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Telltale Games

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Sword in the Darkness

Mar 25 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Sword in the Darkness (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: March 24, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] Like the previous episode, The Sword in the Darkness opens with Asher across the Narrow Sea. Hothead that he is, his sections always seem to be more action-oriented than the others. As an introduction to the episode it sets an energetic tone, though most of the other sections follow the more subdued light exploration and dialogue trees Telltale is known for. Asher is presented with a major this-or-that decision early on, and it comes during such a panicked situation that I was actually caught off guard by it, despite knowing what to expect by now. The scene does a good job of getting the adrenaline pumping and then presenting players with an impossible decision. I think I shouted some profanity at my monitor when it showed up. Well played, Telltale. Though Asher is charming and fun, Mira's tribulations in King's Landing continue to be the most interesting. Cersei, Tyrion, and Margaery all show up, and each wants something from the eldest Forrester daughter. Though the audience with Cersei in episode one was nerve-wracking, the politicking here provided the most sustained tenseness in the series. [embed]289414:57887:0[/embed] Cersei doesn't want Mira associating with Tyrion, Margaery wants her marriage into the Lannister family to go smoothly, Tyrion wants to team up with Mira to make some money, and Mira wants to give her family the best chance at survival by manipulating relationships in King's Landing. Keeping everyone happy while still achieving Mira's objective requires delicate balance, and there are very real consequences presented for crossing any of the major players. Mira's navigation of nobility politics feels more like Game of Thrones than any previous encounter. Previously, Gared hadn't been too important in the overall story of House Forrester, but now his purpose is made clear. The North Grove plot point introduced in episode one and ignored in episode two is revisited, and it sets a more tangible goal for future episodes. Where before it seemed like Gared being sent to The Wall was just an excuse to show scenes with Jon Snow, now it seems like a carefully calculated decision, both in-universe by Duncan and outside by Telltale. I'm much more interested to see where Gared's story goes now than I was coming into episode three. The most focus is placed on the events at Ironrath, where the Whitehill soldiers are becoming increasingly unruly. There are a couple of different approaches to take, but even if the player decides to go down one path, there are a number of scenes that test resolve. The smart choice for the long run is rarely the one that feels right in the moment. It's a strange situation, because Ironrath's state by the end of The Sword in the Darkness is obstensively worse than it was at the end of The Lost Lords, but I feel more optimistic about the future. As Rodrik, I made choices for the greater good that I thought might let other characters down, but the team all appeared to be on the same page. For the first time in the series, I don't feel like I have made all of the wrong choices. For sure, sacrifices had to be made. Not everybody ended up happy. By some metrics, each of the playable characters is worse off than before. But as a whole, the group finally has direction. Where the first two episodes took their time setting up the narrative machine, The Sword in the Darkness finally puts that machine into motion. Telltale's initial promise that each character's actions will ripple out and affect the others is coming to fruition. I only expect to see that even more with the next episode. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
The wheels are in motion
Telltale seems to be getting into the swing of things with Game of Thrones, in more ways than one. For starters, it only took seven weeks since the last episode for this one to come out. If Telltale can keep up that pace, the...

Game of Thrones trailer photo
Game of Thrones trailer

Trailer for Telltale's Game of Thrones Episode 3 unfolds some earlier plot points

Spoilers for Episode 2 in the video
Mar 23
// Darren Nakamura
Well, this one snuck up on me. I thought I had been following most of Telltale's releases pretty closely, but it turns out that Game of Thrones Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness is coming out tomorrow. Who knew? In the tr...
Telltale photo

How do you feel about the current Telltale formula?

Does it need more complexity?
Mar 18
// Chris Carter
Once upon a time, adventure titles were among the hardest challenges in the gaming universe. "Pixel-hunting" is a phrase many old school gamers are all too familiar with, searching for the exact right spot on the screen ...
Borderlands screenshots photo
Borderlands screenshots

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2 screenshots, we got 'em

Over 100 Atlas Mugged screenshots
Mar 17
// Darren Nakamura
Another Telltale episode, another excessively large set of screenshots taken as I played through with an Xbox 360 controller while keeping my pinky finger on the F12 key. Tales from the Borderlands still looks great despite t...

Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged

Mar 17 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: March 17, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] To its credit, Telltale owns up to the long wait between episodes. The opening line is Marcus commenting on how long it has been since the last part of the story. Then he goes into a recap of the main events from Zer0 Sum, leading into the beginning of Atlas Mugged. Hyperion executive Rhys and Pandoran con artist Fiona have stumbled onto some unknown but hopefully valuable Atlas technology, just in time for a digital reconstruction of Borderlands 2 antagonist Handsome Jack to load into Rhys's mind. Jack comes and goes over the course of the episode, typically when Rhys suffers head trauma, and he often offers his brand of morally bankrupt help. Though he only appears during certain scenes, Handsome Jack sort of steals the show. Rhys, Fiona, and the rest of the gang have some good lines, but Telltale's treatment of Jack is on point. He is simultaneously deplorable and hilarious, which serves the concept of Telltale adventure games well. In Borderlands 2 he was a likable villain; in The Pre-Sequel he was a detestable hero. Here, he can be either, allowing the player to choose whether to heed his more outlandish suggestions or to risk progressing without his aid. [embed]288757:57654:0[/embed] Episode 2 has the two protagonists separating and reuniting again and it still works great as a narrative device. Seeing the what from one perspective and then the why from the other gives extra insight to events, though Atlas Mugged lacks some of the punchier revelatory moments that Zer0 Sum had. There are still some secrets set up for later, like the function of the Gortys Project or the identity of the paddy hat-clad character. Fiona gets an upgrade to her single-shot pistol in this episode, allowing it to deal an elemental damage of her choice among incendiary, shock, and corrosive. Knowledge of the shooters in the series seems to help with knowing which element to use in which situation. Another kink thrown in is in addition to having limited ammunition, each element appears to be usable only once, so players may be locked out of one they want for the future. It's the kind of inter-episode mechanic that may or may not pay off intellectually until later. Neither of the established characters who made cameos in the first episode show up again here, but a few new ones do. Scooter and Athena are among those who make an appearance, and I hope for the narrative's sake that this isn't the last we see of them. Given her background with the Atlas corporation (see: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx) Athena plays a particularly interesting role that brings up questions I hope to see answered. From a gameplay perspective, this runs by the standard of modern Telltale titles. It includes the unique Borderlands hooks like Rhys's bionic eye and Fiona's management of money, but they are less emphasized than in the previous episode. Tales still feels like a Borderlands game, but slightly less so now than before. Though puzzles have basically been expunged from Telltale's modus operandi -- and I have come to terms with it -- there is one section where it still stings a little to think about. In it, Rhys has to restore power to an electronic system and it skirts the edge of requiring just a touch of critical thinking, but it ends up being a simple exploration exercise. The setup almost begged for some sort of puzzle; it was disappointing that the solution was so mundane. Past that, the main gameplay is exactly what we all expect from Telltale. Dialogue trees, quick-time events, and the occasional big choice to make. Keeping consistent with the first episode, the writing is sharp, the jokes are plentiful, the plot is intriguing, and the action is over-the-top. What it lacks is easily forgiven because what it contains is really good. Visually, Tales from the Borderlands is as great as ever. The bright colors and hard edges still work well with Telltale's engine, and they juxtapose against the dark comedic themes in a way that never seems to get old. I did experience a couple of minor graphical glitches, but 99% of it ran like a dream. In the end, Atlas Mugged is not quite as good as Zer0 Sum. It had me chuckling five minutes in, but there were fewer laugh-out-loud moments. It maintained high intensity in its action sequences, though none quite compared to the earlier death race. It used the unique Borderlands mechanics just a bit less. Its narrative lacked any jaw-dropping twists or powerful moments of clarity, but it still remained engaging throughout. Though it is slightly less than excellent, it is still great, and I can hardly wait to see where it goes next. Telltale, please don't make me wait so long before Episode 3. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Borderlands review photo
It's here Atlas
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Tales ...

Telltale Borderlands photo
Telltale Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2 trailer brings more bangs and booms

Atlas Mugged
Mar 09
// Darren Nakamura
Yesterday, PAX East attendees were treated to a sneak peak of the trailer for Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2: Atlas Mugged. Today, it is available for mass consumption. Things are heating up on Pandora for Rhys, Fiona,...
Telltale Borderlands Ep 2 photo
Telltale Borderlands Ep 2

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2 set to release week of March 17

Atlas Mugged
Mar 08
// Darren Nakamura
Telltale's panel came and went with some fun stories of the studio's journey but nary an announcement of what the developer is doing now. Judging from the comments in just about every Telltale article that goes up, the second...
Telltale x Penny Arcade photo
Telltale x Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade would team up with Telltale on a Thornwatch game

