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Unhappy faces ain’t gonna get you in (Life Is Strange, 2015)

I waited a while before giving a try to Life Is Strange. It’s made by a french studio named DONTNOD Entertainment and, over years, I grew wary of frenchness/ubisoftness in video games: repetitive gameplay with teenager philosophy in disguise of an inconsistent plot.

Plus Life Is Strange is a point-and-click adventure game and, these days, with Telltale Games, the standards are quite high.

Gameplay wise, Life Is Strange forces you to click and move the mouse to a text string like “Do this” to do anything. I guess they thought it would be practical in case there are many actions possible. But in most cases, you actually have one or two possibles actions. And when there are two actions, usually the first one is “Look at” which is utterly useless since you are already looking at the said object. The game is labelled “graphic adventure” but you are forced to focus on some meaningless text strings. It’s not intuitive neither graphical at all for me.

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For instance, here’s you opening a door : there is a door handle but a click on it does nothing. You have to click in the circle then move your mouse to the string “Enter” you’ve read – and not follow the arrow that starts from the circle and point to the handle. Everything is confusing there: what you see and what you are supposed to do. The interface tries hard to look smart but forget she’s there not to be smart but discrete.

After fighting a bit with the interface – despite how primitive the gameplay of a point-and-click game can be, next thing you notice is the childish attitude of the main character: poor student in art-whatever wants to cry because, huh, because she’s shy, so she runs to the toilet. Sob.

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Poor girl. Skater boys dont like her. Did they made here totally ugly and not the style of skater boys? Are they having a laugh? Next character: the mall cop/university security nutcase that bullies students and wants to cameras to be installed everywhere. So unexpected!

Least to say the very first impressions of the game are not so great. Plonk then?

What about the story itself? Telltale Games have this notion that your choices tailor the game. Smart way to say that even though a game story can  branch, if there is a real story, your choices cannot change it all. DONTNOD does not tell how much you can influence the story. In Life Is Strange, you dont have to decide fast like in Telltale Games at some crucial moments: you can take as much time you want and test the alternatives before you decide. But since I’ve only played the first episode so I cannot tell really how it unfold and how much the choice you make influence the game.

I can tell however that playing the first episode in full made me acquire the rest of the season. Yes, despite the poor gameplay and simplistic characters design, I’m curious to see where it leads. I think that qualifies the story as interesting enough – at least to be bought during steam sales. Come on feet, teach yourself to move.

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All is safe and all is good but lately I’ve had dreams of blood (The Detail, 2014)

Presented as “The Detail combines the emotional impact of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead with the themes of a realistic crime drama like HBO’s The Wire, delivered with our own unique visual style inspired heavily by graphic novels.”, I was afraid it would be too-much.

As the next prick, I both love The Wire (not that much season 2) and dislike pricks that love The Wire – I watched it first when it was on air though. So anything pretending to be related in any way to The Wire has to be treated with suspicion. But the game was on sale so I went for it.

And I’m actually glad I did. So far (the game is delivered by episodes) The Detail is good. Not surprinsingly, it depict a sick sad world, it was not expected to be original in this regard.

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The characters are likely, the graphics are nice and the gameplay is really well thought of, you navigate a bit in a comic. I dare say Telltale people should take a look at it, there are some good ideas. From time to times, the interface is inconvenient but it’s very rare (I was also forced to play with the gamepad, but that’s the same with Telltale games and their keyboard setup stuck to QWERTY keyboard). Ambiance wise, in my opinion it does not relates that much to The Wire or The Walking Dead but more obviously to NYPD Blue (already mentioned there): the main cop in the game is totally a Sipowicz in any aspects.

I’m looking forward the following episode or any other game from Rival Games. You had me where you want me so you thought.

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What prey for us today? (The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013; The Wolf Among Us, 2013-2014; Grimm, 2011-2014)

I was in no hurry to watch The Wolf of Wall Street, even though critics are apologetic about it, even though I generally enjoy Martin Scorcese stuff. I don’t think traders of Wall Street are contributing to worldwide economy is a useful way for mankind and I’m not readily able to devote 179 minutes to hear about them and their life concerns, no matter how it’s done.

But I had to watch it -it’s still Scorcese- and I did. Well, it’s unsurprisingly a good movie. Well played, well produced, blah blah. But in the end, I really don’t care about the characters, my mind is set to side with the FBI (the yacht scene in which the main character tries to bribe an agent is a delight)… and I did not really pay attention to the last 20/30 minutes of the movie.

