Tag Archives: quick time events

Review: Batman: The Telltale Series – Realm of Shadows

batman e1 cover
via PlayStation 4 You

Batman: The Telltale Series – Realm of Shadows (Episode 1) (2016)

PS4 / Rated M


Publisher: Telltale Games, WB Games

Developer: Telltale Games, WB Games

Batman has been made great again.  Recently, Batman games have been hitting it out of the park, but it wasn’t until Rocksteady Studio’s Arkham series that the series found its stride.  They portrayed a grittier side of Batman, a vigilante willing to do anything to serve and protect the grungy city that is Gotham.  What about Bruce Wayne?  Everyone knows that Batman’s identity is the rich bachelor Bruce Wayne, but we’ve only had glimpses of him in the video games.  With the mission of exploring both sides of the caped crusader, Batman: The Telltale Series comes to us with the first addition to its episodic series, “Realm of Shadows.”  The episode finally lets us take the role of both Batman and Bruce Wayne as one fights crime in the night and the other navigates the tricky landscape that is politics.  It’s a fascinating start that occasionally gets bogged down in a lot of unnecessary backstory.

batman e1 1
via Press A Key

Characteristic to most Telltale games, Batman’s strongest suit is its story which is more multi-faceted than any of the studio’s games.  In the first episode alone we are introduced to a multitude of different subplots.  The game does a good job at splitting up the amount of time you play as both Batman and Bruce Wayne.  As Batman you patrol the city streets at night, keeping the city of Gotham safe from goons and other evils.  On the other side, players navigate Bruce Wayne around the sphere of Gotham’s elite socialites.  Defense Attorney Harvey Dent is campaigning to take spot of mayor from the corrupt Hamilton Hill and it’s up to Wayne to support him and get him to that spot.  Unfortunately, your forced to support Dent, whether you want to or not, but the extent of Wayne’s support is determined by the player.  The Batman segments are about what you would expect but making choices as Bruce Wayne is really unique and sometimes stressful.  Every single little detail, down to a simple handshake, can change Gotham’s opinion on Wayne, which makes every decision you make pretty important.  As it turns out, entertaining a schmoozy dinner party is a lot harder than you would think.

Hamilton Hill isn’t the only form of conflict that players will have to deal with.  As Batman you stumble across the sneaky Catwoman who has her eyes on some sensitive files that she needs to obtain for her employer.  In attempt to put a stop to her shady dealings you let her get away, but she comes back in a rather unexpected way, one that will bring some deeper and unwanted trouble.  There’s also the powerful crime boss Carmine Falcone who has his hands in many of Gotham’s webs.  His criminal dealings have been driving the city into a hole and his many connections could put a wrench in Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne’s political campaign.  Finally, we’re also introduced to Bruce’s childhood friend Oswald Cobblepot, who could be an alley or a nuisance depending on how you approach things in Gotham.

batman e1 2
via MMoga

The story, which also includes series favorites like Vicki Vale and Commissioner Gordon, is pretty fascinating and has the possibility of going in many different directions, hopefully.  There’s one facet of the story that falters however, and that is the insanely unnecessary amount of backstory that is apparently crammed into every nook and cranny.  Anyone familiar with Batman’s story knows that Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in a theater alley and that the city of Gotham is pretty ugly and corrupt.  Unfortunately, Batman feels the need to belabor these points way too hard.  Your constantly reminded of these facts over and over again.  This backstory is probably necessary in some sort of fashion for those unfamiliar with the caped crusader’s story, but do we really have to talk about the death of Bruce’s parents every five minutes?  Hey!  Hey!  Remember when your parents died!?  Yeah that must suck huh.  There’s even a couple at Bruce’s dinner party that describes the death of Bruce’s parents in brutal detail.  These examples of bashing the player over the head with repetitive backstory is a sign of weak writing, which is a shame since the rest of the story is really well-written.  I’m willing to bet that this type of backstory is going to stop after the first episode, but the inclusion of all this repetition is pretty bad.

There’s three gameplay modes that players will become familiar with over the course of the episode and the rest of the series.  Firstly, the traditional style of Telltale’s adventure games is the main slice of interaction that players will take part in.  You choose your dialog options, which in turn helps shape the story that you want to see play out.  Then there’s the quick-time events, which come into play primarily during Batman’s segments.  Quick-time combat isn’t new to the Telltale games, but Batman’s combat feels a lot faster and requires a lot more focus.  There’s a meter at the bottom corner that fills up with each successful button press during a combat sequence.  When the meter fills up, you have the ability to perform a finisher, a move that involves two button presses instead of one, something new to the Telltale games.  Obviously the combat doesn’t rival Rocksteady’s Arkham combat, but Batman’s combat is fast and fluid, and a lot of fun.  Lastly, we the first episode contains a detective sequence that involves scoping out an environment examining various areas and objects, connecting them together to piece together what took place at the scene.  It isn’t too challenging to play detective, but the first episode’s segment was a fresh change of pace and pretty unique.  There’s also a segment that involves planning out a plan of attack using Batman’s investigative abilities.  I hope we get a lot more of these types of play styles over the course of the series as they were some of the best parts of the episode.

batman e1 3
via VG24/7

Again, the game’s presentation style is similar to Telltale’s previous games, but with an improved engine to boot.  The improvements aren’t drastic, but the game’s art style and lighting do the series a ton of favors.  The game feels like a comic book brought to life, which is the best case scenario for a game like Batman.  The voices for both Batman and Bruce Wayne (voiced by well-known voice actor Troy Baker) are fine, but they could be better.  Troy Baker fits into the role of rich bachelor pretty well, but it’s Batman’s voice that could use some work.  The vigilante alters his voice, giving a bass-boosted voice to the character.  The voice just sounds way too heavy for my liking.  Turning down the voice’s bass levels would do the character wonders.

