Thoughts on Until Dawn

My girlfriend is an interesting character. She has shown no interest in playing video games, nor does she particularly enjoy horror movies, but for some reason she enjoys watching me play horror games. This started when I was playing through Resident Evil 7, and since then when I end up with a new Horror title to play with, she wants to watch. It works for me, and it gives us something else to bond over, even if the game isn’t particularly good.

Last month, Until Dawn was part of the Playstation Plus monthly free lineup, and I downloaded it without knowing when I’d get around to playing it. I had heard decent things about it back when it released in 2015, but it was never a game I felt I had to have. Having actually played quite a bit of it now I can say that it’s an interesting title, but I’m glad that I didn’t pay money for it.

That isn’t to say it’s terrible. It’s chock full of cliched horror tropes, the voice acting and character models are fine, and it has some jump scares and gore to boot (plus lots of talk of sex, though that typically means someone is about to die). Despite being full of these cliches, it manages to mix themes from several horror movies that we’ve seen over the years, and there are some interesting sub-layers that I would assume make for a more complete experience.

You remember that movie “The Butterfly Effect?” That is one of the main sub-themes of this title. The Butterfly Effect is a principal that goes like this: A flap of a butterfly’s wings can lead to a string of events that cause a hurricane elsewhere. This game splashes this concept throughout, and you choices in individual scenarios change the narrative of the game. Like TellTale games and other titles where “choices matter,” it’s apparent that there are likely multiple endings and ways that things can go with this game.

I powered through the first 6-ish chapters and have found the story line to be intriguing, if not a bit vague and confusing. Scenes between “episodes” have a mysterious figure being seen by a therapist. I won’t spoil anything here but the mystery man plays a major role in the story. I’ve made choices and people have died. I’ve made choices and people lived. Various innocuous actions have various consequences. It’s definitely more of an interactive narrative than a Resident Evil or Silent Hill game, combat is next to non-existent and there is more time spent chatting and watching cut scenes than actually playing. Of course there are plenty of QTE’s as well, which fans of horror/adventure games will be used to. Honestly, if you play TellTale or similarly styled games you’ll probably enjoy this one. As long as you can get past the terrible teenaged drama these kids bring upon themselves.

As I haven’t finished the game yet I can’t say if the ending will make me want to play through again for a different one, but I will see it through to its end. If you got it for free like I did, you should at least give it a whirl. Otherwise I’d recommend waiting for a sale, as it’s not really worth a full $60. Still a mildly entertaining diversion.

Vault of the Traveler

TaleTell Games’ Tales From the Borderlands series just wrapped up, and I must say it’s one of the biggest and most ambitious of their projects to date. The building anticipation for this final episode was growing exponentially each episode, and the finale didn’t let me down. There were some awesome action sequences while you control Gortys in a semi-Voltron-meets-Power-Rangers type of battle, there was plenty to pull on your heart-strings, and the ending was left wide open for something else to come later… hopefully this means there will be a season 2, even if it focuses on different characters. Finding out who the mysterious stranger that was holding Rhys and Fiona captive through the underlying narrative was a pleasant surprise, and finding Vaughn again was cool as well. Overall the multiple side story lines came together in one epic conclusion and I loved it. Sure, you don’t get to really “play” the game much, it’s more of an interactive story. Sure, there are some optimization issues (particularly on the PS3, where every time the game auto-saves you end up with audio playing, but a frozen screen). But if you can look past the ugly, you’ll find some great features and an even greater story line. I loved it. Fans of the Borderlands IP will love it too. If you haven’t picked it up yet, do yourself a favor and grab it, especially if you can get it on sale. It’s an easy play through with a great payoff. So, hopefully that wasn’t too spoiler-y. Let’s go over my choices for this episode, shall we?