You even have to wonder about this wolf-naming scheme: in what manner this main trader character even slightly relate to a wolf? Wolf-wise, I’d more enclined to think about the main character of The Wolf Among Us, the big bad wolf doing some bad and some good as any proper sheriff of Fabletown should.

Not creating but dealing withDirty to keep you safe Still the bad guy

You haven’t played it yet? As every other recent point-and-click Telltale adventure, that’s a must play, a must watch. Tremendous graphics, captivating story, I would have said the best Tellgame game ever but Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones, after one episode each, both felt as good.

That's the job
Not as perfectly executed but interesting nonetheless is Grimm, also taking fairy tales/folklore characters and planting them in our current world. That’s some sort of new Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The main character is actually not of much interest (I’ve seen only season 1 so far, though) but people around him are. For instance, Monroe the Blutbad played by Silas Weir Mitchell.

 Fulfill the given promise, grim legacy to come?

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Cruise around in a rag top ride (Total War Rome II, 2013; Don’t Starve, 2013-2014; Tales from the Borderlands, 2014; Game of Thrones, 2014; Evolve, ?; etc)

I’ve been a bit flooded by games releases and steam sales. As always, too much produce not enough. Hence, not enough posts here. But I’m bringing it back, bring it back, bring it back again.

Let’s mention a few game I played these days and expect to play much more:

A few years before, I enjoyed Total War Rome, even though graphics we’re already seriously outdated. Same goes for Total War Medieval. Napoleon Total War is ok multiplayer-wise but the campaign really bored me. Probably similarly to Hearts of Iron, the further you start in history and the less room you have from the start in a strategy game. Anyway Total War Rome II is fine in both regards of graphics and gameplay. Plus the campaign is properly playable in multiplayer -provided you focus to do common offensives with whoever you multiplay it with. Even though the interface is far from being perfect, it can be slightly improved with mods. I’m now looking forward an updated Total War Medieval.

Familiar with Don’t Starve? No? That’s a survival game with neat cartoon graphics that now goes multiplayer. Still beta, Don’t Starve Together is working fine and, at least, a must try if not a must have. It integrates with steam workshop were you can find collections of small interface improvements.

So Telltale Tales from the Borderlands & Game of Thrones were released. I was looking forward these two and hoped they would meet the quality of the original series. Hoped, was afraid even. Not about the graphics or interface, Telltale talent regarding graphics is a constant and, since The Walking Dead series 2 and The Wolf Among Us, their engine is working fine (best played with a gamepad), but about everything else.  And that’s a relief, in both case the result is beyond my expectations. Tales from the Borderlands makes me feel I’m restarting a Borderlands 1 game, as if Borderlands was new to me. Game of Thrones starts slow, I was wondering what to do with the moron I was entrusted with in first chapter. I won’t spoil the rest but the next few chapter was as predictable and unpredictable as is Games of Thrones. Obviously, I’ve read on Telltale forum some complains about how much or how small your choices affect the game. As Telltale put it, your choices tailor the game, as if you were reading the book and had the opportunity to follow one character instead of another or make one die instead of another; but there is a well-written story behind, so there are mandatory events -chapters follows, there are not random. Plus the story you are playing must stay consistent with the rest of Games of Thrones: you cannot make Hodor wed Cersei. Anyway, both are refreshing. You should try them.

Let’s mention now future expected releases:

As the next guy, I’m a bit puzzled by announced requirements for The Witcher 3. My current box runs most game in ultra quality but looks like it won’t even meet the minimum requirements. We’ll see.

I played Evolve‘s beta and it seemed neat to me. Smooth action and all. But I don’t picture myself paying 40€ or 60€ for a game that will have DLC and season pass. The business model seems horrendous. Wait & See.

Same goes for GTA V, I’m obviously interested. But I won’t be paying 60€ for a port of a game that was released more than one year ago on console. If there’s no hurry for them to make the game available, there is no hurry for me to play it. Why paying full price to play an already old game that is not even designed for your hardware but just a dumb late port? Wait & See.

Wide open highway and the sun going down make me feel alright, make me feel alright.

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Tak tak – tam w lustrze (Telltale The Walking Dead, 2012-2013)

Several times I mentioned The Walking Dead, the comics, the TV show and the Telltale videogame (yeah, there is a second videogame but so far I did not feel like trying it out), see this. Long story short, so far I did not reviewed the videogame but the TV series is so so and the comics great.

Telltale’s videogame, where you follow a group of survivors alike Rick’s, come by seasons and episodes. It fits with a comics released each month. First season is over, second is pending (I won’t put here screenshots because the one I have would be major spoilers).

