High Praise for Telltale Games

Alex Phillimore Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-10-30 17:07:13

High Praise for Telltale Games

*The Walking Dead Season 1 Spoilers Below*

To me, Telltale Games is one of the better studios producing video games right now. Not only has it made a habit out of reviving old classics with a fervent dedication to the source material - Sam and Max and Monkey Island spring to mind - but they're also taking existing material (The Walking Dead) and making it better.

I'm in love with the episodic model right now when it comes to Telltale's games. The five-episode set-up that it seems to have adopted works well, as it gives their games a good 10-12 hours to create involving plot-lines and develop excellent characters. That I can currently dual-wield The Wolf Among Us and soon The Walking Dead: Season 2 is the frosty icing on the cake - when one ends, the other will be right there to grip me again. It's telling that four of the games I'm looking most forward to over the coming months are as follows: The Wolf Among Us: Episodes 2, 3, 4 and 5.

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I'd also like to point out that I'm glad - and surprised - that Telltale is making Clementine a (the?) playable character in Season 2 of The Walking Dead. I predicted that she would be mentioned or have some sort of cameo appearance, but I figured it would be too limiting - and perhaps too daring - to play such a macabre game from the perspective of a child, rather than that child's guardian. I guess I was wrong, because it looks as if players will be stepping into Clementine's small boots after all, and if Season 2 is anything like Season 1, we might be seeing her crush a few skulls - and not just zombie craniums - before the credits roll.

Putting a kid in a game as the main protagonist is something that very few titles have done. When you consider that that kid will be involved in all manner of gruesome situations, I can't help but feel as if Telltale might once again set a new benchmark with Season 2 of The Walking Dead. Season 1 did something that a lot of gamers hadn't seen before - it created a believable and thoroughly touching relationship between an adult male and a young girl in a video game, which is rightly regarded by many as one of the best relationships seen so far in the industry. The game won so many awards precisely because it told a fantastic story through superb writing and characterisation. There was a danger that Season 2 wouldn't live up to the lofty expectations set by its predecessor, as surely nothing could come close to Lee and Clementine's bond?

Well, that might only be half-true. While it's unlikely that Clementine will form a bond with anyone in Season 2 to the extent that she did with Lee (the advice Lee can give to Clementine actively suggests that she will become less trusting of people), this game might be the direct antithesis to what Season 1 was trying to do. If the first season did one thing above all else, it was illustrating the value of caring for someone else - even someone who is at first a stranger - and that compassion can exist in disturbing and horrific times. Perhaps Season 2 will be about Clementine's absolute inability to form bonds in the wake of Lee's death and the way certain characters treated her in Season 1. It would be a very different game, and one that hasn't been done before - seeing a tortured world through the eyes of a child who can no longer depend on anyone and has been forced to age prematurely.

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If they go down that route, Telltale could deliver something altogether different to Season 1. Attempting to emulate the same paternalistic emotionally-charged formula might not pay off; bringing in new emotions - watching the despondency of an infant, for example - is where I can see the second season excelling and, potentially, besting its predecessor. My only hope is that Telltale doesn't hold back - I want to see Clementine in situations where she is forced to kill; I want her to distrust people and to do morally unjustifiable things. It would be controversial, but delightfully so, taking the medium into uncharted but necessary waters.

I wasn't expecting to play as Clementine in Season 2 of Telltale's opus, but I couldn't be more excited to do so. With the decision to play as Clem made, there is the very real possibility that lightning will strike twice for a studio that is fast becoming one of the most ambitious in gaming in a narrative sense. Before Season 2 hits, make sure to play The Wolf Among Us; both will surely be lovingly crafted experiences that are more than worth the modest asking price.

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