Game of Thrones – Mia Edwards

As a fan of TV show Game of Thrones I was excited to hear that Telltale,  a gaming studio revered for its highly emotional, narratively focused games, was going to be taking on the TV and literature giant. Telltale has been praised for their attention to detail and sense of continuity with the intellectual property that they base their games upon. So, the decision to cast House Forrester as the protagonists, who had a brief mention in one of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, upheld Telltale’s scrupulous nature.

As with all Telltale games there were many emotional twists, such as the scene that stood as the conclusion of episode one, and their characterisation of and ability to weave fan favourites like Daenerys Targaryen into the Telltale story was incredible. My personal favourite protagonist was Asher and I thoroughly enjoyed the part in episode four  where you had to liberate Meereen, a city, on Daenerys’s orders. As with all Telltale games the choices you make matter and one of the most heartbreaking was a decision at the end of episode five about which character to leave for dead. Telltale have always been masters at making you care about their characters, and in this game a sense of family and duty is paramount, so that choice was very tough and thought-provoking.

I played this game due to my interest in Game of Thrones but walked away with a far greater appreciation for Telltale’s writing and art style. It’s a shame that the second season is now cancelled but it won’t take away from the hours of entertainment I gained from the first.

Sam & Max Series – Robin Wilde 

While not the first Telltale game, this 2006 reboot of the dormant Sam & Max series nonetheless put them on the adventure gaming map. It was based on Steve Purcell’s comic series, which followed the canine Sam and “hyperkinetic rabbity thing” Max, as they solve zany crimes in their titular role of freelance police.

After a well-received LucasArts adventure game in 1994, nothing more materialised for 12 years until Telltale delivered the goods. The game’s first series, initially released on Wii, set the standard for Telltale games down the years – cartoony graphics, simple adventure gameplay set in small, walkable arenas, and a sharp wit on its large cast of recurring characters.

Across that and two more series – the last of which, in 2010, saw a significant graphical overhaul and a darkening of its tone – Sam and Max explored tropical islands, Santa’s grotto, and a sinister simian threat from space. Throughout, the irreverent weirdness never quite strayed into tiresome random humour, and the third series, The Devil’s Playhouse, contains some truly standout moments in dark humour and witty writing.

The whole production is underpinned by the musical work of Jared Emerson-Johnson, who keeps the adventure bouncing along, and gives what was clearly a low budget operation a sense of quality.

While it was their adaptation of The Walking Dead in 2012 which helped Telltale break out into mainstream gaming culture, it was Sam & Max which gave them their foothold in the small but loyal adventure gaming niche. The games are perpetually available for a few pounds on Steam, and their 16 episodes will provide a decent chunk of adventure for anyone looking to laugh, explore and puzzle their way through a charming world.

Tales From The Borderlands – Ash Williams

It might be apt to lump in Tales from the Borderlands (TftB) as just “another Telltale game”, but doing so would overlook one of the short lived studio’s very best efforts.I’m not alone in saying this. Numerous games media outlets share my opinion in thinking that TftB was an underappreciated gem.

Part of the reasoning comes from the refreshing obsession on humour rather than bleak dramas that have made all the other games seem… samey. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a Telltale game with a smile on my face, but TftB managed that in the very first episode.

Sadly the ending is a bit of a sequel tease (that we may unfortunately never get), but I can say that as a single season it ranks among the best, with plenty of funny moments and cool set pieces.

Granted, the source material is funny on its own; anyone who’s played Borderlands 1 or 2 can attest to that. However, the writers (Borderlands creator Gearbox Software also worked on this game with Telltale) manage to couple the zany humour with staple Telltale gameplay.

At the start of every Telltale game, it reminds you that “your choices have consequences”, and that “the story is tailored by how you play”. These claims have been argued over the years but this game is an example of them actually delivering.

For people who had PlayStation Plus in May 2017, you should have picked this up for free. For the rest of you, if you’re planning on sampling the best of what Telltale has to offer in the wake of their closure, this is the best place to start.

Batman Series – Ewan Brett 

If any superhero can be considered overdone at this point, it’s Batman. One of DC Comics’ most

popular figures, he’s featured in countless films, TV shows, and even video games (the most notable of recent years being the Arkham series). Hence, when Telltale announced they were making a Batman game, it would have been easy to dismiss it as ‘been-there-done-that’.

The gameplay of Batman (and its 2nd season, Batman: The Enemy Within) didn’t differ much from other Telltale entries, but it was robust and worked well with the character of Batman, split between his adventures as the Dark Knight and his life as Bruce Wayne. The balance between fast-paced action sequences and more deliberate detective scenes ensured a well-paced and creative series of events. Of note was their exploration of Bruce Wayne, who can often be left undeveloped compared to his crime-fighting alter-ego. Here he is given half of the screen-time, and it allows for superb interactions with Alfred, Lucius and others.

