Episodic Games  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Episodic Games  RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network The Council Episode One: The Mad Ones Review https://www.gameskinny.com/u3406/the-council-episode-one-the-mad-ones-review https://www.gameskinny.com/u3406/the-council-episode-one-the-mad-ones-review Fri, 16 Mar 2018 12:35:02 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Few people truly enjoy confrontation. For most of us, it's something so painfully uncomfortable and awkward that we spend most of our waking moments scheming the best ways to avoid it. But the formula for any good narrative adventure embraces it, and The Council thrusts us into a world mirroring our own complex existence. 

In some ways, The Council's first episode, The Mad Ones, does a fantastic job of filling its confrontations with what feel like real stakes, all while iterating on the traditional design elements found in modern narrative adventures like The Walking Dead, Heavy Rain, and Beyond: Two Souls. Using a unique RPG-inspired system, Big Bad Wolf's first foray into the genre puffs new life into the drafty house that TellTale built. It's a game that truly respects player agency -- attaching firm, tangible weight to each and every decision. 

But in other ways, The Council feels incomplete in its current form. From a sporadic, at times tone-deaf score to unnerving character animations and more we'll unpack later on, The Council in some ways fails to capture the essential pieces of what so many other genre staples have already perfected. For as much attention as it pays to constructing its interesting story and eerie diegesis, The Council cannot (or perhaps will not) completely confront the demons undermining it.

The Council Sir Gregory Holm

The Council wastes no time thrusting you into delicate and tricky situations. Summoned to a secluded English island by the powerful and mysterious Lord Mortimer, you discover yourself in the very place your mother disappeared only days before. You're surrounded by the upper echelon of 1790s society, such as a powerful duchess and then president of the United States, George Washington, just to name two. 

It's a strange scene in which to find yourself and requires a bit of suspended disbelief, but The Council doesn't give you long to dwell on its strange historical conundrums (such as how Washington found time to secret away to the creepy abode of an old English pal for a murder mystery party during his presidency). Instead, it sets you about searching for your mother -- and questioning everyone in attendance. 

As you set about unfurling the mystery at hand, you'll find that The Council isn't your ordinary Twine extravaganza -- where you mindlessly choose questions and answers from an ultimately inconsequential dialog tree. Instead, The Council's choices instantly feel meaningful, carrying weight with them from the first encounter to the last. And that's because of the game's interestingly iterative skill system. 

The Council Skill Tree

Much like an RPG, The Council has schema dedicated to developing character skills and traits. Through your encounters, you gain skill points for various activities and in-world discoveries. You can then use those points to enhance 15 skills that fall under three main trees: Occultist, Detective, and Diplomat. Each of these overarching masteries provides you with competencies in areas such as logic, etiquette, subterfuge, and manipulation. There are even sub-levels within each of the trees that will help you become more proficient in one area over another. 

You use these skills to uncover secrets and win favor. But you also use them in what The Council calls Confrontations. Essentially, these are boss battles that require you to strategically maneuver conversations and situations to come out the victor. Sometimes that means not getting your face smashed in by a rebellious brute, and sometimes it means finally kneading out the final piece of a confounding puzzle. 

This system is made more complex by something called Blunders. Essentially, each Confrontation gives you a set amount of poor -- or "wrong" -- dialog choices. Say the wrong thing too many times, and you lose, potentially missing out on a key piece of information or an important activity that will change the course of the game forever. 

On top of all that, you also have what are called Effort Points. For some conversations, activities, and Confrontations, you'll have the option to exploit character or environmental weaknesses. Depending on the level of the required skill, dialog and/or action choices will show you how many Effort Points it will take to succeed. If you have enough effort points, it's basically like cheating (hint: you easily succeed). However, if you don't have enough Effort Points, you can't use the choice or action at all. 

Louis wins confrontation against Emily in The Council

Coupled with more than 30 traits and 45 talents (all of which also have their own unique advantages and disadvantages), it's a system that adds incredible variety and replay value to The Council. Add to that the fact that each character has their own immunity and vulnerability, and each conversation and confrontation feels exceptionally unique -- no matter how many times you experience them. 

I will take a moment to admit that it all can be a little daunting from time to time. As my wife watched me play The Council, she remarked how the menu system is a bit on the obtuse side -- and I tend to agree.

Even as a seasoned gamer who's played many, many RPGs, it was a bit tiring trying to remember the criteria for unlocking a certain talent, or what skill did what in which situation, or who said what when and how they said it. 

But in the end, I felt that my decisions were really going to matter in the next episode -- and that's a lot more than I can say about many other games in the genre. 

George Washington Gives a toast with characters around a dinner table

The problem, though, is that for all its intricacies and the additions it brings to an arguably stale genre, The Council has quite a few blemishes that are difficult to overlook. Ostensibly, they're ones that are painfully difficult to confront considering the potential this game carries on its shoulders. 

From sound design and voice work to character animations and a few glaring narrative anachronisms, The Council lacks the polish it deserves. In many ways, it feels meticulously developed and rushed all at once. 

In some scenes, the score tumbles over itself, one second delivering foreboding, ominous tones, and in the next, comedic, slapstick timbres reminiscent of a Weird Al record -- not a somber tale of mystery. In other scenes, the voice work is inarguably atrocious, specifically for the main character. His ineffectual delivery is only made more prominent by the often pinpoint delivery of other, more believable characters. 

And finally, the distracting and sometimes utterly terrifying character animations... From the stills in this review, you'd never know The Council's characters carry more terror in a single pixel than Stephen King carries in his entire body. From robotic head tilts to horrifying maws that gnaw at what I can only imagine are invisible bones, there were moments where I couldn't look away as the horror of it all devoured my soul. 

Ok. The disappointing animations aren't that serious, but for a game that looks so incredibly polished in screens and trailers, it's disappointing to see such stiff, unnatural movements and facial expressions from these well-designed characters. I know Big Bad Wolf isn't a major studio, but if any game could have benefited from mo-cap, it was this one. 

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Despite my misgivings about The Council's first episode, The Mad Ones, I'm optimistic about its future. It uses good writing to tell a fun, compelling story full of intricate characters. I'm infinitely interested to see where it takes me. 

