It feels like a long time since I swore never to play a Telltale game again. In reality though, it was last year, on the 2014 end of year review Sarcasmicast, with Episode 5 of the fantasy murder mystery The Wolf Among Us. Indeed Telltale earned the coveted award of Chris’ Fuck You of the Year 2014.
To set the scene in The Wolf Among Us, I was happily going along and came to the big climatic scene of the entire series. This was what everything was building up to. During this scene, which was about thirty minutes long, you had to confront almost every decision you’d made in the series so far. It was tense, it was fantastic, as protagonist Bigby (the fairytale Big Bad Wolf) had to face off against everyone else from Fabletown. I loved this scene and it really made me feel like every single decision I’d made across all five episodes was important.
Then at the end of the scene, at the big dramatic resolution of everything… the game froze.
And booted me back to the start of the scene.
I lost thirty minutes of progress but I didn’t care about that so much. What infuriated me more was the complete disregard for the integrity of the story and the player’s time. I had to sit through a half an hour scene again which completely nullified my emotional impact to it. In fact, it made me bitter. Because this wasn’t my first problem with The Wolf Among Us. I got the glitches and slowdown that has plagued every Telltale game since they started using the current engine. ‘Previously on’ segments as well as ‘Next On’s are just fucking broken and painful to watch. It’s almost laughable, even more so that now the PS4 and Xbone are out and these problems still prevail.
One last story before we embrace the silly. I was a big fan of The Walking Dead Season One and while I didn’t think Season Two was so masterful, I was obviously interested in continuing the story. I played the episodes as they came out so had about two months between each installment. Things came to a head. Things got real. Episode Four ended on a hell of a cliffhanger.
Then Episode 5 came out. I downloaded it as soon as it was available. I started it up.
And it deleted my entire save data.
I had to play through the first four episodes of The Walking Dead Season Two again, about 6-8 hours of pressing dumb buttons just to see what happened in the end. And guess what? I entirely feel that that game is a pile of shit. I mean I didn’t think it was amazing first time through, but I would have looked on it more favourably if I hadn’t had to do it all again, just because the system is broken.
And I get what some of you are probably saying. I could have just started Episode 5 fresh. But if you’re not playing a Telltale game for the impact of decisions and actions, what is the fucking point? It is not acceptable that something just deletes your entire save data. I almost played through it again just to spite the developers more than to see the conclusion.
So I swore off Telltale games but my love for Borderlands tempted me back in. One of the things to take from this is that I actually like Telltale’s games. I’m drawn to them. But I think the company really needs to look at the quality of their products. Telltale’s 2015 episodic adventure Tales from The Borderlands is fantastic, but it’s still stupidly broken. Every time I get a Game Over, the game freezes and I have to stop the application and restart. Also, on two separate occasions, I seem to have mashed a button too much and my character was booted into a random place on the game map and softlocked out of the entire game. It’s important to note I’m playing this on the PS4, objectively the most powerful console of this generation (sorry, but it factually is). This console is capable of so much more than Telltale is throwing at it. We’re talking about games like The Order: 1886, Until Dawn, Batman: Arkham Knight, even Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. I mean, come on.
So yeah I have an axe to grind. And the reality is, even if you’ve not encountered any of these game breaking glitches, you’ll have seen the jank. The jank that inexplicably made it’s way across the generational gap. So now it’s time to get arsey, and here are Five Things That Are Less Broken Than Telltale’s Game Engine.
5. Sam and Max
It’s kinda embarrassing when your previous games actually run better than your current ones, but such is the case with Sam and Max. One of Telltale’s first landmarks, the detective duo were one of the first to explore the episodic narrative genre. Playing through these games now is still very enjoyable. The wonky humour hits more than it misses and manages to successfully hark back to the old age of PC adventure games.
It’s also never deleted my save.
4. Aliens: Colonial Marines
You shoot the alien. The alien dies.
The Xenomorph will remember that.
3. This Vase
Who did this? Why, why would anyone do this? This was my favourite ugly vase. You know, looking at this, it really makes me realise the fragility of the human spirit. Maybe we are all ugly vases, just waiting to be knocked off the mantlepiece of life. I need a lot of superglue but no matter how much white stuff I squirt into these cracks, it’ll never be the same. You’ll always see the imperfections.
Nothing can stay perfect.
We all die alone.
2. Ride to Hell: Retribution
Ride to Hell tells the emotional story of a guy who just wants to man a turret. We are put in the shoes of said man who teleports to said turret and kills all kind of dudes. He’s happy. He’s where he belongs. There are many sound effects and many many graphics. But then he inexplicably gets teleported to a fist fight. He doesn’t know what to do. He punches the dude in front of him but it is silent. Because he’s not where he needs to be. He was born to man a turret. Nothing else matters.
Or at least I assume.
I never made it past the first ten minutes.
1. Greece’s Financial System
Money. It’s green paper. Or is it green paper in Greece? I don’t know. All I know is that they don’t really have any of it. Turns out borrowing money and not paying said money back is kinda a bad idea. I’m assuming that Greece’s top officials ran out of things to trade in at Cex. I mean. that’s what I do when I run out of money.
Okay so now that’s out my system, time for a heartfelt plea. To Telltale, cancel one of your 54 projects, take a slice of the copious amounts of money you have and fix your fucking game engine. Maybe that means making a new one, but if so, then that’s what it takes.
Respect your fans. Respect the fans of these properties you acquire. Respect fans of adventure games. The writing and storytelling present in Tales From The Borderlands is stellar, so respect that. At some point along the road, people are going to get tired of your bullshit.
And at that point, we will all remember that.