What’s Next for Telltale Games?

on December 19, 2013 10:58 AM

A few years ago, Telltale Games was known for their earnest attempts at bringing back the adventure game genre with titles like Sam and MaxStrong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People and a slew of other charming point-and-click titles that showed the potential for episodic gaming, but perhaps not at the right time, bringing the episodic game format to the forefront in its very early stages.

Back to the Future: The Game inched Telltale closer to their vision with its fresh take on a classic franchise, but took a slight stumble with Jurassic Park: The Game afterward. But after the huge success of The Walking Dead and more recently with The Wolf Among Us, Telltale Games has gone from nostalgically bringing back the adventure game genre to pioneering its digital, episodic future with engaging worlds and storytelling, and some of the most well-developed titles of the last few years.

With Telltale’s increasing  number of projects and recognition in the gaming industry, where does the studio go anywhere but up?

Looking back at Telltale’s success and stumbles while glimpsing ahead at its promising future, we here at DualShockers are taking a look at Telltale’s current series and its (now many) upcoming projects to ask: what’s next for Telltale Games?

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The Walking Dead: Season Two

After nabbing tons of Game of the Year Awards, rave reviews, and making even the most stone-faced gamers cry, Telltale’s The Walking Dead has made its return with the debut of Season Two this month. Taking place over a year after the events that took place in Season One and seeing Clementine on her own out in the walker-infested wild, Episode 1 (“All That Remains”) brings the next chapter of Clementine’s story and the long-awaited return of Telltale’s biggest success so far.

With the wild acclaim and hype surrounding the first season, Season Two has plenty riding on it in following how gamers reacted to the game’s well-told story, intense and thought-provoking action, and most of all, for prying many a gamers’ heart out with the relationship between Lee Everett and Clementine. Set from Clementine’s perspective as she struggles and learns to survive on her own while overcoming the threats from both roaming walkers and other humans, Season Two so far looks to be preserving (and developing) on what made Season One the choice of Game of the Year for so many outlets and journalists alike: for its compelling choice-based story, and its cast of genuine, well-realized characters.

Given the high levels of anticipation around the second season, where exactly can Telltale go from here to make Season Two just as thrilling and involving as Season One of The Walking Dead? It’s tough to say initially, but with the shift in perspective by putting players into Clementine’s shoes, along with the continually evolving story and decision-based outcomes, Season Two has the potential to really make its story feel meaningful and worthwhile based on the player’s choices in influencing its outcome. In particular, riding off the strength of Lee and Clementine’s relationship in Season One, future seasons of The Walking Dead could still leave plenty to explore, mixed with the plentiful story lines of The Walking Dead comic series that have yet to be explore (if they ever will be).

After ending Season One on the heartbreaking finale of Clementine having to say goodbye to Lee while hearing his last bit of advice for surviving in the harsh realities of the post-apocalypse, switching from the perspective of the protector (Lee) to the role of the protected (Clementine) can bring big changes to Season 2 both in gameplay and thematically. As the young Clementine is still adjusting to survival and coming to terms with a “kill-or-be-killed” mentality, her capabilities of understanding the world around her will be completely different from what the hardened and experience Lee might have provided in Season One. But now that we are seeing things from Clem’s perspective, we can see Lee in an entirely new light: where Lee was secretive of his past and holding back from the others, instead we can see (and understand) more of what Clementine saw in Lee: the bold surrogate father that was willing to protect her at all costs.

With Season Two implementing the decisions and outcomes of what happened in both Season One and The Walking Dead: 400 Days, the additional episode released this past summer, the consequences of events from previous entries and their effects on Clementine’s travels in the new season are surely going to be exciting to explore, along with the possibilities of where those threads can have an influence in where she’ll go, who she’ll be with, and what happens to the young heroine of The Walking Dead. Where will Season Three (and more, down the road) lead us in the life of Clementine? Will we get to see her essentially “grow-up” through the game series, much like Kirkman has done with Carl Grimes in the comics, as she adapts to the harsh realities of The Walking Dead?

Ultimately, we have to wait and see how Season Two pans out, but from playing through the first episode of the second season, it’s safe to say already that it looks like the continuing chapters of The Walking Dead will be just as heart-wrenching and engaging as they have been before in Telltale’s (very capable) hands.

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The Wolf Among Us

Following up the critical acclaim of The Walking Dead with another episodic game based on a popular comic series would have seemed like a peculiar move with plenty of risks along with it for Telltale, most notably for attempting to tread the same ground. Luckily, the neon-infused fantasy world of The Wolf Among Us proved it would be anything but the same compared with The Walking Dead, especially just from the debut of its first episode this past October.

Taking the world and characters from Bill Willingham’s well-regarded Fables comic series, where exiled fairy tale inhabitants are forced into the dark alleyways of New York City’s “Fabletown,” Telltale Games took the successful formula of its previous titles (such as The Walking Dead) and infused it with a sharp dose of noir to make their latest adventure game both stylish and unique. Taking on the role of Fabletown’s resident sherif/hard-boiled detective Bigby Wolf, the first episode of The Wolf Among Us gave players a new look into where Telltale was headed by proving themselves just as capable of adapting Fables’ darkly comedic take on fairy tales as much as they were with The Walking Dead’s stark and desperate zombie apocalypse.

While The Walking Dead has now obviously had one season behind it, The Wolf Among Us is still just starting with only one episode having been released so far, and with the wait for Episode 2 just right around the corner. What’s next for The Wolf Among Us?

