With the recent news that Telltale Games may be being revived, it seems like a good time to reflect on the studio. When the news broke back in September of 2018 that Telltale Games would be closing, and that their hard working staff were being immediately let go without severance pay, the gaming community were shocked and saddened.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that the work of the talented former staff will forever be appreciated by the fans and that we thank them for giving us some truly brilliant stories. There was good news when Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment stepped in to complete The Walking Dead: The Final Season and brought back as many of the previous staff as possible. However, the cancellation of all future projects, including the long awaited Wolf Among Us 2, meant that it was a genuinely devastating time for us as fans. This new revelation that two investors are hoping to bring the company back alongside some former members of staff could be the glimmer of hope that was needed for franchises such as Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands.
Despite the controversy of the closure, Skybound successfully completed Clementine’s journey by finishing the fourth season of the game. Without giving away spoilers, I felt like it was a fitting ending for the character and the series as a whole. However, it was marred by the fact that it could have been the last time that we see Telltale’s distinctive style within a game and I couldn’t help but feel saddened by that. Now that we have some hope for the return of Telltale Games, it seems like an appropriate time to look back on the work of Telltale and note some of their truly brilliant and memorable moments. If you want to check out some of our favorite Telltale Games in general have a read of our list, compiled by various members of our writing staff, here.
WARNING: This list will contain spoilers for the following Telltale Games: The Walking Dead: Season One, The Walking Dead: Season Two, The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands, Game of Thrones, Minecraft: Story Mode, Batman, Batman: The Enemy Within.
10. Reuben’s Death – Minecraft: Story Mode
Minecraft: Story Mode is one of the more polarizing Telltale Games, with praise given to the light-hearted nature of the franchise but criticism for story and character, usually the strongest elements of a Telltale game. However, there is one character from the first season of Minecraft who did stand out, Jesse’s best friend and pet pig Reuben. Acting as a companion throughout the game, Reuben is not only an adorable addition but also a helpful ally. This makes his death in Episode 4 a genuinely upsetting moment as he dies saving your character’s life. Though he soon turns into a piece of bacon, as is the norm for deceased pigs in Minecraft, the moment is still an emotional one. That’ll do Reuben, that’ll do.
9.Handsome Jack Pleads for His Life – Tales from the Borderlands
Tales from the Borderlands was a pleasant surprise from Telltale, offering a game that had a strong narrative and kept the tone and spirit of the Borderlands franchise. Major Borderlands antagonist, Handsome Jack, appears in an AI hologram form during the game, as his real life counterpart is dead. He appears when Rhys, one of the player characters, installs a Hyperion chip into his consciousness, becoming a part of him and following him for most of the game. Towards the end of the game, Rhys is given a choice: Crush his EchoEye augmentation that Jack is stored in, destroying the last remnant of Handsome Jack forever, or keep hold of it. Jack is initially cocky and his usual self but as Rhys begins to dismember more of his implant, he starts to panic. He begs and pleads for his life, despite not technically being alive. Telltale manages to make an evil character sympathetic by making him beg pitifully for his last scrap of existence. It’s a powerful moment, one that makes the player hesitate before they make their choice.
8. Lilly Shoots Carley/Doug – The Walking Dead: Season One
The first season of The Walking Dead was one of the finest Telltale creations. With its strong character development, brilliant narrative, and choices that have consequences, it was the game that made Telltale Games a household name. There are many memorable moments from the game but one in particular comes half way through Episode 3. Tensions are high in the group of survivors. Lilly, a character who watches her father die brutally in Episode 2, is close to the breaking point when one of the group is found to be making a deal with bandits. As she tries to figure out who it was, she is pushed over the edge and snaps. She shoots Carley/Doug, whoever Lee saved in the first episode, and instantly kills them. The sudden death proved that Telltale weren’t afraid to kill off any of their characters and that everyone was expendable. It also showed how the horrors of the apocalypse can change people and turn them into ruthless killers. Lee is then left to choose whether to abandon Lilly on the road or let her stay with the group, another tough player choice. The shocking murder and aftermath from Lee’s choice made for one of the most gripping episodes of the entire season.
7. Bigby’s Final Transformation – The Wolf Among Us
The Wolf Among Us was a particular fan favorite in Telltale’s catalog. Based on the Fables comic book series, wherein traditional fairy-tales are mixed with gritty realism, The Wolf Among Us was a mystery story that gripped players during its 5 episode run. Protagonist Bigby Wolf is a man who was a monster, trying to prove he isn’t who he once was. Unfortunately, the long awaited Wolf Among Us 2 was one of the casualties of Telltale’s closure. The first game had plenty of brilliant moments, but Bigby’s final transformation into his true self has to be a stand out. Throughout the game, Bigby struggles to control his inner Big Bad Wolf. He goes through smaller changes at certain times, during fight scenes which may call for a more violent presence. The final fight between him and Bloody Mary is the longest action sequence in the game and the moment when Bigby finally lets his true form take over entirely. He becomes the Big Bad Wolf and the player is let loose upon his enemies. You are able to grab them in his jaws, crush them with his paws and even huff and puff until they’re blown away. The scale of the giant wolf is huge and shows us that despite his attempts to hold back, Bigby really is a dangerous, mystical and fearsome creature. It was a moment teased throughout the entire season, and it didn’t disappoint.
