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01/02/2018 11:56:26 •••

Season 2: Utter Shit (spoilers)

I put more effort into writing the title of this review than Telltale Games put into this season.

I feel like I should like Telltale Games more than I do. Plot-driven adventure games where your choices affect the story? Characters live or die based on your actions? That sounds awesome, and it is; at least, the first time you play any of their games. But when you know all of the tricks, the cracks start to appear.

Season 2 of The Walking Dead begins with Clementine and two of the survivors from Season 1. One immediately dies, and you're separated from the other. Then you meet another group that make up the main supporting cast of this season. Luke, friendly. Carlos, group doctor. Sarah, Carlos' sheltered daughter. Nick, hot-headed. Pete, Nick's uncle. Alvin, nice guy. Rebecca, Alvin's pregnant wife.

Unavoidably, every single one of these characters dies.

I didn't want to put (spoilers) in the title because if that ruins the game for you, I've done you a favour. And I want you to imagine a meter showing how invested I was in the story, and how quickly it fell when every character anti-climactically died one after another. Game of Thrones kills off tons of characters because there are tons more to keep us interested. The Walking Dead kills off tons of characters because they literally don't know how to write any kind of dramatic scene without pushing the and then zombies show up and kill someone!!1! button, which loses its edge when it's happening for the 87th time.

The railroading is abysmal. In Episode 2, Nick does something dumb and someone wants to kill him. You can talk them out of this, or Nick can die. This is the bread and butter of these games; a character lives or dies based on you. Except writing a story that accounts for an important character being alive or dead is really hard (moreso if you're shit) so in Episode 3, Nick gets two lines, and then he dies offscreen. Brilliant. I really feel like I made a difference there.

Most of the choices are just as bad. You can rob a guy who has medicine, but if you do, he shows up later with a gang to ambush you! Whereas if you don't, he shows up later with a gang to ambush you! But remember, your choices matter, and the story is tailored to how you play. So if the story is garbage and your choices don't matter, what is there to keep me interested? The gameplay?

This is one of the few games I sincerely hate. I hate the insulting, patronising way that the talentless hacks who wrote this expected me to feel genuinely saddened or shocked every time someone died, because that's all they knew how to write. The characters don't matter; everyone dies. The journey doesn't matter; everyone dies. The game has five different, equally-unappealing endings, and if you play Season 3, whoever you ended up with dies in a flashback to justify how you end up, once again, alone and in the exact same situation.

Telltale, tell a better tale next time.

01/01/2018 00:00:00

I think Telltale\'s major problem is that, at a certain point, they just stopped caring about quality control and churned out games hand over fist, like sausage or ramen pouring in an unbroken stream from the grinder. So, rather than take the effort to craft something with care, they just craft something.

I don\'t think that \"railroading\" is necessarily a bad thing. Even their earlier games everyone liked were pretty \"railroaded.\" Actual choice and consequence is less important than a convincing illusion thereoff, the way when someone pulls off a good magic trick, or a good professional wrestling match, you are invested even though you know it\'s \"fake.\" But, well, like you said, when the writing has clearly slid into stupid edgy grimdark because they can\'t think of anything better to do, yeah, it all falls down and you\'re just idly watching for someone to fumble a card out of their sleeve or picking apart the way the match works, because you\'re not entertained enough to want to be fooled.

01/01/2018 00:00:00

I think their biggest issue is with sequels. Tales from the Borderlands, Batman and TWD are three pretty great adventures - Tales doesn\'t have a sequel, but Batman and TWD do and those sequels unfortunately don\'t meet the standards of the first game. They can almost never get a set of writers to stay on for more than one game, so every sequel is made by a new creative team (at least to my knowledge).

I think my least favorite death was Sarah\'s. You can risk everything to snap her out of her mood and get her to save herself, that\'s a real difference you can make in a situation where her death is clearly being telegraphed. They then kill her off later that same episode by her being on a collapsing platform, getting stuck under the rubble and torn apart by zombies. I was fucking livid.

I don\'t think Telltale games lend themselves gracefully to sequels and I think the company mismanages their properties by pushing out sequels. As standalone adventures? They\'re a lot of fun. But with sequels, they have to account for your choices in the first game, then try and mitigate them for the second game so they can do that game as standalone as possible (throwing in nods to the first one wherever possible). Add in the fact that each new game is conceptualised by different writers, at least to my knowledge, and that explains the patchy, mediocre sequels to otherwise pretty okay story games.

If season 2 of TWD bummed you out, I honestly recommend Telltale\'s Batman. IMO, it\'s their best game since TWD season 1. The Enemy Within has been pretty underwhelming so far, but season one is pretty great - at least I thought so.

01/01/2018 00:00:00

I agree about Batman. It was the one that got me to try other Telltale games. And, hey, I've currently got a fairly-positive review up on the subject.

01/02/2018 00:00:00

My least-favourite death was also Sarah\'s because while I had been 99% sure of other characters dying, that was the point at which I realised that by her being in danger at all, she was guaranteed to die later on. Carley/Doug from the first season can die, but whoever you save at least sticks around until Episode 3. In Telltale\'s Game of Thrones, the final episode is impressively different depending on which of two characters you saved in the last episode. But if you save Sarah, she survives for, what, 25 more minutes? And then gruesome horrible zombie death.

Ooh, but then I remember Luke\'s death and it becomes close, because Luke was by far the most likeable character in the series, and he was the third-main character behind Clem and Kenny, and then he just... falls into a lake. The end. It\'s just a theory, but I believe that the final episode was going to be a Luke VS Kenny situation, but then the devs realised that everyone would\'ve picked Luke over Kenny, so they killed Luke off and replaced him with Jane - who the hell is Jane?!? - to stop it from being one-sided.

As for Batman, eh, I don\'t know. I\'ve been burned by Telltale enough that I\'m not sure if I want to take the risk of - wait, the Steam Christmas sale is still on, isn\'t it?

...

Okay, it\'s 70% off. Done.

01/02/2018 00:00:00

There\'s an interesting idea to the fact that as a child you end up having ultimately no power over anything that happens. But I think that\'s an experiment that doesn\'t really gel well with the medium, the audience\'s expectations, or the game\'s central gimmick. The season\'s off to a strong start, with a few standout scenes - Carver\'s introduction is particularly memorable in my opinion (and again plays into the theme of ultimately being powerless).

The second seasons has a lot of good moments and scenes (such as Carver\'s introduction and Kenny\'s death) but it fails to come together to a satisfying or cohesive whole. Too many of the characters ended up being completely throwaway. Contrast this with season one, where even minor characters like Chuck or Ben ended up being memorable and having a significant impact on the story.


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