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While playing as Fiona, there’s a portion of the episode where Gortys is engaged with the Vault monster, and you need to get to Vallory to stop her from attacking Gortys with a big-ass rocket launcher. Finch is lying nearby and stops you to gloat about the death of Sasha (which isn’t entirely true). You can either end him, or let him bleed out. I chose the latter, as did the majority of players. This is the last time we’ll see him. Oh yeah, Vallory doesn’t last much longer either.

There’s a portion later on where Fiona and Rhys are questioning the mysterious guy who’s been holding them hostage throughout the game (the rest of the gameplay is actually a story they’re telling to the stranger). Rhys tells her to be the bad cop, and he’ll be the good cop. I went along with this idea, along with the majority of players. He ends up going bad cop too though, and hilarity ensues. Seriously, I don’t usually laugh out loud at video games, but the snappy dialogue in this title had me rolling.

Lastly, when all is said and done, Rhys and Fiona enter the vault and are heading to the ultimate prize — the chest inside it. Fiona had been harping on Rhys for a while about being sweet on Sasha, and at this point, finally has the option of telling him to stay away, or giving her blessing. The overwhelming majority of the playerbase gave him the go-ahead, myself included.

As Rhys, there is a point where you are able to finally rid the world of Jack. Despite being his idol, he finally saw how terrible of a person Jack was. Jack does give Rhys props for bringing down Helios and being “way better at killing people” than him, but it needed to be done. Most players agree, Jack had to go. Watching Rhys pull out all of his cybernetics was kinda rough though.

And finally, as I mentioned with the last Fiona choice, she had been ragging on Rhys about liking Sasha, and there was an oportunity to come clean about it. I admitted to it, and that leads to Fiona giving her blessing.

Not too many impactful choices in this episode, but the gameplay and story was worth it nonetheless. I think this is the first time that I was in the majority with all of the choices in an episode, in any of the TellTale games that I’ve played to this point. Nonetheless, the overall rating I’d give the entire series would be a 9/10. It was fantastic, and I’d urge you to try it, particularly if you’re a Borderlands fan. Even if you don’t like TellTale, you’ll probably like this.

A Nest of Vipers

As the latest episode of TellTale’s Game of Thrones series opens, we pick up where we left off. Ramsay Snow is currently occupying the Great Hall at Ironrath, entertaining Tahlia as Rodrik Forrester enters the scene. Among some banter, it is discovered that the allied house Glenmore has had their men sent home, and Ramsay forces Rodrik out into the nearby forest, revealing one of the Glenmores, Arthur, having been tortured. There’s more banter but the end result is that Ramsay is going to allow house Forrester and house Whitehill to battle to the death, last house standing wins. There’s a scuffle during this scene between Rodrik and Ramsay, and that brings us to our first choice of the episode. Wielding a knife given to him by Snow, I was with the minority of players choosing to have Rodrik attempt to stab Ramsay.

Later, in Meereen, Asher has met with Daenerys expecting use of her Second Sons to help house Forrester. Because I allowed Beskha to kill her former master in the previous episode, then attempted to shrug it off in conversation, Daenerys denies use or her men, and also asks for Malcolm’s help in taking the Iron Throne. Malcolm, being your uncle and bound to serve the house is torn, but it is clear that having a Targaryen alliance in the future is a deal too good to pass up. Daenerys does allow Asher to enter into Meereen to pick up slaves or other potential sellswords for a makeshift army. Their first thought is to visit the fighting pits, where the most ruthless killers in the whole city would reside. Finding them was easy, convincing them to fight for house Forrester was no small task. Asher is forced to prove himself in combat, and ends up fighting a man named Bloodsong. This is our second major choice of the episode. After the fight, while having Bloodsong in a finished position, you have the choice to kill or spare the man. As I figured sparing his life would be less effective for this crowd, I choice to end it instead. I’m also in the minority for this choice, statistically.