You know, if Telltale would have it
Mar 06
// Darren Nakamura
In a question-and-answer session at PAX East today, Penny Arcade founders Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik got onto the topic of their fantasy IP Thornwatch, which Krahulik has developed into a tabletop game. In an offhand com...
Telltale Storytime photo
Telltale Storytime

Telltale founders discuss the studio's evolution at PAX East 2015

2700 people in the Main Theater will remember that
Mar 06
// Darren Nakamura
At PAX East's big opening panel, Telltale Games co-founders Dan Connors and Kevin Bruner talked about how Telltale came into being. They began by following the storytelling path through the ages, from telling stories around a...
Telltale photo

Telltale's first original series is a TV show and videogame crossover

Lionsgate is an investor
Feb 24
// Brett Makedonski
Telltale Games has a propensity for surprising when it comes to revealing new projects. The news that it was creating a story-based Minecraft was so far out of left field, that it prompted us to wonder aloud what the nex...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords

Feb 03 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: February 3, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] That is to say, one of my versions of House Forrester is doomed. For Iron From Ice and now The Lost Lords, I have run through with two separate save files. I do not recommend doing this for a couple of reasons. For one, playing through more than once lifts up the curtain on which choices actually make any sort of difference in the story and which ones lead to the same place regardless. Most choices do not have any immediate impact; only a select few shape the narrative into something unique to an individual player. This is standard Telltale modus operandi at this point, so it should not surprise most who have been following the developer for the past few years. For two, it shows how utterly inept I would be in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. For my initial playthrough, I live in the moment and make the decisions that feel right. Sometimes I mouth off, sometimes I am defiant, but often I keep cool and try to maintain allies. My second save is labeled "Jerks" and in it I play House Forrester as a group of inconsiderate, self-serving assholes. For my first save, I find myself sparing lives when I should kill, making promises I should never keep, and helping others before helping myself. For my second save, I do the opposite. By most measures, the Jerk Forresters are in much better shape than the True Forresters. [embed]286540:56983:0[/embed] Where Iron From Ice set the stage for the series, The Lost Lords begins to put everything into motion. The Stark-esque scattering of the members of House Forrester is deliberate, planned to coincide with major events from the novels. Mira continues to serve Lady Margaery in King's Landing just prior to King Joffrey's wedding. Gared has completed his journey to The Wall to begin training before Mance Rayder launches his assault. Newcomer Asher is traveling between Yunkai and Meereen just as Daenerys is campaigning to liberate the slaves in Essos. Of course, plenty of focus is given to Ironrath, the seat of House Forrester, in the aftermath of Episode One. In a way, it works against The Lost Lords to be set precisely when it is. The build-up will likely be worth it once everything is in place and it all starts to hit the fan, but in the moment it feels like a lot of waiting. Consequences for some of the major choices from the last episode show up here. If Mira asked Margaery for help last episode, then Margaery will be unwilling to provide any assistance now. Ethan's choice of Sentinel in Iron From Ice affects how the Whitehill soldiers are treated in The Lost Lords. The former consequence seems like a major one; an entire avenue of intrigue involving the Queen of Thorns may be locked away in the future. The latter does not appear as important; Lord Whitehill is ornery and spiteful regardless. Thus far, Mira had only been exposed to the diplomacy, secrecy, and espionage of King's Landing. In The Lost Lords, she gets her first taste of the more overt awfulness of Westeros. Her story is still the most subdued of the playable characters. Her audience with Queen Cersei in the first episode was chilling and tense, but there are no comparable scenes in this episode. Gared still holds the cryptic information given to him by Gregor in the beginning of Iron From Ice, and he hopes to become a ranger in the Night's Watch in order to investigate that further. It only comes up optionally, but it seems like he will be the center of that subplot in addition to being present during the huge battle at The Wall. Asher was teased in the first episode as the hothead exile brother, and his scenes show as the most action-oriented. He is apt to fight his way out of trouble, but he does have a sharp wit when he needs it. His story about returning to Westeros from Essos to help save his house has potential to be interesting, but it is only starting out. The oil paint aesthetic remains constant, with both its pleasing 2D backgrounds and distractingly fuzzy 3D objects. I did experience a few typical Telltale glitches, like teleporting character models, but nothing gamebreaking. Overall, The Lost Lords is a fine episode for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, but it does not stand out. It is not exactly filler, but it does feel like it exists almost entirely as exposition, putting the pieces into place for all of the really exciting stuff to happen in a future episode. It does begin to demonstrate the far-reaching consequences of each character's choices, but it lacks the truly memorable scenes found in the first episode. If Iron From Ice felt like a punch to the gut, The Lost Lords is the throbbing pain afterward. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
Feeling the Ironrath
I would not last a day in Westeros. My best hope would be to spend some time in Oldtown to train as a maester, and even though it would help to protect me from personally going to war, I would probably be too close to the pol...