If future episodes are able to iron out some of the rough spots that haunt The Mad Ones, The Council has the potential to be the game that changed the narrative genre forever. If it leaves its awkwardness behind, that's a confrontation I think it can win.

You can buy The Council on Steam for $29.99.

[Note: The developer provided a copy of The Council for this review]. 

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1 Review -- A Thrilling Prologue https://www.gameskinny.com/33z86/life-is-strange-before-the-storm-episode-1-review-a-thrilling-prologue https://www.gameskinny.com/33z86/life-is-strange-before-the-storm-episode-1-review-a-thrilling-prologue Thu, 07 Sep 2017 11:36:15 -0400 Autumn Fish

Normally, I'm just as objective with writing game reviews as I am with piecing together guides. This is the game, this is what you can do in the game, and this is how impressed (or unimpressed) I am by it. However, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a special kind of episodic game -- and it deserves something just a bit more personal.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is what you remember from the previous game -- and it's not. Some things have changed and some things haven't. But like the BAFTA-winning original, it will pull on your heartstrings. Spoiler: I cried.

Spoiler: I cried.

What is Life is Strange: Before the Storm?

In this prologue to the original Life is Strange, you play as Chloe Price about five months after her best friend, Max, has moved away to Seattle. You're not socially awkward, you don't take photos, and you definitely don't have temporal powers.

Instead -- in a rather fitting twist for a badass punk like Chloe -- you can intimidate people, graffiti the heck out of everything, and finally meet the mysterious Rachel Amber. And just like the original, your choices impact the story here, too.

What is Life is Strange Before the Storm Review

There's a new dialogue interaction unique to Chloe in Life is Strange: Before the Storm called 'Backtalk Challenge'. When you initiate one of these challenges -- you'll know it from the '#!@' symbol on the screen -- your goal is to use what your opponent said and twist it in your favor. Succeed enough times, and you'll be able to shut them down and get what you want. This feature immediately makes Chloe stand apart from the socially anxious Max Caulfield -- and it was always hella' satisfying to pull off.

Then, rather than collecting photos like Max did, Chloe has a collectibles page for her graffiti. There are graffiti spots just waiting to be scribbled on all over Arcadia Bay, and some of them are even kind of tricky to find. They all give you a choice of what to draw or write, too, which really gives each playthrough a sense of personal flair, complete with Collector's Mode for those who want to grab the graffiti spots they may miss the first time around.

And of course, this wouldn't be a proper Life is Strange game without the good old-fashioned power of choice. The only difference between the original and this prologue is that you can't rewind time to rethink your decisions. What you decide is ultimately the choice you're stuck with -- and you bet your cat there'll be consequences.

The Player Experience of Life is Strange Before the Storm Review

The Player Experience of Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Note: Some spoilers for both Life is Strange and Before the Storm follow. 

I wasn't sure if I would be able to relate to Chloe at all going into Before the Storm. With Max, I in some ways felt as if I were watching her portray social insecurities and mores that largely mirror my own. It made the entire experience of Life is Strange very personal.

And yet, shortly after the opening sequence of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, I quickly found myself relating to Chloe far more closely than I had imagined. On the outside, she's a punk that does a lot of juvenile crap that, I admit, I had a hard time seeing through. However, past her hard, defensive shell, she's really just lonely in the aftermath of her father's death and her best friend moving away. And as if that wasn't bad enough, she's dealing with an abrasive new father-figure with whom she doesn't get along.

Being in Chloe's head for the first time hit close to home and influenced my decisions and feelings about the game. It got to the point where I felt as if I were the one experiencing Chloe's thoughts and feelings -- Deck Nine did an amazing job making her relatable despite her rigid outward personality.

Now, if you're wondering why we're playing the role of Chloe Price more than three years before the events of Life is Strange take place. That's because she's the connection between the two games. In Before the Storm, Chloe meets the mysterious Rachel Amber, an important, missing girl referenced all throughout the first game. This gripping prologue expands upon how they met and why Rachel is so important to Chloe.

And after meeting Rachel in Episode 1, I'm left with more questions about her than I had coming into this. The end of the episode gave me chills and left me begging to see more. I only hope that Episodes 2 and 3 live up to the high bar that Episode 1 has set for them.

Life is Strange Before the Storm Review

Overall, Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a masterfully executed episodic adventure game that retains all the emotional impact of the first game, even if it scrapped a few of the more novel ideas -- I'm looking at you, rewind powers. Whether you're a fan of the first game or just looking for a great new episodic title to sink your teeth into, you'll find great value here.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is now available on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 for $16.99.

[Note: A copy of Life is Strange: Before the Storm was provided by the publisher for review.]

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Preview: Bot Colony - A Cool Concept That Works Most of The Time https://www.gameskinny.com/zrhdg/preview-bot-colony-a-cool-concept-that-works-most-of-the-time https://www.gameskinny.com/zrhdg/preview-bot-colony-a-cool-concept-that-works-most-of-the-time Tue, 27 Jun 2017 22:27:41 -0400 Damien Smith

Back in 2003, Socom U.S. Navy Seals put players in charge of giving real orders to soldiers using a USB headset and voice recognition. It was an impressive feature for it's time -- when it worked. The voice recognition had quite a bit of trouble picking up my Irish accent, and the novelty wore off quick.

That concept was rarely revisited until 2014 -- when indie developers North Side released their Early Access title Bot Colony. The game is primarily focused on the same voice recognition, but this time it takes it to a whole new level.

In Bot Colony you take on the role of Jeff Philips, as he embarks on a mission to find missing sensors belonging to the Nakagawa Corporation. To accomplish tasks, you need to interact with robots by talking to them and giving them orders on what to do, either through typing or speaking into the microphone.

It's an awesome concept -- using voice recognition to communicate with robots complements a game that focuses on espionage like this does. The problem, however, is it doesn't work 100% of the time.

Note: This preview covers an early build of Bot Colony and does not represent a finished or complete product. This article does not cover the voice recognition of the game due to it not being compatible with the writers operating system (Windows 7). The voice recognition of Bot Colony is only compatible with Windows 8 and 10.

A steep learning curve

The entire first episode of the game is a lengthy tutorial with a steep learning curve. It covers everything about communicating with the robots from getting them to reveal certain information to commanding them to pick up and move objects.