I am heavily anticipating future episodes from the series, which should all release by the end of the year if things go according to plan.  The first episode closes its doors with a bunch of open sub-plots that leave us with a lot of questions and excitement.  There’s also a massive wrench thrown into the story at the very end that could spell a lot of problems for Bruce and his family’s name.  It comes out of left field, but provides a unique angle, one that hasn’t really been explored in Batman media.  With the absence of a need for backstory, the future episodes could be something special and fun for fans of the caped hero.  What are you waiting for?  Get out there and help change the face of Gotham City.

batman e1 score


Review: The Walking Dead: Michonne

michonne cover
via PC Gaming Wiki

The Walking Dead: Michonne (2016)

PS4 / Rated M


Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games

The Walking Dead games are what put Telltale Games on the map.  Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true but they have definitely given the company the most success.  Both season one and season two of their episodic adventure games based on the comic books were critically acclaimed and set the company on the right direction.  With Telltale’s latest installment in the franchise, The Walking Dead: Michonne, they decided to take a different direction in more ways than one, but some of these directions don’t pay off in the end.

michonne 1
via YouTube

Unlike the previous two adventures, The Walking Dead: Michonne hones in on the story of Michonne, a protagonist from the comics.  She’s a stoic figure who doesn’t really talk much unless she needs to.  She’s also dealing with some psychological demons involving her two dead daughters, which is the aspect of her character that the story focuses the most on.  For those wondering, the story takes place between the comic’s issues 126 and 139.  (I haven’t read the comics myself, or seen the show for that matter, so I wouldn’t know.)

Another thing that Telltale does differently with Michonne is its three-episode format, unlike the normal five-six-episode format that most are used to.  There’s nothing wrong with going down the short-form adventure route, but it makes developing a meaningful and impactful story pretty difficult.  It can be done, but it’s tough to do.  Unfortunately, Michonne falls short of giving us an impactful story, which is due in part to the short time we have with the characters.  I grew attached to Michonne, as she was the main protagonist, but all of the other side characters and antagonists meant nothing to me really.  They had their moments, sure, but I wanted to spend more time with them in the end.  Just like the previous games, there will be deaths and tough decisions to make, but they ultimately didn’t matter to me in the end.  It also doesn’t help that the episodes were short in comparison.  I just didn’t feel that attached to what was going on onscreen.

michonne 3
via Rocket Chainsaw

Speaking of decisions, the game plays just as you’d expect.  Telltale hasn’t reinvented the wheel with Michonne, giving you an all-too-familiar gameplay experience.  You will participate in quick time events.  You will pick dialogue choices.  You will walk around small little environments.  You will make some pivotal decisions.  These decisions don’t really have consequence however.  The decisions also weren’t that hard to make either.  It almost felt like Telltale was just laboring through the motions, pumping out a paint-by-the-numbers experience similar to their other games without really putting any thought into what they were doing.

This is all a shame because The Walking Dead: Michonne has a gripping drama in its hands.  Michonne has a tough and quiet exterior, but on the inside there is a bevy of bottled up guilt and sadness that literally haunt her as she moves along.  During her travels she comes across a friendly crew of sailors as well as a small band of vicious and deadly survivors.  How she deals with these new people, as well as the situations she is thrust into, are by far the most enticing aspect the game has to offer.  Telltale has an interesting story to tell, it’s just too bad its brought down by some of the more technical facets of the game.

michonne 2
via Game Over

If you were a fan of the previous Walking Dead installments by Telltale (which most probably are) then this might warrant a look.  There’s some cool stuff the game brings to the table, but just know what you’re getting into.  Wane your expectations.  If your new to the series, then it’s hard to justify a play through of The Walking Dead: Michonne.  I would recommend the previous two installments, but that’s about it.

The Walking Dead: Michonne_20160405165941

Also available on PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iPhone, iPad, and Android.

Review: Heavy Rain

heavy rain poster
via Giant Bomb

Heavy Rain (2010 – PS3) (2016 – PS4)

PS4 / Rated M

Action / Adventure

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Developer: Quantic Dream, SCE XDev Studio

Losing someone you love is one of the toughest things we have to go through as humans.  It’s even tougher if they’re young.  You end up asking a lot of questions and you sometimes question yourself, especially if you had a chance at preventing the loss.  In Heavy Rain, a game by David Cage and Quantic Dream, a father loses his child and is on the brink of losing another.  Feelings of guild, depression, love, and contempt all rear their head as he tries to save his son.  How far are you willing to go to save someone you love from the clench of death?  This is the primary theme that drives Heavy Rain, as well as its four main characters.

heavy rain 1

Tension has been rising as a serial killer, calling himself the “Origami Killer,” has been killing innocent children by kidnapping them from their parents and drowning them in rain water.  Their deaths are marked by the presence of an origami figure, placed in the kids’ cold lifeless hands.  The latest victim is Shaun Mars, son of Ethan Mars, one of the four playable characters.  He’s kidnapped during the course of the game and he only has a couple of days to live.  It becomes a race against the clock as Ethan is given a set of trials that test his love for his son and his willingness to go through hell to save him.