6. Clementine Stitches Her Arm Up – The Walking Dead: Season 2
Clementine is shown to be a strong-willed and determined little girl, even from the very beginning of The Walking Dead game when she was at her youngest. She continued to prove herself to be more than capable of surviving, but this moment in particular shows just how resilient she is. Clementine is attacked by a dog and left with a large gaping bite wound on her arm. The new group she finds is suspicious of her bite so she’s locked in a shed. After finding the items she needs to clean her wound and stitch it up, she sets about patching herself up. The player is forced to sew up Clem’s arm with a regular needle and watch as she screams and cries in pain. It’s hard enough to watch, but even harder having to control Clementine as she digs the needle in and her wound bleeds. Painful in every sense of the word, this moment not only shows that Clementine is more capable than most adults, yet alone an ordinary child, but also that Telltale are able to make their players squirm with a simple press of a button.
5. Ethan’s Death – Game of Thrones
Telltale’s Game of Thrones series was another game that was due to receive a second season, but the studio closure led to its cancellation. The first season managed to successfully capture the feeling of the Game of Thrones universe and the death of Ethan Forrester at the end of the first episode encapsulates this perfectly. Game of Thrones is a world where no one is safe, not even the major players. Ethan is set up to become a strong presence in the season. When his father is killed, his eldest brother assumed dead and the second eldest son exiled, he must take the mantle of head of House Forrester. Ethan is one of the playable characters in episode one and when controlling him, he must make a series of choices that seem to set up what kind of ruler he is going to be. However, at the very end of the episode, he is brutally stabbed in the neck and killed by Ramsey Bolton. It’s another sudden and shocking death as the player realizes this will not be Ethan’s story as was initially suggested. The sudden death of the main playable character was a brutal tactic by Telltale but it also shows how well they know the Game of Thrones universe. No one is safe, especially you.
4. The Finger Gun Showdown – Tales from the Borderlands
The Borderlands franchise has always been full to the brim with irreverent humor, so it’s not a surprise that Tales from the Borderlands is cut from the same cloth. By far one of the funniest moments in the series comes when Rhys disguises himself as former boss Vasquez to infiltrate Hyperion. When we first see the Hyperion employees, it becomes clear that they have a running joke amongst themselves revolving around finger guns. Rhys is well versed in this finger gun comradery so when his former co-workers engage him, an all-out finger gun showdown ensues. As the player guides Rhys, the employees all join in the fire fight. They fall down when “dead”, they hide behind cover, they throw non existent grenades and do it all while making ‘pew pew’ noises. It perfectly captures the ridiculous nature of Borderlands while being a fun and light-hearted set piece.
3. The Return of Kenny – The Walking Dead: Season Two
The first Walking Dead season from Telltale was pretty brutal when it came to the final death count. One of those assumed casualties was Kenny, a lovable, albeit infuriating, character. His annoyance with player character Lee if you didn’t side with him at all times was a cause of frustration for many, but Kenny clearly had a good heart. When his family are taken from him, you can’t help but feel his pain. Although the death of his wife and child is a powerful moment in itself, Kenny’s return in Season Two represents some hope and light in an unforgiving world. Clementine is left entirely alone after the opening of Season Two so having a trusted person come back into her life, one she assumed was dead, is a positive thing for her. Kenny goes through an interesting character arc as it becomes clear he is still fighting demons. He’s clearly traumatized by what happened to his family. He even seems to have regrets in the way he treated Lee, if the player did not always take his side. Kenny is a flawed but endearing character and his return allows for more character development as well as giving Clementine a member of her new family back.
2. John Doe – Batman: The Telltale Series and Batman: The Enemy Within
Though not a specific moment in itself, John Doe is a fascinating interpretation from Telltale. As a character who has had many variations, The Joker is one of the most recognizable comic book characters, and quite possibly the most notorious villain of all time. So when Telltale announced their Batman game series, it came as no surprise that Joker would appear. However, his characterization is considerably more unique than expected. Bruce Wayne first meets him in Arkham Asylum, where he offers to help him, as long as he provides a favor in the future. He then returns in a larger role in the second game, where his personality changes depending on the players treatment of him. It’s clear that John Doe has an obsession with Bruce and will do anything for his acceptance, making him an easy target for manipulation. If the player chooses to do so, John Doe will soon transform into the Joker that we all know, a homicidal, sadistic maniac. But if the player shows him kindness, he will become a more complex character who has good intentions but is unable to see when his actions go too far. The distinctive interpretation of such a well-known character proves Telltale’s ability to re-imagine classic stories and characters, making John Doe himself a memorable moment for the company.
1. Goodbye Lee – The Walking Dead: Season One
Having played through the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead multiple times, I can say with honesty that I still cry at the ending. Moving, brutal and emotionally crippling, the first season culminates with Lee succumbing to his bite and suffering one of two fates, depending on player choice. Choice one is to be shot in the head by Clementine, the little girl who you’ve given your life to protect. Choice two is to be left to turn into a walker, arguably a fate worse than death. So there are no winners here, no matter what you pick. Lee is an excellent protagonist, his dark past makes him a criminal and this contradicts his role of protector to Clementine. He isn’t perfect, he has made mistakes and continues to do so as you play. But he is believable as a flawed, but ultimately well-meaning, man. A man who sees his opportunity to redeem himself by saving, and taking care of, Clementine. To see him bitten at the end of episode four is a painful moment but watching him deteriorate through episode five, and eventually die, is excruciating. You feel a connection with him, a person struggling to do the right thing and protect those he cares about, despite the end of the world situation. As he and Clementine have a final moment together, it becomes clear that it has all led to this. That you have taught her how to survive, how to behave, but also how to say goodbye. The final words and last goodbye that he and Clementine share are, in my opinion, the most powerful and memorable of any Telltale game. And make sure to keep that hair short.
The fans will remember that.
All four episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season are now available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows.
‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town
Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.
It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…
I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.
Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.
Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.
Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.
Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.
The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.
Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.
Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.
The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child
Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.
The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.
The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.
Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.
Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.
When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.
‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab
Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.
In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.
Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.
It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.
Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.
In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.
Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.
Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.
Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.
Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.
Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.
I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.
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