The objective of the tutorial is to find out why a spy entered the house of a scientist and why nobody was home. You must also find and place all of the disturbed household items back to where they belong. Items like clocks, toilet rolls and so on.

You start off by asking Jimmy, the robot, questions about the family that lives in the house -- in an attempt to get him to reveal his memory through recorded videos. Jimmy will only ask you to see the videos if you use the correct questions.

Using photos of the house in its original state, you then need to place all the out of place objects back to their rightful spots. This is all sounds easy, except when it's done while also avoiding the police.

There is an awful lot to learn, and the length of the tutorial matches that. As to how well Jimmy responded to my commands, he did as I asked about 90% of the time.

The first error I found was when I told him my name. First, he called me Jeff Philips, the name of the protagonist of the game. Other times, however, he actually remembered the name I gave him.

This is pretty much the case for all things Jimmy does, particularly when telling him to actually do something. You need to be extremely specific when asking him to do things, or he won't understand at all.

The tutorial is extremely lengthy, but without it, anyone would definitely have a hard time playing. There’s so much variety in what you can make robots do or say. It’s enjoyable throughout, even if they don't always understand you.

Starting the actual game

After the lengthy tutorial, you begin your actual mission as Jeff Philips, who is hired by the Nakagawa Corp. These robot manufacturers are working to solve a problem they are having with their robots acting strangely after an infiltration. You start the game in an airport where you need to get your PDA and briefcase before you can begin your mission.

In order to advance, you must interact with various robots throughout the airport. For example, at baggage claim you direct the baggage-bot Mike, using a panel to pick out your briefcase amongst the clutter and bring it to the x-ray machine.

This sounds easy on paper, but much like Jimmy, Mike has trouble understanding sometimes. He often says he doesn't understand what you mean when you are telling him the shelf you want him to go to in the baggage area. He also has a tendency of picking up the wrong colored bag at times, too. If that wasn’t enough, after getting your briefcase you receive a message about a bomb in the baggage area -- with the only hint being that it’s in a green briefcase. 

With 10 minutes to find the bomb and an at-times malfunctioning Mike, this segment became very frustrating. Not even 15 minutes into the game and you’re already dealing with a time limit that ends in your death.

The main problem is that the game doesn’t give you enough time to put everything you learned to use. Playing the actual game and following a scripted set of instructions are two completely different things. Between that and Mike not knowing what the hell I’m talking about, the whole thing was nothing short of absolute frustration.

It was at that point, my hands were on my face as I was cursing, swearing and calling Mike every name under the sun, that I simply turned the game off and have yet to return to it.

Good visuals and voice-acting

The visuals and the voice-acting of Bot Colony are both pretty good. The visuals while not state of the art, are certainly not ugly. The design of the robots and the environment are really well done and don't look too aged for an indie game, considering Bot Colony initially released in 2014.

The human character models, on the other hand, do show their age a bit. They have a plastic, doll-like appearance to them, especially in the face. Aside from that, the environments are simply breathtaking, and the robots look great and fit in with the games sci-fi nature.

As for the voice acting, it is good for the most part. The human characters all sound well-done, crisp, and clear. The robots, on the other hand, occasionally have strange inflections in tone mid-sentence. This could be intentional due to them being robots and all, but it really gives a knock to the player's senses when the sudden change occurs. Apart from that, the robot's voice acting is well done and sounds true to their design.

Do I recommend it?

Despite my exasperation at the game from time to time, I actually find it hard not to recommend Bot Colony to some degree. I didn't expect the robots to understand everything I said, but the mechanic worked much better than I thought it would.

When it works, it’s great fun and easily one of the coolest things you can find in video games to date. I do believe, though, that only so many of the problems in the game can be fixed, as the technology is still quite young like VR.

The game definitely shows its early stage of development, but as far as giving you a taste of what it is about, it certainly does that.

If the idea of talking to robots and telling them what to do sounds interesting to you, there is no other game that can offer you that. On the other hand, if you are easily frustrated by dodgy mechanics, it’s best to give this one a miss.

A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this preview

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King's Quest: Chapter 1 - A Knight To Remember - Giant Ent Review https://www.gameskinny.com/i8q1r/kings-quest-chapter-1-a-knight-to-remember-giant-ent-review https://www.gameskinny.com/i8q1r/kings-quest-chapter-1-a-knight-to-remember-giant-ent-review Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:00:02 -0400 Giant Ent Gaming

Over at Giant Ent Gaming, we've just finished playing the first chapter of the rebooted King’s Quest series, aptly named; King’s Quest: Chapter 1 - A Knight To Remember.

We enjoyed the game so much, we thought we'd like to share our opinion on the game, what we liked about it, and what we would have changed.

First Impressions

I’d played a couple of the earlier King’s Quest games when I was younger, mainly King’s Quest V and VI, so I was really excited when Activision announced that they were reviving the sleeping giant of my childhood -- Sierra.

And I was even more excited when they announced that with development from The Odd Gentlemen, there would be a brand new King’s Quest reboot! And no, not Mask of Eternity. I mean a proper reboot. With new gameplay, voice acting, puzzles, all the stuff that I loved about the original King’s Quest games; but now.

 Story

Right of the bat you’re dropped into this magical world, and not all that much is explained. You’re just some guy with a cape, walking up to a well. But what’s that? You’ve got a little feathery cap on your head that looks kind of familiar?

Kind of like King Graham!

You know, the awesomely brave, kind and clever knight who defeated a dragon and became king and had triceps to die for -- seriously, do a Google search.

But, we’re just kind of look like some scrawny kid, so what’s that all about?

So, you play the game and go through this intro section, that has a little foreshadowing, and find out that you are indeed King Graham; but a much older, more bearded and kind of sadder version, and you’re retelling stories of your many adventures to your Granddaughter, Gwendolyn.

And the next story you tell her is about how you, as a much younger, scrawnier, and straight up clumsier Graham, first came to Daventry, in search of fame, fortune, and adventure. And, on a side note, to enter a tournament to become a knight and later become king.

So, I don’t want to give everything away, but during the trials of said tournament, you meet a multitude of interesting, funny, and well designed characters, each of which have their own quirks and charms.

Ultimately, the game sets up the growth of Graham, from the straggly teenager, to the super awesome king of Daventry we all know and love, and tells a really well crafted tale of bravery, wisdom and friendship, both those gained, and lost.

