Since Telltale Games re-invented the point and click adventure with The Walking Dead, many have praised their unique ideas and since then, they’ve become rather busy. Currently developing Tales From The Borderlands, a new Game of Thrones game, as well as continuing to release new episodes for The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead: Season 2, it’s fair to say that they have become a rather popular studio of late.
Now, as much as I loved The Walking Dead, a couple of things have frustrated me about the way Telltale make these wonderful games. I’d love to state for the sake of the article that I disliked their games, I don’t, in fact The Walking Dead made me care about it’s characters more than most games ever have, and because of this it’s one of my favourite games of last-gen, but maybe with these changes, Telltale could make a game I like even more.
Better Moral Choices
We all know by now, the main basis of these games is that you are constantly forced to make decisions throughout the game, often against the clock, making you work off instinct rather than let you stew on these often important actions. As an idea, I love this game mechanic, however I often felt left in the dark with the decisions, desperately not wanting to do anything the game was suggesting I could and wanting to take a different route. The options felt very black and white at many points throughout the game, only allowing me to choose between two extreme reactions to a situation.
I just felt as though my character could have just as easily been given an extra option to solve an issue. For example, when in our makeshift fort in The Walking Dead (episode 3) I was often given a choice between siding with Kenny and Lily, it wasn’t a cut-throat decision, but any time I chose to side with neither, I was shunned by the two of them and it felt the game was punishing me for not favouring one person autonomously. Where was my option to suggest Duck as the leader? or to grab a gun and shoot them both? As much as this game showed decision making in games didn’t have to be a ‘Good or Evil’ system, it tripped over itself at times, putting you in situations so familiar you could have mistaken them for another Mass Effect 3 ending.
When I talk about freedom in games, I imagine games like Skyrim, that let me explore the world and enjoy it at my own pace, with my own play style. As much as The Walking Dead makes you imagine you have freedom, it’s just that, imagined. When you look further down the rabbit hole, the choices you make sometimes have almost no impact at all. Yes, you can have an affect on the characters themselves, but I played through the game, waiting for the moment when I had a choice of where to go and what to do.
Going back to the second episode, you are given the choice of going to a ranch to get some food, but no matter what you say, you’ll end up there regardless. The game feels full of these moments, if I was stuck on a ranch with a suspicious family (one of which seems in love with his gun), I’d be out of there quicker than a blue hedgehog, but the game never gives you this option, as that’s not part of the plan. You have to stay there, because that’s where the big set piece moments happen.
I realise how difficult it would be to give this level of freedom in a game that is so closely tied to character choices, but it would be nice to have big decisions that drastically change the game, other than choosing if a somebody dies or not.
Telltale Games take the source material they are given, and lovingly craft it in to a fully realised world. They let you make decisions and form relationships whilst following the story of material they are given. As great as it feels to play through a comic book, whilst being able to mold the story around your choices , I feel as though Telltale are being restricted by these stories at the same time.
I’m really looking forward to playing Tales From The Borderlands, but I want to play through a universe I have never experienced before, discover the lore around me and most of all, experience a brand new story. In fact, this could also help solve the other problems I have already discussed, as Telltale would have no established story to have to abide by and wouldn’t have to worry about conflicting with other canon material.
Telltale are excellent storytellers, creating games that make you truly care about the characters and where their stories take them, so just imagine what they could do when we remove the restrictions. Sure it could end disastrously, but what if it didn’t? we can never truly find out unless we let them try, but until then, I’m going to lose myself in the emotional roller coaster that is The Walking Dead: Season 2.