Game of Thrones trailer photo
Game of Thrones trailer

Elissa Forrester laments in the Game of Thrones Episode Two launch trailer

'It's happening all over again'
Feb 02
// Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords is out tomorrow for Mac, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Windows, with versions for other platforms hitting later this week. To commemorate, Telltale has released a ...
Game of Thrones Episode 2 photo
Game of Thrones Episode 2

Trailer for Telltale's Game of Thrones Episode 2 threatens open war

The Lost Lords
Jan 22
// Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series kicked off in December with Episode One: Iron from Ice. In preparation for the release of Episode Two: The Lost Lords, Telltale released the preview trailer seen above. The first half ...
New Telltale IP photo
New Telltale IP

Telltale is working on an original property and unannounced partnerships

In addition to, what, four other series?
Jan 12
// Jordan Devore
In sharing that Telltale Games president and co-founder Kevin Bruner will become the new CEO while Dan Connors shifts to an advisory role, the company hinted at what's in store for us: lots of games, including one not based o...
Game of Thrones photo
Through heartache, assumed betrayal, and borderline acceptable fight scenes, Mike and Will have made it to the end of Game of Thrones' first episode. And boy howdy, is it a doozy! People actually die in this one! Keep your eyes glued to Destructoid, because I've got a feeling Game of Thrones is only just getting started. And we're going to stick with it up to the very end.

Game of Thrones photo
Game of Thrones

We choose who's gonna screw us over in Game of Thrones

How passive-aggressive can two men get?
Jan 09
// Mike Cosimano
Like so many racist family members planning their strategy for Thanksgiving dinner, Will and I charted a course for passive aggression...after spending like a solid 15 minutes wandering around, trying to deduce the lesser of...
Game of Thrones photo
Game of Thrones

Mike and Will spar with the stars in Game of Thrones

In which Miles Finch puts us on blast
Jan 08
// Mike Cosimano
Will and I continue our journey through Westeros, but not before stopping by the throne room to have a little spat with Ma-Ma from Dredd 3D. Did you guys ever notice that 'Dredd' has three 'D's in it? That makes the title ex...
Game of Thrones photo
Game of Thrones

We continue to fail at diplomacy in Game of Thrones

You salting my game, man?
Jan 07
// Mike Cosimano
There's nothing more difficult than diplomacy, as we found out in today's Game of Thrones installment. When a fat jerk wanders into your hall, demanding blood and some kind of weird-ass tree, you've got no other choice but t...
Game of Thrones photo
Game of Thrones

Mike and Will deliver some medieval haircuts in Game of Thrones

Just a little off the DEATH
Jan 06
// Mike Cosimano
As Ol' Westwater and I continued our dangerous journey through Westeros, we came across a Barbershop Emergency™ in progress. Now, we couldn't just pass by and leave that poor man with that haircut, so we thought it'd b...
Game of Thrones photo
Game of Thrones

We stab dudes and get stabbed in Telltale's Game of Thrones

What do you think, sirs?
Jan 05
// Mike Cosimano
Oh hey, Destructoid! What's up? You're looking great, as usual. My name is Mike Cosimano and I've actually been around these parts before! But now that Max is fleeing to a non-extradition country to escape punishment for his...
Telltale photo

Telltale Games Collection wraps up five games for $55

Considerably more expensive for non-Xbox Live Gold subscribers
Dec 23
// Brett Makedonski
Unwrapping gifts has a special feeling about it that almost everyone can identify with. Digital presents aren't as satisfying in that regard, but sometimes a package comes along that's enticing enough to warrant buying yourse...