Although the story is fairly linear, you can affect the outcomes of certain parts, although it might take a few playthroughs to really see how big the changes are, or whether they affect the later Chapters as well. These choices are mainly based around whether you want to be brave, wise, or kind.

You know, that stuff I kept mentioning earlier…

King’s Quest isn't the only one who can do foreshadowing.

Sound

It terms of score, and actual musical composition, David and Ben Stanton did an amazing job at capturing a real fantasy like feeling of awe and wonder. It's well worth taking the time to check out the game's soundtrack. It’s gorgeous, and ranges from thrilling, to funny, to some absolute tear jerkers.

What I think I like most about the music though is the arrangements of instruments. From the big wall of brass instruments, creating that medieval feeling of Knights and Dragons and Castles and Kings, to the smaller brush like sounds, emulating broomsticks in dusty old shops, the attention to detail is staggering.

It’s almost a shame that this detail can quite easily be overlooked, since the voice acting and dialogue is incredible. With the likes of Christopher Lloyd, Wallace Shaun, Tom Kenny and Zelda Williams, it's a very impressive line-up. Check out the video for a full rundown of the amazing list of voice actors.

With King's Quest V introducing the series to voice acting, it looks like A Knight To Remember has really come along way from it’s predecessors...

And this game will definitely make you laugh. All the characters have clever quips, and the odd one liner that comes out of nowhere, but personally, it the good old fashioned King’s Quest puns that get me.

Visuals

Visually, the game is stunning. Every movement is smooth, and responsive, and the environment around you feels alive. The characters all have a goofy kind of cartoonish look to them, that just makes you want to love them even more.

And yes, sometimes the tree tops seem a little flat, and there is the occasional bit of clipping, and that baking tray sure is pointy looking; but none of that really detracts from the overall aesthetic that The Odd Gentlemen have achieved.

The whole world looks, and feels magical. The colours are vibrant, and eye catching, and look like they’ve been pulled straight from a fairytale.

The whole game looks as if it’s been hand painted, and that’s exactly what it is! Everything in the game was painted, then scanned and 3D modelled. Then, the scan of the original painting was used as the overlaid texture, which gives it that incredibly smooth, solid, but still kind of rough around the edges feel. The game is literally, a work of art.

Gameplay

The gameplay in A Knight to Remember changes it up slightly from it’s predecessors. With King’s Quest V moving from Command Typing, to Point and Click, A Knight To Remember moved to a more ‘walk and press’ based game style, more in-fitting with modern day consoles.

They even included a couple of other little bits, like some first person sections with your bow and arrow, and a few quick time events to keep you on your toes, as shown in the video above.

And unlike the older King’s Quest games, we’re now given a little pop up prompt in the bottom corner when we can interact with something. Some might say this takes away some of the exploration, but personally, I like it.

But apart from that, not loads has changed. It’s still pretty true to the King’s Quest formula... talk to someone, find a thing, do a thing with the thing, get another thing, talk to the person again... repeat.

And it does it pretty well. There were times when I felt we were just going from point A to point B without really caring about it, just to finish the quest for this person, or that person, because they told you to do it, and there’s not really anything on the same level as the infamous gnome puzzle in King’s Quest VI, but there’s definitely moments of triumph when you finally overcome a puzzle, be it figuring out how the get the raisins into your hypnosis powder, or finally realising how to hear the bridge trolls secret password.

And on top of all that, there's the (almost) boss battles; each of the duels -- my favourite being the Duel of Wits, where you really do have to use your wits to outsmart Manny. And then when he finally reveals his true nature, and you defeat him, it feels awesome! The duel of wits mini game is hard, and you’ve got nothing but your own wits to defeat him. And that’s pretty neat.

There were, however, a few things things that I would definitely have changed in A Knight To RememberFirst and foremost, it’s slow. Now, I don’t mean the story, that’s great. It’s paced nicely, and really depends on how quickly you figure shit out. I mean, everything else.

Conversations are long, and although they’re often interesting, or funny -- sometimes they’re not, and you’re just left pressing the button to try skip through it. Except there’s no way of skipping conversations in this game, and then you accidentally start it again and have to go through the whole rigmarole again!

The conversations themselves are great. But sometimes, you just want to get on with the next bit of game, and skip through them. Why isn’t there just a skip sentence button?

And speaking of buttons that should be in the game, why isn’t there a run button? With all of the exploring you do, and backtracking to speak to people, or deliver something, you would have thought they’d have included a faster movement mode. They had that kind of thing ages ago, as shown above in King's Quest VI, but in this one you’re at your same slow jog powerwalk speed the whole game.

And then - and this is just a little thing - there’s no map. Now, some people might like this, because it means you have to immerse yourself in the world, and into Daventry a bit more, by reading the sign posts scattered around, or just not being an idiot and actually remembering where things were, but I found when we played, I was getting lost all the time, and we were backtracking way to often.

And, that wouldn’t exactly be a big deal, but since I’m going everywhere at a snails pace, it made me not want to explore quite as much. And that’s not very quest like.

And then very finally, there’s the autosave. Now, I know that autosaving is in everything nowadays, so it’s pretty expected. But what I always liked about King’s Quest was having to save your game after you’d accomplished something, or else, you could be devastated that you’d forgotten to save, and then fucked up, and you had to go through it all again.

In A Knight To Remember, I wasn’t really worried about that, because I knew if we did mess up, or get killed, we’d just pop back to life and give it another shot from about 5 second previous. And yeah, it was frustrating in the old King’s Quest games at times, but it also meant that there was a real weight to your next step, and there were consequences if you messed up.

And that’s what made it an adventure.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, King’s Quest: Chapter 1 - A Knight To Remember is awesome. It’s super fun, and light hearted, with little drops of despair amongst the incredible stunning and amazing world. It’s a fantastic opening to an episodic saga, and although I prefer my King’s Quest adventures to end tied up in a little bow, whilst we, the hero, remains triumphant -- it holds up pretty well.

It’s got a good amount of playtime, and definite replayability. The cliffhanger ending leaves you wanting to know what happens next, and wondering is everything’s going to be alright.

There’s definitely things that I would have changed, and maybe they have been changed in the later episodes. But, I guess we’ll just have to see.