Meanwhile, you play as three other characters who are all concurrently after the Origami Killer in one way or another.  Norman Jayden is a criminal profiler who works for the FBI.  He is contracted by the town’s local police department to investigate the recent killings and he uses the help of his gadget ARI (Added Reality Interface) to help with the investigations.  Madison Paige is a freelance journalist and photographer who ends up meeting Ethan at a local motel.  It’s through this chance meeting that she starts to become involved in the Origami Killer’s doings and she begins to start a private investigation of her own.  Finally, there’s Scott Shelby, an ex-cop turned private investigator who has been contracted by the Origami Killer’s victims’ families to investigate their murders.  Each of these characters, including Ethan, have their own stories and motivations that drive their actions.  The game flips between perspectives, giving you control of each of these characters as the game goes on.

heavy rain 2

There’s a lot of heavy material that the game covers and there’s a lot of tense moments that will make you sweat, quite literally.  There’s a lot of twist and turns, including one big one towards the end that caught me off guard.  However, after going back and examining the events that led to this twist, everything made sense and came together, which is an indication of a really well-written twist.  There’s also some plot-holes here and there, but they aren’t too offensive and they don’t detract too much from the story.  The performances were also really well done.  The characters you play as and interact with were all motion captured, which really helped convey emotion and feeling.  You could see the emotion in character’s faces, giving them more life and believability.

The game is an adventure game where all of your choices affect the story in ways that are predictable and not so predictable.  Gameplay mainly takes the form of quick-time events and dialogue choices.  If a character dies due to a failed quick-time sequence, then the story goes on.  There’s no game over screens to save you.  The story is constantly adapting to your choices (and your mistakes) and contains a multitude of different endings based upon the story’s happenings.  A lot of games claim that your choices affect the story but there are few that have high-impact decisions.  Every little choice you make in Heavy Rain affects the story in big and small ways.  Even the smallest of details, like the color of a character’s clothes, can play a big part in the way the story plays out.

heavy rain 3

One of the things I really liked about the way the game handles its quick-time events is the way they conveyed emotion through these events.  As you play through the different sequences, buttons will appear on the screen indicating a quick-time event.  Sometimes these indicators will be calm and stable while other times they will be shaking uncontrollably.  This can lead to some frustrating moments where mistakes are easy to be made, but this works in the game’s context.  If a character is nervous and at the precipice of danger, then they are more likely to make hasty decisions and mistakes.  You always know what the character is going through based on the presentation of the quick-time events, which is brilliant and works really well in conveying story without explicitly describing how a character feels.

Heavy Rain was initially released in 2010 on the PS3, but I have been playing the PS4 remaster, which gives the already good looking game a complete HD makeover.  The game looks amazing and even the slightest details like the boxes you find in a convenience store are all retouched and redone in a higher resolution.  The game still looks a little dated at moments but the gorgeousness is undeniable.  Unfortunately, the movement mechanics were not redone for the remaster.  Movement is handled by pressing down the right trigger while moving the stick in the direction you want to move.  It’s a dated mechanic that does not hold up well at all.  I often found myself running into walls and scooting past an object in an environment that I wanted to interact with because I was trying to grasp the character’s movement.  It’s not a thing that gets better with time either.  I was still having annoyances with the mechanic late in the game.

heavy rain 4

David Cage’s game took the gaming industry by storm when it was first released.  Heavy Rain, despite some of its mechanical woes, still holds up extremely well today, thanks to some of Quantic Dream’s remastering work.  There’s a thrilling story to be told, one that will most likely move you in one way or another.  All of the characters are dynamic, interesting, and even relatable in some ways.  Heavy Rain was on of PS3’s best games and that quality still stays true today.

heavy rain score

Review: The Order: 1886

the order 1886 cover
via 3D Juegos

The Order: 1886 (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

Action / Shooter

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America, SCE Santa Monica Studio

Developer: Ready at Dawn Studios

2015 has been a stellar year so far for gaming and it’s looking like 2016 might even surpass it.  With so many exciting things that have taken place this year, the number of disappointments has been relatively low, especially compared to what 2014 brought.  I think you know where this is going.  If you had to ask anybody what the biggest disappointment of the year for gaming was, they would probably point to The Order: 1886.  Ready at Dawn, the studio behind the game, has had some success with PSP titles in the past, but this was the first time they took an original game to the console, and perhaps it shows a little.  I’m not necessarily up at arms against this game as much as some are, but my time with the game was less than ideal.

the order 1886 1
via Siliconera

The Knights of the Order are an elite group of highly trained knights that offer protection to Victorian-era London.  The game takes place in an alternate history where technology has progressed farther along, giving the knights access to some high-tech weapons, a lot of them designed by the famed inventor Nikola Tesla, who also happens to be a character that you meet in the game.  You play as Sir Galahad, a member of the Order.  He’s an older and more seasoned knight that has a lot of experience under his belt.  Other members of your Order include Lady Ingraine (Galahad’s love interest), Sir Percival, and Marquis de Lafayette, who hasn’t received his title yet since he is just an apprentice.

An ugly war has taken place in London between humans and these creatures called “half-breeds.”  These creatures start off as humans but take on animalistic traits.  The origins of this disease are not really explained but these creatures are not things you want to mess with.  With the help of Black Water, a weird substance that heals the drinker almost instantly, the Order has been able to turn things around, giving them the advantage in the bloody fight that has ravaged the streets of London.  (All traces of realism are thrown out the window with this one) There’s a whole bunch of twists and turns as you make your way through the eight to nine-hour campaign that make the story enjoyable and gripping.  Unfortunately, its capped off by a rather abrupt cliffhanger that blatantly sets up the prospect of another sequel.  I would have liked the story to continue on a little longer, but I was generally content with the game’s length.  There were a lot of complaints directed at the game’s length, but I don’t think the game would have necessarily been better if more content was tacked on to the game’s length.  It’s the game’s combat and gunplay that are the real problems with The Order.

the order 1886 2
via Game Zone

Uninspired and unoriginal third-person cover shooting makes up a good percentage of the gameplay.  For the most part it works, but boredom starts to kick in as you routinely have to take out a number of rebels and other enemies.  The game has an okay variety of weapons, however only a couple stand out.  As you progress through the story, some science-powered weapons are given to Galahad to try out and this is where the main fun can be had, although that feeling starts to degrade again as repetition kicks in again.