This videogame from Telltale matches exactly the comics: ambiance, issues and (hand drawn) graphics.  The story  is more or less open: you have plenty of decisions to make, most of them that have consequences on the story. It does not mean however you’re in a open world: no, you follow a general path you cannot get away from. But you’re at the liberty of changing how the events, the same whatever you do, are actually perceived and handled by the characters. In other words, for instance, at some point some characters will die: it’s not really up to you to avoid it (well, sometimes it is) but it is entirely up to you how others characters will react. This will depends on the choices you’ve made before, on your influence over the group and each individual. I’d like stress out how much the authors on several occasions build some heavy momentum: in episode 4, I actually made a choice about a specific major issue (won’t say, if you played it you probably know what I’m referring to) that contradicted most of the choices I made to this point (more than half of the story!). I was even afterward puzzled by my choice: I tend to decide, when starting a roleplay game, what traits I want to give my character, so in case I replay it I can redo it completely differently (no point of doing Mass Effect 2 twice as half-renegade/half-paragon, I’d rather go wild renegade and another time nedflanderslike paragon). This choice I’ve been led to do did not fit the traits I wanted for my character. It was partly my guts speaking. Plus it was a very rationale decision that I’ve been forced to take, even though it was not what I assumed I’d do at first. It’s just like in the comics where so often characters partly betray their own set of principles, just because they realized that’s the best course of action no matter what.

Do I even need to be more explicit? If you did not play that game, do it already!

I’m writing this note today, after the release of an out-of-season episode called 400 days. New characters, with a story somehow probably entangled between the main story of the videogame and of the comics. I bought it immediately. Played it immediately. Finished it in less than an hour. And I don’t feel so great about that. Please understand that the episode is well done, perfectly matching the videogame quality so far. It’s just that the episode is probably too short to be sold exactly the same price as any other episode. Even more disturbing, this episode was given for free to people that bought 1st season on Telltale website. So I prepurchased the 1st season on steam at once, without even waiting for the release of first episode, in goodwill because I trusted Telltale to be something good (and was proved right),  and as reward, I see people getting the extra short episode for free. Not that I care about 5 euros, I really don’t. But isn’t it only natural that I just feel like second best? I understand they probably make more money by selling games directly, outside of steam. But really, when you prepurchased or build a season pass, you’re somehow helping, aren’t you? If there’s to be a special favor, havent you earn it? No so much a big deal, but still, no dobrze – wiem, że się starałeś uspokój się.

(note: the game can be laggy/stuttering with shadows set to high or even low, you may want to change that parameter if you have such issue)

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Its not in your head, you’re a living dead (L4D & L4D2 & The Walking Dead, 2006-2012)

Zombies are hip. Don’t ask me why they are, or to prove it (hint: specific blatantly-off-topic game mods). Seems to me people talk about it everyday, or almost. I don’t know when the current trend started exactly. The Road? I Am Legend? I guess it is related to the fascination of post-apocalyptic world ; after all, eschatology is a major issue of most monotheims.

Anyway, before that, I had in mind that zombies was somehow result of witchcraft. But now, it looks like an experiment that went wrong, a biohazard that went wild.

It’s the case of the Infected in Left 4 Dead (2006) and Left 4 Dead 2 (2009):

It seems to be the case of the Walkers of The Walking Dead (2010):

The whole point of this article is, actually, just to highlight of many similarities (ambiance, characters, weaponry, etc) of these video games and this TV show. Because both are great. The video games use Source engine so the gameplay is alike Half-Life²/CS:S, which is very fine by me, and is very very well thought for cooperative multiplayer (teams of four, as humans or as infected). The TV series is quite captivating, even if characters are where we expect them to be. You should give a try to both.

I’m still wondering whether the video game inspired the TV show or the contrary, or if by any chance the video game was not itself inspired by the comics the TV show is based on. I plan to look into the comics ASAP.

Even funnier (yes, funny), it came to my attention that Telltale Games, publisher of the über-absurd (but a bit redundant maybe) point-n-click Sam & Max, plan to release a The Walking Dead game. Not a multiplayer game, not a game where you can go zombie, so it will not make much sense to compare its gameplay to L4D/L4D2, though. You wanna be undead so you can be hunted?

Warning: L4D/L4D2 is really meant to be played as a cooperative multiplayer game. It’s not worth it if you do not play it with friends along on voicechat. There is a reason why Steam proposes it as a pack for four players, it’s really about survival and you can’t really do it without real cooperation.