, there’s usually more than enough time to read your options and make a decision. The puzzle solving sequences are nothing complex, but are still enjoyable. They’re usually walking around and pressing some buttons. The action sequences are much more enjoyable, and revolve around quick time events using WASD, Q and E, and mouse clicks. They’re also simple, but some of my favourite moments of the game come from the quick time action events.

Tales from the Borderlands puzzle solving

An example of what the puzzle solving view looks like

I was also somewhat surprised at how good the humour was in this game. There’s some really good moments of genuine humour, such as Rhys and Fiona bickering with each other in the present day, Telltale poking fun at how their games work (such as substituting the infamous _______ will remember that for other things), and general moments of absurdity. I was chuckling at some moments, because this game manages to pull of humour really well.

Tales from the Borderlands humour

Telltale poking fun at themselves with a different message instead of the “remember this” message

But, this game also manages to pull off other emotions great as well. There’s some really saddening moments in this game, and at times you do have to make some tough decisions. Things that seem like small decisions can come back and surprise you later. And the game transitions from humerous moments to sadder moments great as well. No part of this game feels out of place.

However, I think this game has a few problems. The first major one I have is with episode one, I honestly think it was too long for an episode. As I played the rest of the series, I see why episode one was so necessary, but playing it was just so unenjoyable. Episode five felt like it dragged on a bit at the start as well, but it kept having new developments to keep it interesting, so it didn’t stay that way. Episode one doesn’t really have the new developments until the final half an hour, and then it just felt a little too late to get me interested again. So if you download episode one for free to try it out, and you think it drags on a little, trust me, it gets better.

I had two minor problems with the game, which aren’t that big of a deal, but would have been the icing on the cake. The first is that the quick time events would sometimes come out of nowhere, and I would miss them and die. Fortunately, the game only restarts at the start of that scene, which is a five minute wait maximum, so it’s not too bad. Some missed quick time events can be recovered from without a penalty, which is nice. The second is that I didn’t always feel like the choices I made mattered. I feel like some of the major choices of the game would have resulted in the same outcome anyway – and with some reading, I found this to be true, which is a little disappointing from a studio that prides itself on having choices matter. I didn’t have this problem with The Walking Dead, but apparently that was the same way. I had a hunch on this one though. I’m willing to overlook this flaw because the story was really good, and also because there was a section at the end that did have consequences for you depending on how you treated certain characters, and whether you said the right thing at a certain time. I was impressed by that, because I think that’s actually a fairly sizeable consequence, some of which resulted from really small decisions I’d made earlier in the season (and when I say consequence, I don’t necessarily mean something bad).

All in all, I was really impressed by this season. Even though I knew next-to-nothing about the franchise, the game fills you in on the pieces you need to know, and still delivers a fantastic storyline even if you don’t know the franchise. I was reading that sections of this game tie in with The Pre-Sequel!, which is another Borderlands game, so I think if you are a fan you will definitely have an even better time playing through this than I did. In fact, if you are a Borderlands fan than this game is definitely worth playing. If you’re not a Borderlands fan, but want a good, exciting, humourous and tragic sci-fi story, than this game is worth playing. But I think that to some people, the humourous nature and style of this game might not appeal, which is a shame because this game has really good plot twists and is probably one of my favourite games from the past few years.

I found it quite difficult to rate this game, because I probably would have been willing to look past its minor flaws, but I just couldn’t get past how much I found episode one average. I would have given episodes three, four, and five a 10/10 score, but I think overall, this season is dragged down slightly by its first episode, which is a real shame.

Positives

+ Fantastic Plot

+ Fantastic Voice Acting

+ Fantastic Humour

+ Great Graphics

+ Great Gameplay

9.5/10

Negatives

– First Episode was Average Compared to How Good the Rest of the Series Was

– Unexpected Quick Time Events

– Some Decisions Felt Like They Didn’t Matter

The Zombies are here! – The Walking Dead Season One + 400 Days DLC Review

There aren’t many games that challenge one’s morals, ideals, and choices, but The Walking Dead is one of them, and it does it really well as well.