Maybe the most surprising thing is the lack of half-breeds that you have to fight.  The whole premise of the game revolves around the fight against these monsters, but here I was, shooting rebel after rebel from the safety of some cover…what!?  The couple of times where I actually was fighting the half-breeds were great and intense, making me hungry for more.  Maybe it was the game’s lack of creative direction, but the lack of half-breeds in this game seems like a major misstep that should not have been overlooked.

the order 1886 3
via GamersNet

The other percentage of gameplay that wasn’t cover based shooting involves quick time events and corridor walking…fun right?  Who doesn’t appreciate an overzealous use of quick time events and endless walks through corridors?  As it turns out, a lot of people.  There was not an offensive number of quick time events but it was starting to get a little out of hand.  The game’s shooting sequences were sandwiched between walks through city streets or dark corridors with some of the other characters.  This was not fun at all, but at least the game’s environments were gorgeous and highly detailed.  It would sometimes make me forget that what I was doing was just walking to the next large area where a shooting sequence was going to take place.

If Ready at Dawn would have put a little more work into The Order: 1886’s gameplay, this could be a whole different review.  The story is original and engrossing, set in the frame of Victorian London that pops off the screen with stunning visual appeal.  It’s the unoriginal and rote cover-based shooting and quick time events that largely bring the experience down.  I wouldn’t call the game my biggest disappointment of 2015 because it had a lot of good things going for it, but the game could have been a lot more.  Maybe the sequel will right its predecessor’s wrongs?

the order 1886 score

Review: Until Dawn

until dawn coverUntil Dawn (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

Horror / Adventure

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Developer: Supermassive Games

It’s that time of year again!  The fall games season is here and 2015’s holiday season looks like it is going to be ripe with new releases.  Some might disagree, but I think the season has been started with the release of the PS4 exclusive Until Dawn.  The game has gone through a weird developmental cycle, announced back in 2012 as a PS3 horror game that would heavily involve the PlayStation Move.  Things went quiet until 2014 when the game was re-announced as a PS4 exclusive horror game.  Sony’s well of PS4 exclusives has been pretty dry recently but Until Dawn brings the water back into the well.

via WCCF Tech
via WCCF Tech

The game hones the influence of movies like Cabin in the Woods and Scream, putting you in control of eight teenagers who have gathered at a cold and desolate mountain resort on the anniversary of their friends’ death.  The gathering was put together as a way to cope and move on from the unfortunate events that took place the year prior, but things start to go south as something sinister starts to peek its head in the darkness.  Things start going bad pretty fast as the teens are flung full force into a deadly marathon of survival and terror with the respite of rescue awaiting them at dawn.

What makes this story engrossing is the choices that you have to make as the story plays itself out.  The game emphasizes the “Butterfly Effect,” where all of your choices that you make, whether big or small, have impacts and consequences later on in the story.  I tend to be skeptical when games boast these kinds of features, but with Until Dawn, the prospect of multiple branching story outcomes is present at every corner.  It was amazing to see the effects of your choices in places you wouldn’t expect.  Situations like whether or not you choose to shoot a squirrel in the first episode (the game is broken up into ten episodes, much like a TV show) can have major repercussions later in the story.  I found this to be fascinating and it drove me to complete multiple playthroughs to see where my choices would lead the story, and like the game boasts, I got drastically different endings.

via Leader Gamer
via Leader Gamer

Story wise, it’s hard to figure out if the game was taking itself seriously.  Why you ask?  Well, the game is one big horror trope fest.  Literally, the entire game is littered with almost every single horror trope you could imagine.  The teens split up, jump scares get you out of nowhere, a grandfather clock dings, a heroine in distress walks around a house in your bath towel, and almost every character makes extremely stupid decisions.  I want to believe that the game wasn’t taking itself seriously, but I couldn’t really tell.  Other story elements started to fall apart towards the end as well, including a subplot about a mysterious psychologist.

It’s a shame that the story wasn’t the greatest, because the actors involved with this game were phenomenal.  Familiar faces like Hayden Panettiere, Peter Stromare, and Rami Malek stand in as the teenagers through the magic of motion capture.  The team at Supermassive Games have outdone themselves, doing a great job at bringing the characters to life.  Their facial emotions are way better than any other characters I have seen in games these days and they actually look like real people in their movement and actions.  Each of the actors and actresses sold their characters pretty well, despite the type of material that was put in front of them.  I have to admit that they all deserved better, but they did a pretty good job with what they had.

until dawn 3

If you have played a similar game like Heavy Rain, then you will most likely be familiar with the type of gameplay that is presented to you in the game.  Most of the interactions you will have with the game are in the form of quick time events and choosing between two choices in terms of dialogue.  You will have to move around the environment from time to time, but the game is more like an interactive movie.  There is also a fair amount of collectibles to pick up along paths and in rooms which serve as devices to feed you some of the backstory that the game decides to leave out from the main story.