Predicting the next Telltale Games series

Dec 19 // Kyle MacGregor
The optimal choice Telltale's portfolio vaunts some of the crown jewels of the entertainment business. What would it do if it had the pick of the litter? Would it go after the crown jeweliest of them all? Star Wars is primed for a comeback. A new movie trilogy is on the horizon. It's time to ensnare a new generation. They got to my parents. They did it to me. Now they're coming after my unborn children. Star Wars. Star Wars. Star Wars. From now until the end of time. Disney hasn't had its name attached to a decent game since the Genesis days. Telltale could do right by Disney. Maybe it'll put players in the shoes of some Han Solo/Dash Rendar bad boy type. Maybe we'll get to roam around wretched hives of scum and villainy, romancing sexy blue aliens, taking odd jobs that go horribly wrong. Yeah, I like this. Make this happen. Conceivable possibilities Let's be a little more realistic, though. Telltale has a penchant for popular television shows. They've already worked on Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. I'm tempted to say Mad Men is next. It's the logical progression.  Mad Men doesn't seem like it would make for a great videogame. It probably isn't a good fit. So, naturally, they are going to announce Mad Men: A Telltale Game Series next week and make me look like a fool. A damned fool. Telltale could also make a run at Homeland. It's quite the popular program. The potential for unsavory quick time events and high stakes decision-making is right there. Maybe waging an underground war in the Middle East is too touchy a subject, though. Maybe not. Maybe they'll just do a Breaking Bad game instead. The sleeper candidate It isn't just Telltale who gets a say in whatever the next Telltale game series will be. They also have to get someone to agree to loan them a license. That's why Star Wars isn't happening. It's nice to want things, but let's be realistic here. We need a company that's desperate for money or one that just doesn't give a damn. Sonic the Hedgehog makes perfect sense. Sega has no problem letting other developers monkey around with Sonic. Take Sonic Boom as proof positive. Plus, Sega is always looking for excuses to give Sonic new friends. I'm sure Telltale could think up a few. This could definitely happen. Final prediction Really, Keeping Up with the Kardashians is the logical outcome here. Search your feelings. You will know it to be true. Don't fight this. Just accept it into your heart. It will be easier this way.
Telltale Games photo
So, what's next?
The people at Telltale Games are wizards. There's no other explanation. They have an uncanny ability to coax money men into handing over the keys to some of the most valuable properties in the entertainment business. Then the...

Minecraft: Story Mode photo
Minecraft: Story Mode

Mojang and Telltale announce Minecraft: Story Mode

Wait, what?
Dec 18
// Kyle MacGregor
Minecraft: Story Mode is a thing that's happening. Mojang has joined forces with Telltale Games, the team behind fine adventure games like The Walking Dead, to forge a narrative-driven episodic experience. Yes, they're w...
Borderlands photo

Bonus mission for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel ties into Tales

Help Dr. Nakayama with a secret project
Dec 09
// Darren Nakamura
[Update]: In an email to Destructoid, 2K has confirmed that the Handsome AI bonus mission will be included for free as part of the update adding Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode, not part of the Holodome Onslaught DLC pack that ret...
Game of Thrones screens photo
Game of Thrones screens

Here are nearly 80 Game of Thrones: Iron From Ice screenshots

Fuzzy memories
Dec 02
// Darren Nakamura
Another Telltale game, another set of screenshots. I'm still ambivalent about the oil paint aesthetic used in Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series. Some shots look fantastic, and others are blurry messes with weird kaleido...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: Iron From Ice

