Reviews for January/February/March

A new year, a new slate of games to review. A bit of a theme going on here. 2015 starts off with 4 new episodic games and my attempts to review every single episode of each one.

Tales from the Borderlands - Fiona

All of Telltale games, so far, are licensed games. It’s difficult not to frame their game in the light of the licensed property. I may have gone a bit too far with my Tales from the Borderlands review, but I really do not like the main Borderlands games and Tales by comparison, I am enjoying so much. “Zer0 Sum” had me in stitches. It’s difficult to review a comedy game, because explaining the joke often kills it. Additionally, it can also turn into a listing off of the greatest bits. I think I mange to avoid both pitfalls.

Telltale's Game of Thrones episode 1

Game of Thrones is this year’s other Telltale episodic adventure game. When this game was first announced, pretty much everyone nodded along as it seemed a perfect fit to Telltale’s style. And indeed the opening episode, “Iron from Ice”, proved that the formula crafted by The Walking Dead works exceedingly well here. Indeed, I say it feels like a being moved from a local election and elevated onto the nation stage. Suddenly everything is much more difficult and that much more dangerous. The new dimension of playing multiple characters just further adds to the that feeling.

Satellina

Arcade like mobile games are difficult to review. Mainly because you end up running out of things to say. Satellina is one such game. There’s not a lot under the hood. What you see is what you get, so once you describe the game, what else is there? I say it’s not a game I’d go back to and I haven’t really. It didn’t strike that spot where I feel to keep going with it.

Dreamfall Chapters Book One

With Dreamfall Chapters Book One: Reborn, I start to get a handle on the new style I’m trying to co-sign to with episodic reviews. Instead of explaining the game as a whole as I did with the previous Telltale games on this list, instead, as an exercise, I focus very much solely on the material of this episode as it stands alone. Book One doesn’t stand alone very well. It’s a victim of the high amount of complicated material and backstory that has built up in the series. It also seems to be telling a much denser work than any of the other episodic games. This is a game I felt needed to seen developing as to where it will go.

Life is Strange - Chrysalis

After two Telltale games, I got to review another Telltale style game, but made by someone else. Life is Strange is a more complicated work to talk about than either of the Telltale games proper, not because the work is more complicated, but because the quality of craftsmanship is a little more uneven. Some things work exceedingly well, other parts not so much and some of it is head scratching. In ways it feels like a side step to the fantastical material in favor of real life, and yet we have a time rewind mechanic. I left “Chrysalis” more unsure than either of Telltale’s offerings.

Telltale's Game of Thrones episode 2

Taking a cue from TV reviews, I’m trying to use the episodic review structure as a means of exploring a game’s development rather than focus on separate aspects of the game. “The Lost Lords,” the second episode in Telltale’s Game of Thrones, continues on from the first in some novel ways given how the first game ended. We get two new characters and the focus of the narrative thrust changes. We have established House Forrester, so now we begin the main work of intrigue. It’s something new for adventure games and I like how the explanation of that came out.

Morningstar, Descent to Deadrock

Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock is a game I was randomly offered a review code for. It’s not a game I would have seeked out or even known about otherwise. It’s also a rather short game with very small aspirations that ultimate leaves me, once again, with little to say on the game. It feels like there are things the game could have done, but ultimately it feels like one hell of a bad day at the office instead of anything meaningful as a work of art or enjoyable as a work of entertainment. Though, I will mention, it is pretty amazing how a few minor edits in the last few paragraphs by one’s editor can change the whole tone of the piece. It comes down harsher than I meant to be.

***

If you do go and read though my reviews (and I do hope you do) you might notice that all of the episodic games are sans review scores. I am not one of those people who’d like to do away with review scores completely. Rather, I’d like them used correctly, something most reviewers are to some degree or another incapable of doing so. However, in the case of episodic reviews I don’t feel comfortable assigning numbers to a game that is not yet complete.

So far, I’ve done 13 reviews of game episodes and scores in these cases always end up with some variant of prognostication attached to them. Something, I’ve proven to be not very good at. I’d rather recenter on the present and the past of the episode, allowing it to build and be in context. So I asked if I could save the score for the final episode when it would be reflective of the entire game and I was given the go ahead. I just like to have it on the record that I did this before Eurogamer.

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