I was pleasantly surprised with the experience I received from Until Dawn.  The story fell into a pit of well-trodden tropes, but it was easy to look past this because the game was just too damn fun.  It’s a game that I played with some buddies, experiencing the campy moments of horrific nightmares together.  The acting was superb and the game looked pretty great, probably one of the best looking PS4 games around.  With the abundance of outcomes present in the game, I would love to hear the kinds of experiences that other players have with the game.  It’s certainly a game worth talking about.

via Play Nation
via Play Nation

Also as a side note, if you hear a weird freaky noise coming from a not so friendly looking place, don’t go towards it, no matter how adventurous and curious you are.  It’s not worth it.  No, it never ends well.

until dawn score

Review: The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season

via Fone Arena
via Fone Arena

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (2012)

PS4 / Rated M


Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games

Thanks to recent success, Telltale Games has become a household name among gaming fans.  They are now a well-oiled machine that is putting out their now famous brand of adventure games, with a focus on storytelling, at breakneck speeds.  Contrary to what you might assume, most of these games are actually pretty good.  The game that put Telltale on the map and started their second wind was their episodic adaptation of The Walking Dead.  It was a game that was highly regarded among critics and fans alike, garnering a massive following.

What made this game special for people was two things.  First, the two main characters that you follow through the story were extremely well done.  Lee Everett is a good man that has another side to him.  We first see him being hauled away to the slammer due to a mishap in his relationship.  On the way to prison, the police car runs into a zombie on the road and they are propelled into the nearby grass.  The action begins.  Lee manages to escape the site, only to stumble upon a house that seems to have another soul in hiding.  Cue the introduction of Clementine, a rather young and shy little girl that has been hiding away in her house for a while now.  Her parents are gone and she would not have survived if Lee did not stumble upon her house.

via Games N More
via Games N More

Telltale does an amazing job from the get go of making you really care about the two characters.  Lee is faced with a big challenge in helping Clementine with finding her parents, as well as survival.  Clementine should not be painted as a deadweight, but instead as a lightbulb for Lee.  Lee has some trouble coming to grips with the morality of some of the decisions that he has made in his life, and Clementine acts as a moral compass from that point forward.  The two grow quickly attached to each other just as fast as the player gets attached to them.  The scenes involving the two lead characters were by far some of the best scenes from the whole series.

The other thing that really makes the game special is Telltale’s style of adventure game that they instituted with this release.  When the game came out, gone was the format of the traditional adventure game and in with Telltale’s new format of quick time events and heavy decision making.  There is a greater emphasis on story this time around and every dialogue option that you choose in the game has an effect on how things play out, whether big or small.  They do not give you a whole lot of time to make these decisions either.  I often found myself making impulse choices and saying things I did not mean to say.  That might be frustrating to some, but it only makes complete sense.  With the world in shambles due to the zombie outbreak and its people facing immense danger every day, there are going to be a lot of impulse decisions being made.

via Pure Xbox
via Pure Xbox

Each episode of the five episode season has a set of tough decisions that you have to make, and boy do these decisions live up to their name.  Some hit you right in the face in terms of toughness, but others do not seem like they make a big difference at the time, but they end up influencing the story in ways you could not imagine.  There is a moment towards the halfway mark on the season that was tough to swallow for a lot of reasons.  I am not going to spoil anything, but anybody who has played the game should already know what I’m talking about.  What happened was out of my realm of control, and it made me feel helpless.  The game gives you a chance to react, and I acted impulsively, and maybe a little irrationally, when faced with the decision of dealing with a character.  I have never felt that kind of feeling before in a game, and it was great and infuriating at the same time.

via What Culture
via What Culture

The supporting cast of characters that you tag along with during Lee’s journey with Clementine all bring a lot to the table in terms of greatness.  The game was almost flawless in getting me to somewhat care about all the characters that it gave me.  The last two episodes of the season after things are shaken up in the middle leave players with, in my opinion, some of the weaker links when it comes to characters, which made the decisions I had to make a little easier to stomach.

Once again, I am not going to spoil anything in terms of story, but the finale takes what’s left of your heart strings and rips them out with ferocity.  The game twists and turns and plays with your emotions, leaving you tired by the end.  The final moments of the game, where it’s just Lee and Clementine together, make for some tear-worthy moments.  I am not one to cry during any form of entertainment, but I have talked to people who have.  It’s a rough portion to play through, and it wraps everything up in a hard but satisfying way.

via Giant Bomb
via Giant Bomb

The complete edition comes with the DLC that was released with the game called 400 Days.  It tells the story of a wide variety of other people in the form of short playable chapters.  I thought it was a nice little break from the main story, but given how quickly the game runs through the stories, I found it hard to get attached to these characters like I did in the main offering.  The decisions that they gave you in these chapters did not have the same effect as a result.  The special episode ended in head-scratch worthy fashion, with a confrontation that I was not expecting.  Overall, 400 Days gives players a fun little experience in the world of The Walking Dead, but it is not necessary.

The Walking Dead does a ton of great things that were sometimes tainted by some technical problems.  There was a lot of hitching and sometimes the game chugged along in terms of performance.  These are minor quibbles on a masterpiece of a game, but it’s a game that is not going to win any awards in the technical categories.  This might not be your traditional adventure game, but it was a milestone for Telltale, setting a foundation for their future in the game industry.  The Walking Dead was a game that tried a lot of new things, telling an amazing story.  If you were ever on the fence, make time to play through this gem of a game.

the walking dead s1 score

Also available on PC, Mac, PS3, PSVita, Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone

Review: Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2

tales from borderlands ep1 coverTales from the Borderlands Episode 2 (2015)

Rated M / PS4


Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: 2K Games, Gearbox Software

It has been a while since the first episode of Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands was released.  The episode left off with a cliffhanger involving our characters Rhys, Fiora, Sasha and Vaughn dealing with the holographic Handsome Jack in the Atlas vault that they discovered below the racing arena.  He revealed that there was a secret “Gortys Project” that leads to a dangerous vault, presumably full of riches.  Finally, the second episode, titled “Atlas Mugged” has finally landed and it provides a lot more laughs this time around, as well some hard-hitting choices you have to make.

