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TellTale Fatigue

I, along with countless others, love the Telltale games. They are king when it comes to storytelling and have spread across many different franchises while maintaining their charm. As the popularity of their titles has increased, so has their number of titles. So far we have received two seasons of The Walking Dead, a fantastic game in The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands, and Game of Thrones. Telltale is currently releasing episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode and recent announcements revealed Telltale Batman and Marvel games in the works. The question is, are we receiving too much of a good thing?

 

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Telltale games used to be magical. They offered you an experience that you could only get from playing their titles. But, with so many games coming from their studio, I feel that Telltale is losing its magic.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead filled me with emotion and I loved The Wolf Among Us, it is probably my favorite game from them. When Game of Thrones was announced, I was absolutely stoked. But when it finally came out I was disappointed with the blandness of the story. The magic from previous titles was lost. Furthermore, the season took over took a year to come to a conclusion. By the time I reached the end I had already forgotten what happened in the beginning and didn’t have it in me to replay the earlier episodes.

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Telltale fatigue is also showing through the studio’s game engine. Season 1 of The Walking Dead was released in 2012 with a variety of bugs that took me out of the game. Three years later the engine is still broken, in my opinion. There are times when the games will just halt or slow down to the point that it is like watching a PowerPoint presentation.

Telltale has continued to churn out games without actually fixing these issues. Though you would think that the jump to next gen platforms seemed like the perfect time to put some time into optimizing their games, the issues of last gen seem to be worse on the newer systems. As a fan of their games and a consumer, I personally believe Telltale should take a year off and put some R&D into their tools. With some work Telltale should definitely be able to offer a smoother experience than we are getting now.

I think Telltale is great, don’t get me wrong. But they need to make us want their games. Games like Uncharted and Fallout are so special because we aren’t constantly having them shoved down our throats. Though I think Telltale games are just as good, we don’t are not getting the opportunity to yearn for more. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing and I thing Telltale needs to learn this lesson.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops III Preview

With less than a week to the release of the much anticipated Call of Duty: Black Ops III, now is as good a time as ever to look at what players can expect from the newest entry in the series. Every year developer Activision’s highly successful franchise adds both new features and gameplay tweaks to continue to keep the long running series fun and exciting. This year’s entry seems no different.

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Black Ops III seems to be continuing the series trend of taking place in futuristic environments, much like every title since Black Ops II, which is great in my opinion. Advanced Warfare and Black Ops II’s futuristic settings were the most appealing story-wise since the original Modern Warfare. The sci-fi aspects of these future battlefields allow for storytelling that is hard to accomplish with modern day settings. It allows the developers to develop new weapons and technology, that isn’t present in a modern day setting, to enhance gameplay. In this title the characters are even augmented, in a way reminiscent of Deus Ex, which should allow for interesting twists to gameplay.

One of the most interesting new features of Treyarch’s upcoming shooter is the campaign being designed for co-op play. Some of the fondest memories I have of the Call of Duty series are of the spec ops missions in Modern Warfare 2. Sitting on the couch with my wife playing the game split-screen, running through these missions, was extremely fun. I hope the co-op campaign structure of Black Ops III delivers the same level of joy.

Interestingly, there are two changes in the campaign that I find odd (though I can see purpose within the first of the two). All campaign missions will be unlocked from the get go this time around. Since multiplayer is the main aspect of Call of Duty games that most players enjoy, this new feature allows players to experience campaign missions that friends may brag about being great without having to play through the whole game. The second of the two changes is the exclusion of a campaign in last-gen versions of the game. Though this seems to be an odd design choice, it may be due to time restrictions.

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After playing the beta for Black Ops III, I can say that the game boasts the same tight gameplay experience that fans have come to enjoy with the series. Black Ops III‘s gameplay felt similar to Black Ops II in my opinion, though it was much smoother and had a Titanfall-esque flare to it. Black Ops III allows for players to utilize jumping abilities similar to what we received in last years Advanced Warfare. Player opinion continues to be a split among fans of the series; some players loved the jump mechanics whereas others hated them. To me, the mechanic adds a new layer of strategy to the game and I am glad that it is returning.

There are also happens to be a lot more customization options available for players this time around. Among these options are super soldier classes, such as “Call Sign: Prophet” and “Call Sign: Nomad.” These two new classes offer special abilities outside of the regular gun customization or killstreak perks. It reminds me of the way your characters can have different abilities in titles like Borderlands or even Destiny—a welcomed addition should this new gameplay mechanic be balanced correctly.

