Telltale Games have forged their acclaimed reputation through creating interactive narrative experiences, which are complemented by the popular franchises that they are based upon. These games are offered in an episodic structure and are planned to span multiple seasons. Telltale’s library is constantly expanding as games based upon popular pre-existing franchises are seemingly released each year. My concern is that Telltale are too ambitious, that their ever expanding library will result in the earlier titles being cast aside for new franchises and the number of simultaneous projects will raise issues of quality control.
I first became aware of Telltale in 2012, following the release of their game based upon one of my favourite comics, The Walking Dead. This game had a profound effect on me. The impressive writing and characterisation compelled me to truly invest in the outcome of the story. I came to feel for Kenny who struggled with the loss of his family. I treated Clementine like she was my own daughter and empathised with Lee as he was forced into becoming her surrogate parent, hoping to be redeemed for his crimes.
Another of The Walking Dead’s engaging features was the depth of choice available to the player, with the consequences of each choice remaining ambiguous until it was too late. Decisions I made indirectly resulted in murder, suicide and cannibalism. Newton’s law of motion was in full affect. This led to incredibly tense situations and I learnt the hard way not to get attached to any of the supporting characters.
Season two of The Walking Dead debuted in 2013, continuing Clementine’s journey. SPOILER ALERT For me, the second season ended on a cliff-hanger with Clementine travelling on her own, now the surrogate mother of a new born baby.
It came as no surprise that both seasons of The Walking Dead were critically acclaimed, winning over 90 ‘Game of the Year’ awards. To date, Telltale has sold over 28 million episodes of the series. Of course they were enticed to continue this success. The Wolf Among Us followed, featuring the same gameplay, visuals and complex choice system. Telltale proceeded with games based on Borderlands, Minecraft and Game of Thrones. In late 2015, Telltale released a teaser of an upcoming Batman narrative adventure and also announced a Marvel game and a Walking Dead spin off.
But what of Clementine? It has been over two years since we last saw her and despite The Walking Dead season 3 reportedly in development, no release date has been announced. I fear that the team at Telltale are more interested in developing games based on newly acquired franchises than they are completing their pre-existing stories. Maybe they’ve grown bored, or the excitement of trying new things is just too great. I have doubts about ever reaching the end of Clementine’s story and even if we do, will I still care? It is always disappointing when a TV program I am invested in gets cancelled. It would be disappointing for this trend to shift to gaming.
Telltale are working on too many projects at the same time, resulting in a second season of The Wolf Among Us being delayed to 2017 (Editors Note – If you haven’t played Wolf Among Us, you really should). With approximately 240 employees spread over at least eight announced projects, the quality control has dropped to an all-time low. Despite the positive response to Tales from the Borderlands, reviewers didn’t take as kindly to Minecraft: Story Mode, whilst Game of Thrones had a mixed response at best. The development cycle needs to become much more focused if the developers wish to keep their high levels of critical success. This is a perfect example of bigger IP’s not always equalling success.
The Walking Dead franchise returns this February with a three part story focusing on the sword wielding heroine Michonne and will fill in the gaps between issues #126 and #139 of the comic. I’m sure it will be great, but it’s not what I want. I hope Telltale put more time and effort into the upcoming Batman title and give the caped crusader the respect he deserves. It if fails, my world could become as bleak and depressing as the one Clementine struggles through each day.
Michael Vane is a freelance writer who values quality storytelling above all else.