The episode starts off right where the first left off with our vault hunters scrounging around the Atlas vault in search of some clues for their next move.  They stumble upon the (seemingly) dead body of an Atlas general, which they use to reveal the location of the Gortys Project, which is in Old Haven.

via VG Network
via VG Network

The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the enhanced humor that the episode provides.  Do not get me wrong, the first episode was pretty funny and brought on its fair share of chuckles, but Telltale’s newest episode brings on a lot more jokes and humorous situations, which is apparent right of the bat with the eye scene.

We also get another humorous and stylistic opening title screen sequence when the group is suddenly attacked by Moonshots.  They leave the vault with the things they need and speed away in their caravan, only to run into trouble with monsters and a huge beast.  Fiora and Sasha find a way out of the mess, while Rhys and Vaughn fall behind in the desert dust in a rather comical way.

via VG Network
via VG Network

Deserted and roughed up a bit, they encounter Vasquez from Hyperion who is shot down from Helios in his flashy car.  Rhys and Vaughn’s lies and shady business behind Vasquez’s back finally catches up to them as Vasquez has one mission in mind, to knock those two out.  It is revealed that Handsome Jack, who turns out to be some weird form of a hologram, is attached to Rhys’ body, and only Rhys can see and interact with him.  It is hard to understand why this is the case, but I just learned to accept it.

Handsome Jack’s character provides his own brand of humor to the story, much like the proper Borderland games.  It first seemed like Vaughn was going to be the comical relief character, but know he has some competition from Jack.  Jack is a cocky, and sometimes a smart ass, yet very enjoyable to watch.

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With the help of Handsome Jack’s apparent control over Rhys’ body, Rhys and Vaughn get away from Vasquez, and meet up with the handy Loading Bot that we were introduced to in the first episode.  The game gives you the choice to go to Old Haven, where the Gortys Project is being held, or Hollow Point to meet back up with Fiora and Sasha.  I chose to go to Hollow Point, where Fiora and Sasha were getting their caravan vehicle fixed up and ready to go for their adventure ahead.

In Hollow Point is a dangerous place for Fiora, who is on wanted posters all over town.  She has a pretty big price on her head, which is very attractive to the various bounty hunters and bandits that roam around town.  The duo stays low as they pay a visit to Felix’s safe house that is in town.  They find the place trashed, but they manage to find the stash that Felix has hidden away.  However, Sasha finds out about my decision that I made to let Felix die at the racetrack.  As one would assume, she wasn’t too pleased and she seemed to be in a bad mood for the rest of the episode.  It’s going to be interesting to see where the two’s relationship goes after this episode.

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The two are not as safe as they thought they were however, as two bounty hunters stumble into the house and stick up the two.  Using their newly acquired weapons, Fiora and Sasha find a way out of the sticky situation, only to find that they are being chased by a mysterious assassin-like figure.  She has the intention to wipe Fiora out, but her motives still remain unclear.  Before she can do any damage, Rhys and Vaughn’s Loader Bot comes to the rescue to save Fiora and Sasha, and brings them to safety.

Reunited, the group treks on to Old Haven, the abandoned mine town that supposedly holds the high tech military facility.  After some snooping around, the team finds the switches that brings the mammoth facility out of the ground, revealing an entrance into the building.  They decide to enter, only to get held up once again by Vasquez, August, and some of his other men.  This time there is not too much they can do to about it, and Fiora and Rhys are forced to open up the doors with the switches they found in Atlas’s vault.

via VG Network
via VG Network

Telltale does not waste any time with making you really hate Vasquez’s character.  We also get some backstory behind Vasquez and Handsome Jacks’ relationship at Hyperion.  Vasquez looked up to Jack, even though he literally served as Jack’s verbal and physical punching bag.  When both Rhys and Fiora put the pieces in their respective consoles, the get locked into a orb-like room which holds the orb that might be the key to the vault that Jack was talking about at the end of the first episode.  However, Rhys almost compromises the whole project when he narrowly avoids dropping it into the abyss of the room.  Atlas’s security system is not too thrilled about the whole situation and sends a bunch of robots upon the group to neutralize the situation.

In the face of this danger, Fiora pulls out her handmade grenades that she found in Felix’s safe house, while Handsome Jack whispers in Rhys’ ear about his plan to help Rhys take over the facility.  It was the first seemingly important decision from the whole episode, and it was a tough one.  At the time, I thought it would be a better idea to see what Jack had in store for me, but I later regretted the decision, because like any good Telltale game, the decision will most likely come back and throw a wrench in Rhys and Fiora’s relationship.

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The episode leaves off with an even better cliffhanger than before, showing the true extent of Jacks’ powers.  He takes control over Rhys’ body and, in turn, takes over the flying robot security system.  They turn at Vasquez and his men and go forward for the attack, and this is where it cut to black.  I wanted to see what would happen next and how the team would get themselves out of this dirty situation, but that will only have to wait till the third episode.