Back in King’s Landing, Mira Forrester is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Cersei finds out that she was at the party in the previous episode, also of the scene caused by Lord Andros. During a conversation with her fiend Sera, wherein Sera is stating that being friends with Mira is “too dangerous,” two guards appear and drag Mira off to see Cersei. The confrontation goes well enough, and before it is over, Cersei has convinced Mira to visit Tyrion (who is imprisoned due to suspicion of killing the king). It was advised to avoid telling Tyrion who actually sent you to visit, but the little imp is a devious one, and I eventually fessed up the truth. Again, in the minority of players, who seem to be more apt to lie than kill, interestingly enough. I wonder what that says about my character? “The Honest Murderer?” Perhaps that will be my new Twitter handle. But I digress.

Returning to Ironrath, Tahlia bursts in on Rodrik and Elaena in bed together, to give him some important news. It turns out that she couldn’t sleep and saw a man in the woods. The man put a note into a tree’s hollow, and she recovered the note and knows the identity of the the man. Upon inspecting the note, it is clear that it is spy material, meant for the Whitehills. Tahlia implores Rodrik to kill the traitor before revealing him. She leads Rodrik to the great hall, where it is discovered that Duncan is the traitor. He goes on a tirade about how shitty of a ruler Rodrik is, and then I chose to kill him. Seems I’m in the majority with this one, which is odd given my last statement. We won’t read into it.

Finally, between Meereen and Westeros, Asher and Beskha set sail with their pitfighting army. With the information gained from Duncan, Rodrik sets out with what few men they have to the harbor to meet with Asher and help in case of a potential ambush. Asher and co. arrive easily, and all seems well. As they are exiting the gates of the harbor city though, the trap is sprung and both Rodrik and Asher are stuck inside of the gates. They have been jammed shut, so though both of them are able to lift enough for one man to get through, there is a choice to be made. This is the final choice of the episode to boot. It was tough to do, as I have grown to enjoy both of the Forrester men that remain, but I decided that Asher, being younger and not a cripple, should be a better candidate for life. It’s a binary choice that you can’t get around, but it seemed more logical. This also allows Rodrik to die a hero, as he probably wanted to do in the first place before appearing back in Ironrath at the beginning of this tale. This too was the majority of player’s thought trains, apparently.

Oddly enough, despite playing as Gared Tuttle a couple of times through the episode, there were no major choices included for them. There were some important plot points however, but I won’t spoil the entire episode. Go play it!

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#gameofthrones #telltalegames #narrative #interactivestory

Catch A Ride

Episode 3 of Tales From the Borderlands jumps around quite a bit. You still have the same cast of characters, Handsome Jack is still inside Rhys’ head, and the Loader Bot is still following you around. However, a bunch of new (and recurring) characters from the Borderlands universe show up, and you still have the flashback style of play, where the present time is actually where Rhys and Fiona are being led about the wastelands by a masked mercenary. The actually gameplay takes place during the flashbacks where Rhys and Fiona are telling their versions of how things got to this point. Confused? You won’t be if you actually play the game.

The biggest additions to the story are two of the vault hunters from the original Borderlands game (Mordecai and Brick) show up, and they’re actually trying to take you out. They’re working for a new villain named Vallory, whom appears to be one bad ass chick. Reminds me of Cruella DeVil. When we left off in the last episode, the gang were holed up inside of an Atlas facility, attempting to get a vault key, that turns out to be a sentient being called Gortys. I had just given Jack permission to use my Hyperion implants to his benefit, and he in turn hacked all of the Atlas sentry bots and we turned said bots against Hugo and August, who had our group trapped with a bunch of mercenary soldiers.

The bots made short work of the enemy, and as the group escaped from the facility, it was apparent that Jack was being a little homicidal, in that the bots actually shot at our friends as well. However, just outside of the Atlas fort, we ran into Vallory, who had us in a compromising position. Vasquez and August make their way outside, though Vasquez is now missing an arm. Vallory asks who is to blame for the debacle, and Fiona is given the choice to place blame. I picked Vasquez because he seems to be a bigger douche than August, and Vallory kills him off. Oh yeah, by the way, spoilers. My bad. The majority of players (59%) made the same decision.