Name: The Walking Dead Season One (with the 400 Days DLC)

Developer: Telltale Games

Available On: PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS Vita

Reviewed On: PS Vita

The Walking Dead is based on the graphic novels of the same name, just like the TV show, but all 3 are independent of each other: you don’t need to watch the TV show to play the game, and you don’t need to have read the graphic novels either.

The game centers around Lee, a criminal who is being transported to prison when suddenly the police car crashes into a zombie. Climbing out of the wreckage, Lee climbs up to a residential area where he finds a little girl, Clementine, who’s mother and father are away, and she’s being looked after by her aunt (who is now a zombie). Lee adopts the girl, and together they head out into the world.

The Walking Dead is a story-driven game – there’s not much action or puzzle solving, and mot of it is choosing dialogue options to proceed the story – but this in turn makes the game a lot more emotional and personalised for the player, and makes you feel as though you are Lee.

Throughout each of the game’s 5 episodes, Lee has to deal with his band of survivors, who to trust, who not to, which city to go to next – it’s hard to describe the story, because if I tell you what happens in each episode, it’ll spoil it. Just know that the game is well worth picking up because of the story, partly because it becomes so personalised. This personalisation causes the game to have a profound impact on the player: making the decision to end a life, or choose one person to live over another, or when a character that doesn’t like you very much sacrifices themselves or you…it all becomes very emotional, and it’s such a great experience. But it’s not just these choices you – or Lee – have to make; you also have to worry about Clementine, and whether you want your ‘adopted’ girl to see you kill, and it really sticks with you days after you play. It’s fantastic story-telling, and it’s certainly the best storyline I’ve seen in a long time.

The art of the game is simply stunning as well – it’s cel-shaded, and looks like a moving comic book or graphic novel – as if you could actually be playing the novels the game is based on.

What also helps this game is the dialogue – each dialogue option (of which there are usually 4) has voice acting from Lee, and every piece of dialogue in the game is wonderfully voice-acted: Clementine sounds like a scared little girl, Lee sounds like a tough guy, it’s just really well-done.

Each episode of the game is basically choosing dialogue options, intertwined with a few pieces of puzzling and a few bits of shooting here-and-there; but this game is for those who want a great story, not those who want an action game.

I did particularly like the TV-episode layout: each episode starts off with a last-time segment (except for episode one) and finishes with a trailer for the next episode (except episode 5, the last episode). There’s also credits, and I liked the statistics on how many takeaway dinners the team had, which was pretty funny.

Each episode lasts for about 2 hours, maybe slightly more or less depending on if there’s a large puzzle you can’t figure out (in my case, this was in episode 3, and I had no clue what I was doing, so I spent a half hour trying to figure it out, but this was the only instance of that happening). The exception to this is the 400 Days DLC.

400 Days has nothing to do with the main game, and instead is a pretty obvious introduction to some characters that are going to appear in Season 2. I wouldn’t have a problem with this, except that it is presented so poorly.

All the DLC is is sequentially playing through five new character’s storylines. Again, not a problem, except most of these DLC stories are bland and boring.

They simply have you work through a series of dialogue options, but then give you a major choice which is obviously only for the storyline of Season 2. In the main game at least everything you chose affected how characters thought of you, in the 400 Days DLC it seems that the only choice that matters is at the end of each new storyline (which take around 30 mins to an hour to complete).

The 400 Days DLC is included in some versions of the game (such as the Vita, PS4, and Xbox One versions), but it is not worth getting otherwise unless you really feel the need to personalise Season 2’s storyline (as there will no doubt be some default installed).

Unfortunately, overall the game has just one flaw: frame rate. The frame rate slows often on the Vita, not enough to ruin the experience (it’s good enough to play, it just looks jerky in some instances). Occassionally, the game wouldn’t register my taps on the touch screen, but this isn’t likely to be a problem. If you are looking to purchase The Walking Dead Season One, I would reccomend reading up on how good the frame rate is on your chosen console and see whether that effects your decision. The game is certainly playable, and works near-perfectly, but it might be off-putting to some who would enjoy and otherwise cinematic experience.

Positive

– Great Graphics

– Great Sound

– Absoultely Fantastic Storyline

9.5/10

 

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Negative

400 Days DLC Doesn’t Add Much

– Some Framerate Issues