Dec 02 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: Iron From Ice (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: December 2, 2014 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Over the six planned episodes, Game of Thrones is set to be experienced from the point of view of various members of House Forrester, both noble and lowborn. Most fans of the series would not know the Forresters yet, as the family has only seen a brief mention in the novels and has not appeared in the television series. Still, the family feels familiar, as it closely mirrors the better-known Stark clan. Lord Gregor is the battle-hardened head of the house whose life is taken through treachery. Lady Elissa is his wife, a calculating matriarch from the South. Ethan is their teenage son, thrust into power before he is prepared. Mira is the firstborn daughter, discovering guile within herself while living the life of a proper lady in King's Landing. Ryon is the youngest son, too fearful and naive for the harsh time he was born into. Asher is a short-fused warrior who was exiled to Essos. Only Ethan's twin sister Talia does not have a close parallel in the Stark family. In this episode, players control Ethan, Mira, and a lowborn squire to Gregor named Gared Tuttle. Asher is hinted as the fourth playable character for future episodes, but the final member of House Forrester to be controlled is still unknown. True to the source material, there are many characters to keep track of, but there is an in-game codex to aid in that endeavor (and the notification for its existence pops up exactly when it is needed). [embed]284409:56490:0[/embed] Any who have played the most recent Telltale series know what to expect in the gameplay department. Players divide time between exploration, dialogue, and action. Exploration sections involve walking around, inspecting the environment, and initiating conversation. Dialogue sections present a series of choices for the player to steer the story, in both major and minor ways. Action sections involve quick-time events and serve to inject some excitement into what is otherwise a largely passive experience. All of that is present in Iron From Ice, but Telltale's trend toward a greater focus on writing and a lesser focus on classic adventure gameplay is apparent. After the opening at Edmure Tully's wedding at the Twins and the subsequent chapter following Gared, there are no more action sequences. As quick-time events are never particularly great in Telltale's games, this is not a huge loss, though it does set the slower, more somber tone for the episode. Less easily excusable in the shift away from classic adventure gaming is the total lack of puzzles or other logic exercises. The characters do keep inventories, but none of the items gained in this episode are put to use in any inventive ways. Most are not used at all, but instead saved for later. The only thing remotely resembling a puzzle is having to remember a dying man's words to act upon later, and to liken that to a puzzle is a stretch. The emphasis on story largely pays off, as it captures the essence of A Song of Ice and Fire. Diplomacy is paramount in Westeros at this time, and certain sections like the audience with Queen Regent Cersei or the encounter with Ramsay Snow are particularly nervewracking as a result. Attempting to balance honor, fealty, nobility, and justice is an impossible task, and no matter which dialogue option is chosen, it rarely feels like the right one. By the end, I was filled with a sense of dread for what is to come. The Forresters are good people, but it definitely seems like their situation will get worse before it has any chance of getting better. To exacerbate the feeling, having (perceived) agency in the story elevates it from "bad things are happening to good people" to "bad things are happening to good people and it's all my fault." To the effect of creating a foreboding narrative, Telltale emulates the source material well. Still, it takes a particular mood to enjoy such a dire tale. One of the failings of the story is common for Telltale: it turns out that the choices the player makes are not as far-reaching as they initially appear to be. Driven by guilt over some wretched outcomes from my decisions and curiosity over whether they could have turned out better, I played through Iron From Ice twice, each run taking about two hours. Despite the claims that the actions of each playable character would ripple out and affect others in House Forrester, the main plot events are largely predetermined. If the choices made here have important effects, those effects will not be clear until a future episode. Overall, the writing is on par with what we expect from Telltale. It is smart and it captures the feel of A Song of Ice and Fire well. Dialogue for existing characters Cersei Lannister and Ramsay Snow is spot on. Tyrion lacks any standout lines that will be classic quotes, which is disappointing. Graphically, Game of Thrones is kind of a mess. Though it was not apparent from the quick cuts in the teaser trailer, the art is done in the style of an oil painting. The two-dimensional landscape backgrounds can be beautiful, but up close the textures are muddled. Usually, the edges of character and environment models are sharp, but at times they take on a strange blur. It is distracting at worst, but it highlights the age of Telltale's engine. Another side effect of the inclusion of less cartoony character models is the step toward the uncanny valley. Most of the previously unseen characters look stylized enough to fly under the radar, but some of the known characters are unsettling. Specifically, Margaery Tyrell resembles a strange alien porcelain doll hybrid. Again, it distracts from the serious drama of the narrative. Still, that narrative is the focus, and it is strong. If Zer0 Sum left me looking forward to future episodes of Tales from the Borderlands because things are going to get awesome, Iron From Ice does the polar opposite for Game of Thrones. The bad situation that House Forrester is in is only going to get worse. It feels like a punch to the gut, and it sets the stage for an intensely emotionally draining experience. In spite of its blemishes, so far it looks like Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series deserves its place in the A Song of Ice and Fire lore.
Game of Thrones Episode 1 photo
Valar morghulis
The War of the Five Kings might be one of the bleakest collections of events in A Song of Ice and Fire, the series on which HBO's and Telltale's Game of Thrones is based. The entire continent of Westeros is at war, heroe...