During the same scene, Fiona had been laid out and Vallory offers to help her up. I declined, knowing that Vallory is the villain of this tale, and fuck it, I like to live on the edge. Apparently most people didn’t feel the same, as only 32% of players made the same choice. In an attempt to avoid further spoilers, we’ll just say that the group manages to get away from Vallory (for now) and also gets separated for a time. Gortys leads them to another Atlas facility in search of other parts needed to gain access to the vault. Athena, another vault hunter that was present in previous episodes (though we never had a chance to interact) shows up and helps Fiona. There comes a point where you interact with a man named Cassius, who is actually the last living Atlas employee, and Athena wants to kill him (I’ll leave the reasoning for you to find out). I allowed this to happen. Only 43% of players made the same choice.

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On to Rhys’ choices. After the debacle at the beginning of the episode, Rhys has words with Jack about shooting at his friends. Jack makes up some nonsense, and it would probably be wise to not trust him ever again, but I love the character so I gave him another chance. It appears most players are also partial to Jack (62%).

At the Atlas facility Gortys leads us to, there is a point where Rhys and Sasha go separately to turn off some security doodads. There’s a point where they find some weird indigenous life, and some flowers that look kinda pretty. Rhys picks a flower and is prompted to choose between giving it to Sasha or keeping it. Of course I give the pretty flower to a pretty good as did most players (78%) but that ends up backfiring, as the flower spits out some sort of pollen that attracts these weird flying creatures. That leads to more problems but I’ll leave it to you to see what’s what.

During the same scene, there comes a part where you have to jump a gap in a broken bridge, and Sasha goes first. She makes it just fine, but after Rhys makes the leap, the bridge continues to break, and they both fall over the edge. Rhys grabs hold of the pieces that are hanging and Sasha grabs his legs. She says she’s going to let go because their combined weight is too much and they’ll both fall anyway. I refused to let her do so, but then she does anyway. Turns out we’re only a few feet off of the ground at this point, but to be fair, Rhys is afraid of heights and Sasha had already told him “don’t look down.” It was pretty humorous.

At the end of this episode, I’m feeling like the story is coming together quite nicely, but these “choices” don’t seem like much. It’s not the typical TellTale really controversial choices. It’s just, kinda goofy and fun to play through, but nothing feels like it has consequence. I’ve already paid for the whole season in advance though, so it’s not as if I’m going to avoid playing through the rest. It’s just a little different than say the Game of Thrones season that is going on right now (though GoT is magnitudes more gritty and violent than BL is as far as IPs go anyway). Anyway, see you again in 6-8 weeks when the next episode comes out!

#talesfromtheborderlands #tftb #narrative #telltalegames #interactivestory

TellTale Binge

Here in Southern California, we’re in the middle of a heatwave. Triple digits for the last few days, and from forecasts I’ve seen, that’s to continue until the weekend. The house I’m in doesn’t have central air, so the swamp cooler does what it can, but it’s really not enough. My computer is suffering as much as I am, as it’s only air cooled (no fancy water cooling system), and as a result I was reaching almost-critical limits just idling. As a result, I’m not really able to game on my computer until it’s late enough to cool off a bit. I mean it’s 9 p.m. at night and it’s barely dropped below 90 degrees outside.

So I’ve been staying away from the computer mostly. This has given me the ability to catch up on my PS3 backlog (which is actually worse than my PC backlog). I have too many games that I’ve started but not finished, and others not even touched that I picked up during sales. Back in April there was a flash sale on PSN in which I netted several games for $1 each, and there were three TellTale titles on that list. You all know I’m a fan of the company, you can read up on my play-thrus of The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead over here if you missed those. The titles I got on sale were the Tales From Monkey Island, Back to the Future: The Game and Jurassic Park: The Game. I’m the type of person who will typically go through games in a chronological order if I can help it (and I just listed them in the proper order), so of course I started with Monkey Island.