The most impressive thing about Batman, however, was the way in which Telltale weren’t afraid to play with the mythos. Characters such as the Joker and the Penguin, interpretations of whom have been done time and time again, were given new dynamics that hadn’t been explored elsewhere. They felt fresh and exciting, and since Telltale weren’t held back by established canon they could take this cast and the story wherever they wanted. The resulting narrative was enjoyable because of its originality, an issue which plagues so much superhero media.

While it is a shame that we will never see a 3rd season of Telltale’s Batman, the game works as a standalone entry, and one that is entertaining both for long-time DC fans and those new to the franchise. This is definitely one of Telltale’s best works.

The Wolf Among Us – Harry Cottle

Whilst most Telltale games build upon already established IP’s (The Walking Dead, Batman and Game of Thrones), The Wolf Among Us is unique in that it acts as an introduction to the bizarre world of Fables.The game is a prequel to the cult comic series which sees fairytales come to life.

The game sees the player control Bigby, the sheriff of Fabletown, a small community of mythical characters living in 1980s America. Bigby was formerly the Big Bad Wolf but now he seeks forgiveness for the sins of his past. After a decapitated head is found, Bigby must team up with Snow White to find the killer living within a seedy underworld.

Whilst the concept is clearly nuts, Telltale are able to perfectly balance the absurd humour with some genuine darkness and pathos. This is achieved primarily through Bigby, one of my favourite characters in any game. His desire to be a better person is hampered by his infamous history and his violent nature. The player choice system highlights this perfectly. Often you’ll find yourself questioning a rash decision you made in the heat of the moment as people start to see you once again as the ‘Big Bad Wolf’. As the pressure of the case ramps up from episode to episode and you’ll find yourself tempted to live up to your reputation to get yourself closer to the truth.

This all culminates in a stunning conclusion which wraps up everything in an immensely satisfying way. Then just before the end, one final twist leaves you aching for a second season we’ll sadly never see. The Wolf Among Us was Telltale at their best and I hope the immensely talented creative team behind it receive the compensation they deserve.

Tales of Monkey Island – Alex Bruce

Monkey Island is a strange series. Originally developed by LucasArts, the series was one of the most popular point and click adventure games of the 90s. Similar to other classic adventure game series of the time, such as Sam And Max and Day Of The Tentacle, Monkey Island had somewhat primitive graphics and gameplay but more than made up with it with its quirky humour, which included the hilarious ‘Insult Sword fighting’.

When the series was brought back over ten years after the fourth instalment, Escape from Monkey Island, the focus on writing and humour over gameplay made it a perfect fit for Telltale Games. The result, Tales of Monkey Island, was faithful to what made the original games great. The protagonist, Guybrush Threepwood is an endearing hero, and many of the other characters, including his wife and the primary antagonists Ozzie Mandrill and Lechuck, are memorable. The plot is fairly confusing: Elaine, who was a governor of Melee Island, returns from her honeymoon to find she has been declared dead and has to fight to regain her position, Ozzie Mandrill wants to rid the island of pirates so he can transform it into a resort, and Lechuck is trying to break Elaine’s resolve using the Ultimate Insult so that he can marry her (?), so Guybrush must defeat them so that the pirates of Melee Island can keep their livelihoods. The writing and constant sense of humour is excellent, the soundtrack is wonderful, and the art design is fantastic. This game may not be the one of the heart-wrenchingly tense decision-making games for which Telltale became most famous, but it’s still a very enjoyable ride for anyone who is a fan of story-focused games.

The Walking Dead – Arya Damavandy

The Walking Dead Season 1 marked Telltale’s first modern explosion in popularity and inauguration into the mainstream of video games. I vividly remember watching multiple playthroughs over and over again of the game on YouTube back in 2012; at the time, it was more compelling to me than any show airing on TV. The characters were so brilliantly realistic and likable, the cel shaded art style did an amazing job of bringing the comic to life, the music and ambient sound made the experience dramatic and immersive. Tying it all together was simple but fun point and click adventure gameplay. It blew my 13-year-old mind. As I got older and more installments were released, my obsession only grew, and in many ways it helped form my tastes and own style for writing characters. I and many other fans grew up as the series’ protagonist Clementine did; I’m sure lots of current fans started the series through the same means as me, at the same age, and are adults now, looking back fondly. When I finally got my own PC, the first two seasons were the first games I purchased and played. It was a blast using my knowledge, gaming the charming idiosyncrasies of the dialogue trees to get my favourite outcomes and endings.

I think one of the biggest tragedies of Telltale closing down is the possibility that we may not see the end of Clementine’s story.

Image: IGDB

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