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Hitman Handles Episodic Content The Right Way https://www.gameskinny.com/nr60y/hitman-handles-episodic-content-the-right-way https://www.gameskinny.com/nr60y/hitman-handles-episodic-content-the-right-way Thu, 24 Nov 2016 15:00:01 -0500 Tinh Nguyen (Tinhn778)

When the newest Hitman released in March, an episodic take on the classic assassin franchise, there weren't enough maps and missions to satisfy many gamers.

Although the game does give players an incentive to keep replaying the maps due to the “Elusive Target” -- which has targets appearing every couple of weeks that players must assassinate in a certain timeframe -- Hitman’s early first season offerings left a lot to be desired.

However, seeing as Agent 47's first season has just been completed (with a total of six episodes that now include large and creative maps), it's time to take a look at how Hitman Season 1 got the episodic structure right.

When the game was originally announced, it was going to be a full game with a $60 to $80 price tag. But developer IO Interactive didn’t want players to play the game once and walk away. So, they instead decided to make Hitman into an episodic seasonal affair, much like with TellTale's The Walking Dead series. Every previous episode will carry progression over to the new episode. The difference is that Hitman released an episode every month during the season, and TellTale games usually release an episode every two-three months.

Sometimes episodic game packages mean more money leaving the players' pockets if they buy into the game early, but with Hitman this wasn't the case. Simply, episodic format assures fans that the game will improve, as the game is evolving every episode. That’s exactly what Hitman did.

Each map is an open-sandbox...

...that is filled with many assassination routes and ridiculously entertaining assassination methods.

The first episode, set in Paris, sees Agent 47 needing to assassinate two millionaires at a fashion show. This setting is the first thing that popped out. Just looking at the environment, I can see so many options to pull off the perfect assassination. Each map from then on simply grew the options avaliable to the player, not only because of you gaining more tools, but also the maps became bigger. Then, there's the fact each map is so dense there is something new to discover every playthrough.

Couldn't this be achieved with traditional DLC?

Traditional DLC adds to the overall narrative along with new minor mechanics, for example; Destiny's DLC usually adds more enemies with a raid that presents different mechanics. But an episodic game doesn't do much that would change the way you play. They instead continue the overall narrative -- I'm thinking of the TellTale games.

Hitman's approach of episodic releases was different than TellTales. Hitman didn't only continue your progression through every episode, it also presented new and fun challenges. This game made me realize, that episodic games can be more than a continuation of the narrative, but can also play a big part in gameplay, much like DLC.

This made Hitman a hit... man

This year’s Hitman was a surprise for sure. While I initially tried the "Prologue Pack," I didn't get on with it at all, but I kept going, and now that Season 1 is complete I’m loving the game. The massive, dense maps created many opportunities for the player to mess about with the systems. I found myself laughing with its ridiculous stints, feeling uneasy when the target is in sight, and the relief and satisfaction when you complete the mission.

Seeing the game evolve every episode was refreshing. I hope more games will adopt this style of episodic game. Now let’s see what Season 2 has in store for Agent 47.

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Review of Batman: The Telltale Series https://www.gameskinny.com/56tfg/review-of-batman-the-telltale-series https://www.gameskinny.com/56tfg/review-of-batman-the-telltale-series Mon, 26 Sep 2016 17:00:49 -0400 David Martinez_1224

Five days ago, the recently released video game, Batman: The Telltale Series released its second episode, Children of Arkham. Even though I have played the first and second episodes only once, I will attempt to give a spoiler free review of the second episode and a rating at the end. 

The second installment is essentially a Bruce Wayne episode. However, that does not mean it isn't fun. The episode is actually a good mixture of mystery, action, and decision making.

There are certain parts of the game that will require you to make crucial decisions that may alter the next episode in many ways. Some decisions could change how Gotham looks at Batman or how those closest to Bruce Wayne look at him. What got me the most was the twist at the end, since it was such a significant change from the comic books. Normally, this would upset hardcore fans, but I found it interesting and thought it strengthened the mysteriousness of the story.

While the story does linger a bit with the Bruce Wayne aspect, the episode has no dull moments. It made me want to find out more. I would recommend this to any Batman fan or any fan of Telltale style games.

Overall, the Children of Arkham chapter was interesting, and I am excited for the next episode. It is a solid eight out of ten stars.

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Telltale Announces Batman Series' Second Episode Release Date https://www.gameskinny.com/pve29/telltale-announces-batman-series-second-episode-release-date https://www.gameskinny.com/pve29/telltale-announces-batman-series-second-episode-release-date Mon, 05 Sep 2016 07:18:53 -0400 Glitchieetv

The second episode of Batman – The Telltale Series entitled “Children of Arkham” has been given an official release date. Available for digital download on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One on September 20th, the game continues where episode 1 “Realm of Shadows” left off. The full series will be available to purchase on September 13th in North America through the Season Pass Disc, giving players access to the episodes as they are released. Europe will be able to purchase the Season Pass Disc on September 16th.

Using the new Crowd Play feature at PAX West, attendees were able to interact with the game through their mobile devices. This was also “Children of Arkham's” debut, with game play being seen for the first time. Sticking with the comic book art style, the event was hosted by Batman expert Dan Casey from Nerdist.

What did you think of the first episode of Batman – The Telltale Series and will you be investing in the second episode “Children of Arkham”?

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Batman: Episode 1: Realm of Shadows REVIEW https://www.gameskinny.com/7geer/batman-episode-1-realm-of-shadows-review https://www.gameskinny.com/7geer/batman-episode-1-realm-of-shadows-review Mon, 08 Aug 2016 09:00:41 -0400 Warth Haymore

Telltale's latest episodic Batman series is here, and it delivers an experience that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of your knowledge of the world's greatest detective -- even with a fairly rocky PC launch. This latest series brings a darker, fractured Batman into the gaming fray. So, why don't we get started by discussing the gameplay?

Gameplay

As it is a story-driven game, aside from dialog selection, the gameplay is largely based around QTEs and environmental scanning. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it allows for Telltale's story to truly shine. The detective sequences in this game could even rival the Arkham Series' investigative segments, if you like a slower game, filled with more attack planning and story building, it does both of those things very well. I won't go on too much about the story right here, because... That's what the next segment is about!

