I love video games with strong stories. It’s why I got into games in the first place — role-playing games like Dragon Age: Origins were my original obsession. Within a couple of years of starting to play video games (as an adult — late bloomer!), I heard about Telltale Games, a studio that created story-driven games in the manner of old point-and-click adventures…
So I picked up The Walking Dead, which was all the rage back then. It featured a series of five episodes, each about two hours long, in which I interacted with other characters and the environment in a world overrun by “zombies”. I made key decisions — often moral ones that either won over or alienated the people I was with. Circumstances changed based on my choices. People lived or died. And the end of the series slayed me. It’s an emotional story with equal parts action and heart, and it got me hooked on Telltale’s games.
I haven’t played all of their series, but I’ve loved the ones I have. That’s why I’d like to share with you the ones I’ve enjoyed so far, with a mini-review of each. I hope it intrigues anybody who hasn’t played them before, and maybe serves as a quick guide to which ones you’d like to pick up!
Here are my thoughts on the series in the order I played them. =)
The Walking Dead (Season 1)
There are quite a few seasons/spin-offs of The Walking Dead now, but this is the season that started it all. Based in the world of The Walking Dead comic series, this story follows protagonist Lee Everett and features everything from QTEs against biting zombies to slow-motion decisions on who Lee should jump toward to rescue. A few of the choices I remember most are simple ones like how to ration food, or off-shoot stories such as Lee meeting an infected woman and deciding to kill her per her wishes, before she turns. His relationship with the young girl Clementine, who becomes like a daughter to him, is the soul of this survival story. I really think this one is worth playing to the end for its emotional impact — and I say that as someone who isn’t really into zombie stories!
Pros: Character relationships, diverse survival choices, emotional story
The Wolf Among Us
Based on the Fables comic book series, The Wolf Among Us follows the gruff werewolf P.I. Bigby as he solves a murder mystery featuring a number of familiar characters, like Snow White and Tweedle Dee and Dum. What stands out about this series is that the mystery format is so perfect for Telltale’s point-and-click gameplay. Talk to people, search environments for clues, click to pick them up. You also get to decide where to go in your investigation, focusing on one suspect over another or choosing which breadcrumbs to follow.
Pros: Mystery story, investigation gameplay, fairytale characters in a modern setting, gorgeous comic book colors
Tales from the Borderlands
This is my favorite Telltale series ever. Based on the Borderlands video games, it features an art style very similar to the iconic style of those games — not to mention a similar sense of humor. The characters are new, and you play as two of them: a female con artist living on Pandora, and a corporate lackey with implants who is haunted by the AI spirit of Handsome Jack. I really enjoyed playing as Rhys, because his implants let you scan and hack the environment in a unique way. Though these two characters can be opposites, they have to learn to work together on a hilarious adventure which also features more action scenes that most Telltale games.
Pros: Tons of action, hacking gameplay, Borderlands-like art style, sense of humor
Game of Thrones
Though I love the HBO show Game of Thrones, the Telltale series was a little hard to play. Like the book and show, it features a whole cast of characters — which is exciting, but it can be challenging to actually play as that many characters. I got a little lost on how I was role-playing each of them, but it’s still interesting to see how their stories are interwoven. The story centers on the Forrester family, who are trying to stay afloat while recognizable bad guys like Ramsay Bolton try to take over. I particularly enjoyed playing as Mira Forrester, who’s serving as a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell at King’s Landing; developing her from a shy servant to a manipulating salesperson for her family is a lot of fun.
Pros: Immersion in Game of Thrones world, cameos by Game of Thrones characters from the books/show, voice acting by the HBO show actors
I am a big fan of Telltale’s take on Batman, which focuses more on Bruce Wayne than his caped alter ego. Bruce is dealing with his friend Harvey Dent running for office, the new girl in town Selina Kyle, the re-emergence of his childhood friend Oswald Cobblepot, mob boss Carmine Falcone…
Do you recognize all of these people? Meeting them as both Bruce and Batman, he has to balance these two sides of himself. As Batman, he works to protect the city from the terrorists Children of Arkham, and you can choose whether to play him as a fighting vigilante or more of a pacifist willing to work with the police. As Bruce, he’s tracking down clues about his past and learning who his father really was.
When it comes time for action scenes, this game differs from other Telltale games by letting you plot how the scene will play out, choosing from several options on how to fight — then you hit a button and watch the scene unfold per your selections. It’s so much fun.
Pros: Deep look at Bruce Wayne/Batman character, well-executed action scenes that focus on strategy over QTEs, awesome cast of recognizable characters seen in new lights
I’m excited to play the second episode of Telltale’s newest series, Guardians of the Galaxy, very soon too! Have you played any Telltale games, and which ones are your favorites?