The multiplayer experience of Call of Duty continues to evolve to keep the game fresh. Where some players may feel that old titles off the pristine version of the multiplayer experience, I enjoy the new experience offered every year with the various changes made to the series. As long as Activision keeps the experience fresh, Call of Duty will remain at the top.

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Call of Duty‘s beloved zombie mode, Treyarch’s bread and butter, returns in Black Ops III as well. Every iteration of the series has offered some type of horde or mission mode since World at War was released and zombies is the king of these modes. Zombie mode is thrilling and nail biting, but remains fun. The teamwork involved has continually kept me coming back to Black Ops II three years since it was released and I hope that this version delivers as well.

This year’s iteration includes a progression system, which allows players to build up their characters and not have to start from scratch on every play through. This could be a welcoming addition, though half of the fun is earning power-ups throughout each match of zombies mode. Abilities this time are served to players through a bubble gum machine—which is campy, but so is zombie mode, so it fits. Like previous versions of this staple game mode, new celebrity vocal talents like Ron Pearlman and Jeff Goldblum are joining the fight agains the undead. Zombies looks destined to deliver.

All in all, the package looks well worth the wait, especially on current-gen platforms. The campaign is darker than ever, the multiplayer is fast and tight, and zombie mode looks like a blast. The Black Ops series has been a fan favorite since Treyarch established it, and this one seem like it will continue that tradition. November 6th is just around the corner, so we will see if they live up to the standards that have been set. But, as of this moment, all signs point to yes.

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Review: Tales from the Borderlands Ep. 5: The Vault of the Traveler

In the final episode of Tales from the Borderlands, Telltale Games has managed to create one of their funniest, yet darkest episodes yet. The episode takes you on a roller coaster of emotions as you laugh, feel uncomfortable at times, and want to tear up at others. The game ties up loose ends, characters die, and other characters return. In the Vault of the Traveler, Telltale actually makes it feel like your choices from the previous episodes greatly impact the way your story ends. Characters react to you based on how you treated them in previous episodes, and there is even a choice that you make earlier in the series that can determine if one of your main characters lives or dies at the end. There are throwbacks galore to previous Borderland titles and Easter eggs that range from Power Rangers to Final Fantasy 7. Much like Telltale’s other games, episode 4 was a drag, but they always knock it out of the park with the finale. Telltale continues to finish strong.

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As always with Borderlands, comedy was one of the stronger parts of the game. Much like the main Borderlands games, I caught myself caring about the robot characters more than the human characters. Their innocent, yet comedic charm makes them more likable in my opinion. Loaderbot and Gortys speak to me much like Claptrap did in the previous games. That being said, a lot of the human characters came into their own in the finale. Characters I could care less about previously suddenly made me care, even Handsome Jack made me feel sorry for him.
The final boss battle of Tales from the Borderlands was phenomenal. There is a nod to the Power Rangers here that I thought was brilliant. The combat itself was a mix of the usual run of the mill Telltale combat that we are used to from previous games from the developer, but they have added in a fighting game style that reminds me of Street Fighter. Even the combat animations are nods to move from Chun Li as well as Ken and Ryu.

I do however have a couple of issues with the story. In times it felt too rushed. This is in part because Telltale left a lot of plot holes that needed to be tied up from previous installments. The game would have benefited from having more substance in Episode 4 to spread out the content instead of trying to fit the amount of content that they did in a mere two hours. This seems to be a recurring trend with Telltale games, as The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead season two suffered from the same criticisms.

Another recurring trend with Telltale games is the hiccups that the game engine seems to suffer from. In several spots of the game, frame-rates would drop, scenes would stutter and seem to skip. The company seems to be pushing out title after title, where they could really benefit from taking a little down time to optimize the game engine to make the game more enjoyable for their fans. I played the game on PS4, so I can only assume that the last gen versions of the games suffered from these issues more than I did.

The audio for the game was on point though. There were a couple of license tracks that really added to the experience, especially Retrograde from James Blake that plays during the title sequence of the episode. Voice acting wise, as always Telltale are at the top of their game. The characters voices fit them, the lines were delivered with meaning and were all around enjoyable to listen to.

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5: The Vault of the Traveler gives the series an amazing conclusion, in what I believe is the best ending that Telltale has given us next to The Walking Dead Season 1 and definitely the strong episode of this series. All of the questions that loomed from previous episodes were answered and tied up nicely, as well as new questions to consider about that will in no doubt shape the future of Borderlands, such as is this a sneak preview of what Pandora will look like when we finally get Borderlands 3.