Story

As with most episodic games, the story is where Batman truly shines. It delivers a very nice balance between the development of Bruce's character. The game shows us that Batman is Bruce's real personality, and that the Bruce Wayne the people of Gotham know is the true facade.

WARNING: PAST THIS POINT, THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS.

The story in this episode is largely based around Carmine Falcone's crime ring in Gotham. After showing up uninvited to a dinner party for Harvey Dent's campaign, he hits the Wayne family, and all of Gotham with a shocking allegation. He suggests that Gotham's shining family, could have been involved in the underworld from the very start.

This directly sets the stage for the next episode, which I assume will be based around the people of Gotham coming to terms with the possibility of their heroes being... not so heroic. I also would like to see more of Bruce and Harvey's relationship, so that Dent's eventual turn into Two-Face will affect us just a bit more.

Another thing that could use some work is Oz' character in general. As it stands, he is just sort of there, with no clear purpose. His talks about a "revolution", though purposefully mysterious, just seem a bit odd.

SPOILERS END HERE.

Conclusion

All in all, Batman is a fun and engaging game -- was there any doubt about a Batman Telltale game not being great? It is definitely worth the $5 for the single episode, and if the next episodes are of the same quality, $20 for the season pass is a very good price for. Thank you for reading this review, and I hope it helps you with your decision in buying the game.

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Let's Talk: Episodic Games - Life is Strange Part 2 https://www.gameskinny.com/zp8hb/lets-talk-episodic-games-life-is-strange-part-2 https://www.gameskinny.com/zp8hb/lets-talk-episodic-games-life-is-strange-part-2 Tue, 08 Mar 2016 03:48:13 -0500 Pierre Fouquet

Let's Talk is a mixed audio and written series about talking -- that much is clear. I talk about specific games, the impact a game can have on the community, about recent events, or how past events have shaped what is now. Read the article first or watch the video it's up to you, but without further ado, Let's Talk about:

Episodic Games: Life is Strange - Part 2

I absolutely love Life is Strange. It's one of the best games I have ever played, but not because the writing, gameplay, or even because of how fun it is; though it is well written, plays very well, and is enjoyable. It's amazing because it made me a complete emotional wreck, made me question if I am 'good' or 'bad', helping or hindering, or just being a selfish whiny immature child. I made friendships, broke some, and fell in love, but along the way I never knew what I was doing; even though I could turn back time. Spoilers for Life is Strange are ahead.

A sad story about how my life got flipped

I've written before about how GTA allowed me to focus my anger, but Life is Strange allowed me to cry. I know that I would be allowed to do these outside of a game, go boxing, or just cry myself to sleep, but there have been so few games I can do this in. Losing Cortana in Halo 4, every time Sully 'dies' or when Elena hated Nate in the Uncharted games, and countless other times, games have made me sad. But never to the level of Life is Strange. It's the only game which has make me full-on cry.

I think the biggest reason why is because of losing my mum. I've always wanted to go back and see her again, to be able to turn back time and save her. Life is Strange gave let me save someone I love. It gave me a choice: pick someone you deeply care about or many people you care a bit about. I chose the latter because I've never liked doing selfish things, especially when they will hurt hundreds, or possibly thousands, of people.

That choice had a far bigger impact on me than I think anyone could have anticipated. It also means that I cared about Chloe, which gives Life is Strange more bonus points. I love that Life is Strange was able to do that, and I hope more games in the future will give such profound experiences, just with other emotions (please). I'm not sure how much more abuse my sensitive spongy insides can take.

Just like in the video, I want to dedicate the end of this piece to thanking Dontnod Entertainment. They created a truly remarkable, outstanding, and all of the other positive adjectives, game. It not only captured my emotions, but also my heart. I'm sure it did the same for many other gamers.

Thank you Dontnod, and to the entire team who worked on it, even the marketing team; which something I say rarely and might be a first. Keep pushing the industry forward, and never give up!

Did Life is Strange capture your heart? Or did it feel too weird for you? Let me know in the below section, which comments can be placed in if you so wish.

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The pros and cons of Square Enix's new episodic approach https://www.gameskinny.com/6dgo0/the-pros-and-cons-of-square-enixs-new-episodic-approach https://www.gameskinny.com/6dgo0/the-pros-and-cons-of-square-enixs-new-episodic-approach Wed, 20 Jan 2016 06:42:34 -0500 Glen Schoeman

Both Hitman and the Final Fantasy VII remake are getting the episodic treatment and naturally the fans aren't happy, with complaints flooding the internet about how Square Enix is taking advantage of long-time fans in order to extort extra profits.

As in most cases, there's a "glass half empty" and "glass half full" scenario, so I decided to take a look at both.

Pros

The major upside to an episodic release is that each part could be treated as its own individual game, allowing for more attention to detail. Hitman has always been about freedom of approach and one of the things that fans have praised the games for is the ability to go back replay missions many times over in order to see how many ways they can send their target to an early grave.

Square Enix has already announced that each part of Hitman will focus on a single location and if their claims are true, each location will be enormous. 

Considering all the variables in place and assassination options available, a massive game world, in which each location is treated almost if it were a stand-alone game, could provide hours and hours worth of replay value.

The same could be said for the Final Fantasy VII remake. Back in the '90s, the world in which FFVII was set was enormous, but by today's standards, not so much. When looking at worlds as large as that of The Witcher 3, we realise just how little we could actually access in Final Fantasy VII.

If Midgar, which is just one of the many large cities in FFVII, is created to scale and we can actually move freely around the entire city rather than just a few select areas, I imagine it will be substantially larger than The Witcher 3's Novigrad. An episodic release means that there is potential for the game to be way bigger than we ever thought possible when comparing it to the original.

It's also important to remember that creating worlds of this size and, in the case of Hitman, hundreds of variables to allow for more freedom in assassinations, takes a lot of time. If each part is given an individual deadline, then all of their resources can be focused on perfecting that part. This is something we might want, rather than dev attention being divided up in order to push out the entire game before a single release date, which often results in the final product feeling rushed.

Cons

Gamers are all too familiar with greedy practices from developers, and lately we've seen DLCs and microtransactions starting to weasel their way into AAA games. There have been far too many titles that feel incomplete at launch only to have the rest of it sold to us later under the guise of being an "optional extra." 