Ultimately, one of the biggest draws to The Wolf Among Us is its canonical ties to Fables: taking place as a prequel in Willingham’s universe and involving many characters from the series, Telltale’s game proved its faithfulness to the source material in Episode 1 but also proved its willingness to both please and surprise fans of the long-running comic series. By tying directly into the beginnings of Bigby’s reign as Sheriff of Fabletown and bringing along many familiar faces from Fables, such as Snow or Ichabod Crane, while introducing many characters that were not a part of the original comics, like the Huntsman, Telltale’s series can take credit for taking on the comics much like The Walking Dead did for Robert Kirkman’s long-running series.

In particular, its position as a prequel to the comics is a bit of a double-edged sword: while for the first season of The Wolf Among Us this is advantageous in allowing the game series to go down completely different routes from the comics (much like the Episode 1’s much discussed “twist ending”), where would (potentially) multiple seasons lead us? Will Telltale lead future seasons down toward catching up their prequel series to the beginnings of Willingham’s comics, where series’ icons and hallmarks like The Adversary can come into play, or will they continue the path they have started by presenting The Wolf Among Us as the beginnings of Fables? From there, Telltale still has plenty to explore in future installments, like exploring “The Farm” where penniless fairy tales must go to avoid human contact, or in introducing more characters like Cinderella, Pinnochio, Rapunzel, and more.

With a twist ending for the first episode of The Wolf Among Us that creates quite a unique new take on the plot for longtime fans of the comic series, the tie-ins to Fables from The Wolf Among Us and how the game series can both respect and provide new twists to being a part of the storyline will definitely become one of the key reasons to stay with Telltale’s latest caper, and to find out just where Bigby’s investigations will take him.

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Tales from the Borderlands

Taking this year’s Spike VGX Awards by surprise with not just one but two new projects, Telltale Games’ upcoming new titles provide a lot of unique prospects and ideas down the horizon, especially as the studio will now be taking these on in addition to their already-established series like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us.

The first of these, Tales from the Borderlands, has seen equal parts praise and doubt from its surprising reveal: an adventure-game based in the Borderlands universe is certainly something unexpected, but with the teams of Telltale and Gearbox Software behind it, could prove to be a unique entry in Telltale’s continually growing line-up, both stylistically and creatively.

By taking the world of Borderlands and adapting it into their trademark adventure game format, what possibilities could we see from the team-up behind Telltale and Gearbox on Tales from the Borderlands?

While the Borderlands titles have never been known for having incredibly in-depth stories, the strength of the series’ writing (and plentiful doses of humor) certainly lend a hand in creating a unique adventure game title that can play to Telltale’s strengths with character and establishing worlds, but also play to the charm and deranged wit of the Borderlands series.

In particular, with the large amount of support and post-release content that has been released for both Borderlands and Borderlands 2, could there also be the possibility of Tales from the Borderlands either incorporating data/story elements from either game, or vice versa, maybe in a future Borderlands series installment?

Aside from the trailer and screenshots shown so far of the title since its announcement earlier this month, there is obviously a lot we still don’t know yet about Tales from the Borderlands, aside from its episodic format and its use of faces (both new and old) from Gearbox’s Borderlands series. But of all of Telltale’s upcoming projects and series, Tales from the Borderlands definitely seems like a title that can both enhance the universe and story around the Borderlands series, while showing us a whole new side of Borderlands that we just haven’t had the chance to explore yet.

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Game of Thrones

With rumors being present of a game based on George R.R. Martin’s wildly-popular fantasy series for weeks, followed by the official reveal of Telltale’s adaptation of the series at the VGX Awards, the excitement of an episodic game based in the Game of Thrones world naturally is a huge cause for excitement and hype. Of course, along with it comes even more amounts of trepidation and worry: potentially, at least.

In adapting the hugely successful HBO series into a series of episodic titles a la The Walking Dead, what’s next for Telltale’s (potentially) largest-scaled project yet?

Naturally, there is little doubt that Game of Thrones (along with its original source material, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series) is a perfect fit for Telltale’s episodic format: filled with political intrigue, warring factions, double-crossing, and a healthy dose of back-stabbings and beheadings, Game of Thrones potentially could make for an excellent series that would be well-suited to the adventure game genre. And with the bar not exactly set very high after the release of last year’s poorly-received Game of Thrones RPG released by Atlus, Telltale has the sky as the limit for making a fantastic game set in a world as rich and detailed as that from Game of Thrones.

One question does come up, though: with developing Tales from the Borderlands, The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us, is there the possibility that Game of Thrones (or any of those other titles, for that matter) could suffer from Telltale taking on too many other projects at one time?

It’s hard to say, ultimately: while Telltale has obviously had successes like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, there is always the likelihood of a Jurassic Park: The Game popping up again, and with three other projects being developed at the same time, naturally it’s a concern.

However, while we are still in the very early stages of Game of Thrones’ development (with only the brief teaser trailer from the VGX Awards), there is still plenty to be excited about and look forward to, especially given the weight of Game of Thrones as a franchise. With dozens of characters to meet and places to explore from the HBO series and novels, getting the chance to barter for the forces of House Lannister or fight alongside the Night’s Watch can definitely make for a thrilling experience: we’ll just have to wait until next year to see just how Telltale Games can deliver on such a big and ambitious new adaptation.

Like how a Lanniser always pays his debt, let’s just hope Telltale can keep their word on making another amazing episodic experience through Game of Thrones, like they’ve managed to do so many other times before.

 /  Features Editor
Ryan is the Features Editor at DualShockers, with over five years' experience in the world of video games culture and writing. He holds a BA in English & Cinema from Binghamton University, and lives in New York City.