Here’s the twist: I actually started playing this one back in April. I was used to the newer format of TellTale games, being sort of “on-rails” and having QTE’s and “important” decisions to make. Monkey Island is nothing like that. I mean, yes, you control your character in a similar way and there are dialogue choices, but it’s more adventure game than interactive story. I’m going to also put myself out there by saying that I am not a fan of the IP. I never played any of the “classic” Monkey Island games, I’m not overly obsessed with pirates, and really I just don’t care for the storyline. I was also in the frame of mind that these games would be “easy plats,” in that they would be walk-in-the-park games to pad my trophy level, so I figured I could overlook the things I didn’t like just to say I played them. Turns out none of the games have a Platinum trophy, and all have missable ones. With Monkey Island, there was just too much about it that I didn’t like, so it was uninstalled and I moved on.

Picking back up in the present, I started playing Back to the Future. Going into it knowing the differences between it and modern TellTale games actually helped. I knew I’d probably miss trophies, and I knew it wouldn’t play exactly how I’d expect. I didn’t care. And I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not going to say that the Back to the Future movies changed my life, but I have seen them all and they were rather enjoyable. The game is basically a mixture of all the tropes from the movies, and the constant back and forth between time eras is rather entertaining. There aren’t QTE’s but the puzzles are easier to figure out especially because when you get stuck there is a hint system to help you out. Parts were annoying, just because if you do something wrong you have to watch full animations and dialogue to get back to where you can try again. However, the overall appeal of the game wasn’t lost, annoyance aside. There aren’t any major choices to make, just puzzles to solve so this is more adventure game as well, but probably the first I’d consider to be part of the “new crowd” of TellTale games. You can see the development process evolving between Monkey Island and this game. I’d recommend BTTF to Walking Dead/Wolf Among Us fans. They should be able to stomach it. The ending was a kicker too, and you’d think there would have been a second season, but it seems they didn’t really do that much before Walking Dead, aside from the Sam and Max series.

I started playing Jurassic Park today. The further evolution of TellTale’s style is on full display, sort of bridging the gap between this game and The Walking Dead (they’re only separated by a few months). In Jurassic Park, you aren’t in control of only one character, you take turns playing as many. It’s still on rails and you don’t get much choice as to what happens, but you sometimes play the bad guy, the hero, his daughter, some mercs, and probably more I haven’t seen yet. Also, instead of being able to freely move around areas, they introduced a system where you press a button to show options for different places you can go, and then you automatically move there. This is also how you switch between characters who are in separate spots. QTE’s are in full force in this one, and it seems to be a bit on the overkill side, because some are ridiculous, and with the way the game moves from scene to scene, sometimes input lag will fuck you. It seems that some trophies are based on being able to get through these flawlessly, along with making it through whole episodes without dying. Needless to say, I have missed trophies. Still, I like having the QTE’s as it adds to the tension, whereas the previous games were kind of boring at times. The storyline feels a lot like the story from the original movie, though Hammond (the old dude with the hat/beard) is already long gone (at least to the point I’m at) and you don’t see any other main characters from the movie. It does split away from the movie timeline rather quickly, I just thought it was odd that they chose to use that. I’m guessing it means that it’s all happening at the same time as the movie’s story. I’m ready to start the 3rd episode (of 4), so I’ll probably finish the game up by tomorrow.

Overall, The Walking Dead is still my favorite game from the studio, with The Wolf Among Us a close second. Still, if you happen to catch these other titles on sale, they’re worth the few hours of enjoyment. Besides Monkey Island. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. I’ve been prodded by J3w3l that I’m supposed to be playing Sam & Max, but as it’s older and an IP that I have no interest in, I’m guessing I wouldn’t be into it. Next stop, Tales From the Borderlands and Game of Thrones: Iron From Ice.

#telltale #jurassicpark #backtothefuture