The episode felt like it was a one big set up for the final moments and the third episode, but it was still a fun experience nonetheless.  The introduction of Handsome Jack’s character brought on more humor to an already hilarious story.  I am interested to see what Jack’s true intentions are and if he is a guy that the team can truly trust.  There seems to be a shady side to him, but we will have to see.  If those final moments of this episode were any indication, episode three is going to be a wild and thrilling ride, with even more new characters.

tft borderlands ep 2 score

Review: Life Is Strange Episode 1 – Chrysalis

via Playstation Lifestyle
via Playstation Lifestyle

Life Is Strange (Episode 1) – Chrysalis (2015)

Rated M / PS4


Publisher: Square Enix

Developer: DONTNOD Entertaiment

I think we all have Telltale to thank for the rise to prominence of the episodic style of gaming.  Ever since their overwhelming success with the episodic Walking Dead series, fans have been demanding more of these types of experiences, and Telltale has been delivering.  However, it has only been Telltale up to this point.  Joining in on the fun is Square Enix, and more specifically DONTNOD Entertainment, the guys behind Remember Me.  They have joined the episodic realm of gaming with their new series Life Is Strange.

Life Is Strange is a peculiar story about a young teenager named Max Caulfield (a Catcher in the Rye reference?) who moves away from her family in Seattle to go school at Blackwell Academy in her hometown of Arcadia Bay, Oregon.  Blackwell Academy could be considered your stereotypical rich and up-tight school for the preppy kids.  There’s all your cliché cliques that roam the halls and everybody seems to be a complete asshole.  It’s probably worth mentioning that DONTNOD is a French developer, which might explain the atmosphere of the academy.  I’m sure their view of western culture is a little slanted and incorrect, because let’s be honest, the use of the word “hella” is too damn high.  No one uses hella unless you are some skateboarding punk from the west coast.  There’s a bunch of other “American slang” that they put in the game that doesn’t seem to fit in.

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Max is generally a likable character however.  Amid the tons of characters you meet in the first episode, around 90% of them are generally unlikable.  Max is an aspiring photographer, and she doesn’t seem to be considered one of the “popular kids” around school.  She doesn’t mind too much, and she just goes about doing her own thing.  It doesn’t seem like she wants to be the center of attention really.

The first episode has some problems, however they are problems that can be fixed in subsequent episodes.  The game has a mysterious start, which is later revealed to be one of Max’s nightmares that she has during class.  She is stuck in a terrible storm near a lighthouse.  As she arrives to the base of the lighthouse, the storm flings a nearby boat into the top of the lighthouse and it all comes crumbling down on her, right as she wakes up from her sleep in photography class.

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As I mentioned before, I started to realize through the conversations in the photography class that the writing could use some work.  The characters talk with that stereotypical “slang-speak” that really rubs me the wrong way.  It makes you start to dislike their characters.  Max’s inner thoughts also need some work.  She repeats herself a ton, but perhaps this is because she has nothing else to say.  It would have been nice to have a little variety with her thoughts though.

The most intriguing part of the story however comes when Max witnesses a rather disturbing scenes during one of her routine “bathroom mental breakdowns”.  We get introduced to her childhood friend Chloe, who is hassling a distressed rich kid who pulls a gun on her and shoots her right on the spot.  Max goes to hold out her hand, which causes her to reverse time…all the way to photography class.  The revelation that she has these strange time manipulation powers drives her to go back to the bathroom to reverse the fateful event.

via ingame.de
via ingame.de

It’s these powers that really make Life Is Strange stand out from some of Telltale’s other episodic offerings.  Before, when you made dialog choices and other actions, those choices stuck with you, whether you liked them or not.  With Life Is Strange, whenever you make a choice, you can manipulate time in your favor to fix your choice if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to.  It really makes you think about the choices that you make and it often times made me sit there and debate whether or not I wanted to move forward with what I have done.

Towards the end of the episode, we started to see a demonstration of how the time manipulation will work outside of the dialog choices in the form of quick time event (of sorts).  There isn’t too much action or quick time events so far in the story, with the main focus being on exploration.  There is a ton of things for you to look at and see in the academy and its surrounding buildings.  The bulletin boards are full of ads, posters, and announcements and the school feels like a living and breathing environment.  With five episodes however, I start to wonder where they will take the story in terms of setting.  Blackwell Academy doesn’t offer a huge setting, and I already feel like I have explored most of what they will be showing me.  I hope that they take the story to other places and other environments.

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The first episode of Life Is Strange is a promising and shaky start all at the same time.  The time manipulation mechanics are simple to use but provide for enhanced decision making.  The setting and concepts that the story delivers are also pretty unique as well.  It’s the writing and the characters that probably need the most improvement as future episodes come out.  Not every character needs to be dislikable and they all don’t have to use a dictionary full of slang to have normal conversations.  I think DONTNOD has a good game in their hands, and if they can continue to work at it and iron out some of its wrinkles, it will be a fresh new take on what Telltale has already done with the episodic style of storytelling.

life is strange e1 score

Review: Tales From The Borderlands – Zer0 Sum

tales from borderlands ep1 coverTales From The Borderlands Episode 1 (2014)



Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Telltale Games & Gearbox Software LLC

*There may be some spoilers scattered throughout the review.  You have been warned.*

The Borderlands games are mainly known for their shooting combat and their expansive amount of gun customization.  They are open world games that contain lots of side missions and loot for you to take advantage of.  The story however?  It doesn’t really stand in the spotlight.  When Telltale announced that one of their next famed adventure games would take place in the Borderlands universe, it was a little surprising.  The games do have their own brand of attitude and flair that transfer perfectly however to Tales From The Borderlands.

via Giga Games
via Giga Games

It’s immediately apparent that the game has the same look and feel as the Borderlands game.  The art style looks really nice and the colors pop right off the screen.  It’s a nice looking game, and the returning characters look exactly like they do in the previous games.  However, we get a look at some completely new characters exclusive to the game.