Game of Thrones photo
Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series out tomorrow, watch the trailer

Get creeped out by Ramsay Snow
Dec 01
// Darren Nakamura
We first heard that Telltale would be working on a Game of Thrones adventure game almost a year ago at VGX, and now the wait to see how it turned out is almost over. This launch trailer shows a bit more than the teaser we sa...
Borderlands photo

Catch a jaunty tune (and an elbow to the grill) in this Tales from the Borderlands trailer

Episode One: Zer0 Sum
Nov 25
// Brett Makedonski
Telltale titles and Borderlands are almost polar opposites. One has you constantly making tough, game-altering decisions. The other only asks that you decide between shooting everything and dying. (Hint: you defini...
Borderlands screens photo
Borderlands screens

Here are more than 100 Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum screenshots

Telltale art
Nov 25
// Darren Nakamura
I take lots of screenshots. It's just something I do. The signature cel-shaded art style of the Borderlands series lends itself to grabbing sharp, colorful screens of crazy weapons, breathtaking vistas, and intense cutsc...

Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum

Nov 25 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: November 25, 2014 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Any who have played a Telltale game in the past few years will find few surprises here. Play is split into sections of walking around and examining the surroundings, making dialogue choices that sometimes have profound effects on the path of the narrative, and navigating interactive cutscenes through quick-time events. That said, Tales from the Borderlands includes a few new lore-appropriate features. Rhys, one of the two protagonists, is in management at Hyperion. Three years after the fall of Handsome Jack, he has schmoozed his way into the upper echelon of the corporation. In doing so, he has access to advanced technology that grants him special abilities. His left eye is a cybernetic Echo Eye that can be used to scan objects for additional information, which often contains funny descriptions. His right arm is entirely robotic, and can be used to communicate with his friends or call down a custom combat Loader bot when the situation gets hairy.  Fiona, the other main character, is a Pandoran scam artist. Without a large company's assets at her disposal, she instead relies on her wit and the power of cold, hard cash. Having money on hand opens up additional narrative options through purchases or bribery. In contrast to the core titles in the series, money is a finite resource here; if it is spent early, it will not be available for potential use later on. This type of quandary also comes up with Fiona's hidden pistol: It has one bullet in it and the choice of whether to use it or not at any given point is not an obvious one. [embed]283779:56317:0[/embed] The narrative moves back and forth between Rhys and Fiona, who form a fragile alliance toward a common goal. The two get separated occasionally, each sent to experience a different set of simultaneous events. When the two come together, it has an almost Tarantino-esque feel, where the player gets to see the same scene play out through another viewpoint and with additional context to frame it. Part of that effect stems from the fact that the story is being told through flashback by the two not-quite-trustworthy characters. There are points when one or the other is obviously embellishing the story, which brings up the question of whether they are stretching the truth in other, less obvious instances. One slight disappointment with the storytelling is the illusion of choice it sometimes helps to create. In one sequence, the player is asked to describe what "the most important part" of the story is, and a handful of very different choices are made available. Though it initially seems like this choice could drive the story in one of a few hugely different directions, it turns out that all of those choices happen and it is only a matter of which the character emphasizes. That said, the overall narrative is fantastic. Despite the shift in focus from gunplay to wordplay, the events that unfold are sufficiently exciting, violent, and absurd to fit into the Borderlands universe. If anything, the tone of Tales is a little less wacky than that of Borderlands 2. There is still the over-the-top depiction of a lawless land, but a back alley stabbing in Tales feels heavier and more real than a bandit dissolving from a corrosive shotgun blast in previous games in the franchise. The writing does a superb job of capturing the dark comedy of the Borderlands universe. There are probably as many "laugh out loud" moments in Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum as there are in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which is impressive because the latter is about ten times longer than the former. And some of those moments are not just snorts or chuckles, but actual sustained laughter. This might be the funniest Borderlands game to date, and it is at least the densest in that sense. The downside to Telltale's focus on crafting a great story is that it seems like classic adventure gameplay takes a backseat here more than ever. Exploration sections are cut short before the player can finish scouring an area and the only things close to being puzzles are Rhys's decision on how to spec his Loader companion for an impending battle and a simple memory exercise for Fiona. The Telltale Tool engine might be showing its age with other new releases, but it shows off Borderlands' signature comic book style well. Pandora is every bit as bright and colorful as a desert wasteland can be, and it looks great despite the low polygon count. Aside from the disappointing lack of puzzles and limit on exploration, Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum is excellent. Where the first episodes of other Telltale series can start off slowly, Tales maintains high energy throughout. Its consistently funny writing and duo of unreliable narrator protagonists set the stage for a great overarching story, and it feels very much like it belongs in the Borderlands franchise. If the rest of the season maintains this level of quality, Tales from the Borderlands will be up there in history with the other great recent Telltale adventures. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Telltale Borderlands photo
Two tales worth telling
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] When Tales ...

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