Games like Star Wars: Battlefront has been criticised of doing exactly that and with the hefty price of the game's season pass. Is it any wonder the fans are upset?

This is why there is a lot of anger attached to episodic releases of AAA games. People are worried that major corporations are are trying to use their power as a stranglehold on the games that we love, forcing us to pay even more. While I legitimately don't think that this is the case with Final Fantasy or Hitman, I believe that it's important to understand where the fans' concern is coming from.   

Another issue is that if either game doesn't perform well from the start, investors could easily decide to pull all funding and we could end up with an incomplete series. This is precisely what happened with Xenosaga. Despite the fact that the game had a fairly large fanbase, it was deemed unprofitable and cancelled before the series was complete, leaving the fans devastated. 

While it's unlikely to happen to franchises as big as Hitman or Final Fantasy, this is still a troubling possibility.

So, what does that mean?

Ultimately, I think that in the case of both games, an episodic approach is the best way to go. I must admit that I was one of the first on the bandwagon to condemn it when the announcements were made, because my initial impression was that we were being exploited for extra profit. Looking at the scale of these games, though, it's easy to see how much potential they have if each part can be developed separately.

Hitman is still being made available for $60 for the complete game so there is no extra profit for Square by releasing it in parts, so they definitely can't be accused of greed. It's possible that FFVII will be more expensive, although pricing hasn't been announced yet. Square Enix has stated that each episode would be roughly the length of an entire game, which could warrant a larger price tag.

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EA wants your money, Ubisoft wants your money and now Square Enix wants it too... or do they? https://www.gameskinny.com/w583u/ea-wants-your-money-ubisoft-wants-your-money-and-now-square-enix-wants-it-too-or-do-they https://www.gameskinny.com/w583u/ea-wants-your-money-ubisoft-wants-your-money-and-now-square-enix-wants-it-too-or-do-they Fri, 15 Jan 2016 05:45:33 -0500 Kaj_5807

Earlier this week there were reports of gamers receiving e-mails with regards to their HITMAN pre-orders and it made a lot of people nervous. Square Enix quickly tried to reassure fans and clarified things on the official HITMAN Twitter account, stating: 

This made things a little bit better for others, but for the majority of the people that pre-ordered, it was a cause for alarm. Delays in the release wouldn't have caused them to refund the pre-orders, so what would? Well Square Enix just updated the official HITMAN website today which reads:

Now, we’ve always said we won’t put anything out until it’s ready. That means what we release has to hit the quality level you have come to expect from a HITMAN game. To ensure that level of quality, we made a big decision on how we’re releasing HITMAN.

... And this is the part that's making a lot of people even more nervous, because the very same thing was said when the Final Fantasy VII remake was announced during Sony's E3 conference. So, we all knew where this was leading:

After a lot of consideration, we decided to take the full leap and publish HITMAN as a truly episodic game experience with a major live component.

Yes, they've decided to pull the pre-orders, because they will be releasing the game in parts. Now, some people are okay with this, there's always that promise of quality and, of course, most people don't mind paying a little extra or waiting longer for a good game. However, unfortunately for Square Enix, their announcement just pissed off a lot of people. Here are some replies to their Tweet: 

Now, Square Enix has also stated the "initial release" of the game WILL be on March 11, 2016, but this will only include the first 2 locations in the game, which includes the Prologue mission and the Paris location. This initial release will cost $15 and a new update will be released each month and will have 3 more locations including the USA, Thailand, and Japan, for an additional $10 each. That would place the game at $45, cheaper than the initial price tag of $59, but is that all there is to it? At this point, no one really knows. 

The physical version of HITMAN apparently will not be released until later this year, but the Collector's Edition will be released at the same time as the initial release on March 11 and will include the following:

  • HITMAN Digital Game Download (Full Experience)
  • 10” Agent 47 "Chessmaster" Statue
  • Hardcover 60-page art book, curated by Art Director, Jonathan Rowe
  • Agent 47 Iconic red tie and clip set
  • Premium Collector's Edition packaging (aka the box)
  • Guaranteed Beta Access (Feb 12)

The Collector's Edition will not include a physical copy of the HITMAN, as stated on the official blog. Instead, it will provide access to the full game without having to pay the extra $10 per location. Sort of like a game + season pass bundle and will cost $139.99 / €139.99 / £109.99.

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Don't hate Life is Strange's Warren, feel bad for him https://www.gameskinny.com/7eycr/dont-hate-life-is-stranges-warren-feel-bad-for-him https://www.gameskinny.com/7eycr/dont-hate-life-is-stranges-warren-feel-bad-for-him Sun, 06 Dec 2015 14:54:09 -0500 Michael Falero

Warren Graham is not the most interesting character in Life is Strange. He's the second most interesting character. 

After the endlessly relatable Max Caulfield, Warren Graham is the most intriguing character of Dontnod's breakout hit. The Internet is awash with people who have played through Life is Strange and have come away with a strong opinion of Warren. These debates have focused on Warren's intentions, when they should be focusing only on his actions. He is an archetype of a certain kind of behavior we'd rather not think of as universal. That is why we should look on him with pity instead of anything else.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for all episodes of Life is Strange.

Intentions vs Behavior

Can we say that Warren a good person or not? The reality is it doesn't really matter. Life is Strange may be a game of pink and orange hues, but its characters come to us in shades of gray (save for the game's letdown of a villain). Chloe is loyal but emotionally volatile, Nathan is dangerous but emotionally stunted, Frank is unscrupulous but has a soft spot for animals. Life is Strange is a character-driven story because its characters are people we could meet in real life. If it were a story of good people and bad people, it would fall flat on its face.

Whether one believes Warren is a creep or deep down a good (though maybe misguided) guy, most interactions he has with Max can be interpreted as evidence for either side. What matters is whether or not Warren's actions in Life is Strange help or hurt Max.

What matters is whether or not Warren's actions in Life is Strange help or hurt Max.

Warren does provide Max with concrete help during the course of the game. This "help" ranges from actual aid (defending Max and Chloe from Nathan in the dorm, providing first aid in the diner) to enabling (letting Max escape from Nathan in the parking lot, instructing Max on how to make a pipe bomb).

