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.