The first episode, titled Zer0 Sum, starts off with a beat-up Rhys, a company man for the well-known and highly frowned-upon Hyperion Corporation.  He is looking for his companion, Fiora, who is a con-artist from the planet Pandora.  The two are the most unlikely duo, somehow brought together by a single link.  Rhys is then captured by a mysterious stranger, who quickly asks him to talk about the Gortys Project as he takes Rhys back to his hideout.  This is when we get to see the back story and how the two characters were brought together.

via Videogameszone
via Videogameszone

The two obviously don’t trust each other yet, and that is seen through their constant bickering between themselves.  The story is told in medias res, where both of the characters tell the story from their point of view.  They tend to disagree with each other a lot and their stories contradict each other.  There was a lot of humor from these little arguments.

The two are introduced to each other after a deal gone horribly wrong.  Rhys is promised a promotion by his scummy boss Hugo Vasquez.  Instead of the promotion, he gets “promoted” to a janitorial position, which sets Rhys off.  His friends up at Hyperion, Vaughn and Yvette decide to help Rhys in screwing Vasquez out of a deal he set up with a group in Pandora over a rare vault key for ten million dollars.  Vaughn quickly wires them the money and he’s off to Pandora, along with Rhys, to carry out the deal before Vasquez figures anything out.

via Softpedia
via Softpedia

Once we get down to the unforgiving desert region of Pandora, we begin to look around for the place where the deal will take place.  This is where the action gameplay in introduced.  Quick time events were not a big deal in past Telltale games, but they seem to play a bigger part in Tales From Borderlands.  Some bandits want to know what is in the case full of money and they don’t hesitate to attack Rhys and Vaughn.  With some timely executed quick time events, you take out the bandits in a few tense moments.  You also summon down a Loader Bot, which you can customize in real time to fight the bandits.  All of these features are new for the Telltale games, and they were all generally fun to play around with.

via Computer Bild
via Computer Bild

It’s also worth noting that Rhys has a special cyborg eyeball that lets him scan objects and characters in the environment, giving the player an added dimension of information, as well as humor.  It’s a cool little feature that is pretty well executed.  Later in the game when you take control over Fiora, you get access to money, which you can pick up and use to buy yourself out of trouble.  It’s little things like this that make the game seem completely different from past Telltale games.

Going back to the story, Rhys and Vaughn eventually come across August and Sasha who have the vault key.  They seem pretty reluctant to give them the key since Vasquez is nowhere in sight.  This is where the story is thrown in Fiora’s hands, who begins to explain how she got connected with the deal.

via Computer Bild
via Computer Bild

Fiora is the slick and sly con-artist that makes her residence in Pandora.  She’s not alone in her endeavors however.  Felix has been her mentor in the game and Sasha is Fiora’s partner in crime.  They begin to think up a scam that they believe will net them some excess cash.  They put together a fake vault key that they plan to sell to the gullible August who they believe will sell the key to Hyperion for big money.  All it takes is some sweet talking and persuasion from Fiora to get August on board, who then travels with Sasha to make the deal.  Felix and Fiora are close by to make sure nothing gets out of hand, and to make sure that the fake vault key doesn’t get outed.

This is how it all comes together.  When Rhys scans the vault key with his eye, he finds out that the thing is fake, and this causes a bunch of ruckus.  A gang of bandits led by the obnoxious Bossanova busts through and takes the briefcase of money among the confusion, while Rhys, Sasha, Felix, and Vaughn escape from the scene, leaving August behind.  We also get introduced to Zer0, a deadly vault hunter who also wants to get his hands on the money.

via Digital Trends
via Digital Trends

After a shaky alliance is formed between the four, they decide to go after the money.  After some work by Vaughn, they track the money to Bossanova’s base, which is an old Atlas facility.  It also turns out that the briefcase is top prize for the winner of a death rally that Bossanova is putting on.  The team splits up, with Rhys and Sasha going after the briefcase and Vaughn and Fiora gearing up for the rally.  After more quick time events and some action, we get met with our first major decision of the game.  Felix, as it turns out, is in this for himself and he ends up taking the briefcase, backstabbing the group.  It’s known that the briefcase has a bomb wired to it for anybody that tries to get in.  You have to decide as Fiora whether or not to stop him, or let him find out the hard way.  It was a tough decision to make, but I ended up watching Felix explode as the money started to fly everywhere…destroyed.

This causes some tension between Sasha and Fiora, who couldn’t believe that Felix was left for dead.  Rhys and Vaughn also realize the situation they are in, now that Hyperion and Vasquez are aware of what had happened to the money.  They need to get the money back to Vasquez.  They stumble around the debris of the explosion, coming across an opening to an Atlas vault containing some highly valued vintage weapons…as well as a mysterious looking pair of artifacts in the middle.  Fiora and Rhys put them together to reveal what is explained as the Gortys Project which supposedly leads to a vault, as explained by a holographic Handsome Jack, one of the most popular villains form the Borderlands universe.  The whole project is still mysterious in nature, and will most likely be explored in the future episodes.  We also got a sneak peek at what is believed to be Mad Moxxie’s voice, after talking to Zer0 Sum who successfully took down Bossanova.  It leaves me anticipating how she will factor into the story.

via Gizorama
via Gizorama

I really liked where the first episode went and what it did in terms of introducing all of the major players.  We started to see the chemistry between characters like Rhys and Sasha, as well as Vaughn and Fiora.  It’s these types of relationships that I hope are further explored in future episodes.  I also heavily anticipate how Handsome Jack, who is presumed dead, and Mad Moxxie will come into play.  I also really enjoyed the humor and attitude that was present in the game.  The banter between  the characters and the stylish title cards for the characters were all fun to experience.  It looks like Tales From The Borderlands has an intriguing story to tell.