More importantly Warren is an emotionally unhelpful character toward Max. He consistently touches Max when he's around her, at one point touching her head when a hug goes awry. In many cases, Dontnod doesn't include dialogue from Max to indicate whether she's okay with this affection (and the character models can be fairly ambiguous as to body language). Warren texts Max throughout the game about "going ape" at the movies, a game element that's distracting and eventually a bit tiresome. He might say he's listening to what Max is going through, but his other actions suggest he really isn't. 

Dontnod's Warren isn't necessarily our Warren 

A while back Vice interviewed Michael Koch, the co-director of Life is Strange, about Warren's character. In it Koch gave his appraisal of Warren:

"I think that he's a good guy," Koch says..."He might seem a bit pushy, but he is in love with Max, and he cares about her. We didn't see [his actions] as a creepy way to hit on Max. But, yes there is this kind of awkwardness [to Warren]."

So one of the main people behind the game believes Warren is a good person. It still doesn't matter. An analogy would be the saying that books belong to their readers and not their authors - you don't have to change your interpretation of a book's ending just because an author stated in a blog what it meant.

Video games operate in the same way. Developers don't have a monopoly on the interpretation of the content they produce. Players are allowed to have feelings about a game and form their own opinions.

Earlier in that same interview, Koch states that most of the game's characters started as high school archetypes, which the team then tried to subvert as the series unfolded. When speaking about Warren's archetype, he states something very revealing:

"Warren started as the shy nerd who is in love with the main character. He has his issues and his feelings, and has to deal with things like the 'friend zone' and getting rejected. I think this appeals to a lot of players and gamers, as it's something we can relate to – we've all felt this way at some point. I see myself in Warren too, and a lot of people can also relate to his awkwardness."

Warren is based on an archetype of awkwardness. Many people have stated as much when reviewing Life is Strange. For some Warren's awkwardness is endearing. For other people it's "creepy". People have mixed reactions about Warren because they have either been Warren or known someone like Warren.

Nobody likes to admit that they were awkward...As we get older, we generally grow out of these tendencies and forget about them. Warren brings out these memories in us.

Awkwardness is a universal human experience, one many people associate with being a teenager. Nobody likes to admit that they were awkward or acted in an awkward way, especially toward someone else  As we get older, we generally grow out of these tendencies and forget about them. Warren brings out these memories in us. Whether he's sweet or creepy is largely a function of how we remember our own awkwardness (and for some, how people acted awkwardly toward them).

Focus on the actions, not the archetype

Warren has caused so much debate (this editorial included) because it is at its heart a personal debate. Players who see Warren draw from their own experiences to understand him better. In the context of the game, however, it's unhelpful to try and prove his vague intentions. We're much better off analyzing how his actions affect Max.

Solely looking at how Warren's actions impact Max, he did not help her on the same level that Chloe did. He made a few token gestures, but did not really have any appreciable, positive impact on Max by the game's end.* Despite all this, the passions that arise when people discuss Warren as a character make him one of the most interesting aspects of Life is Strange.

 

*Warren's drunk Polaroid selfie with Max was a fluke, so we can't construe it as exactly "helpful" on his part.

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Telltale Games announce Batman series for 2016 https://www.gameskinny.com/ewfga/telltale-games-announce-batman-series-for-2016 https://www.gameskinny.com/ewfga/telltale-games-announce-batman-series-for-2016 Fri, 04 Dec 2015 10:04:04 -0500 Curtis Dillon

At the 2015 Game Awards last night, Telltale Games revealed a trailer for a new series in 2016, Batman.

The new series came as a complete surprise with many simply expecting news on the already-announced The Walking Dead: Michonne miniseries. Check out the dark and brooding trailer below.

The short trailer doesn't give too much in the way of information about what the game will be about. However, Telltale's statement implied that it will be more about Bruce Wayne than the Dark Knight:

“At Telltale, we’ve been honored to bring our unique approach to interactive storytelling to some of the biggest entertainment franchises in the world, and we’re excited to announce that we’ll soon be exploring what it means to be Batman in an all-new series starting next year,” said Kevin Bruner, Co-Founder and CEO of Telltale Games. “This iteration of Batman will give fans a first-hand opportunity to dive deeper into the complex life and mind of Bruce Wayne, the duality of his own identity, and the struggle of responsibility in saving a city overcome with corruption and villainy. 

It seems we might have to juggle life as Bruce Wayne and the chaos of being Batman, which will inevitably result in lying to people and power struggles. Surely we'll get to interrogate thugs while wearing the cowl, and have the option to shout our name at them! That's what it means to be Batman.

Also, no word on a central villain as of yet, however, the less gameplay-centric style of Telltale's games could set up for a less physical/psychotic nemesis. Perhaps it will be the Falcone Mob, which would be more like the Long Halloween Batman story, and thus a more political series.

In other Telltale news, a trailer was indeed revealed for The Walking Dead: Michonne, which was supposed to release late this year, however, is now scheduled for February 2016. Check out the gory trailer!

Are you excited for the Batman series? Who do you think the villain could be? For more on Telltale Games, Batman, and The Walking Dead, stay tuned to GameSkinny!

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Why Life Is Strange might be my Game of the Year https://www.gameskinny.com/ow8h1/why-life-is-strange-might-be-my-game-of-the-year https://www.gameskinny.com/ow8h1/why-life-is-strange-might-be-my-game-of-the-year Mon, 30 Nov 2015 17:28:31 -0500 Curtis Dillon

It's been a week, to the day, since I finished Life Is Strange season 1, and I genuinely cannot get it out of my head. Not a day has gone by that I haven't thought about it, checked out fan art, or watched YouTube videos about it. Heck, I even watched Pewdiepie play through all five episodes! For some reason that I can only partially explain, Life Is Strange has imprinted itself upon me.

But let's rewind. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself). For anyone out there who is unaware of this game, allow me to give you a quick pitch. You play as 18-year-old Maxine Caulfield - which I can only assume is a reference to Catcher In The Rye. Max has returned to her hometown of Arcadia Bay, after 5 years, to attend Blackwell Academy. She is a shy photography protege who quickly discovers that she isn't all that normal. When in the college bathroom, Max inadvertently discovers that she can rewind time when she does so to keep a girl from being shot.

From there on, the game is all about coming to grips with your powers, righting wrongs, and growing up. There's so much more I could say, but I really don't want to spoil anything.

The main crux of Life Is Strange is that Max has seen a vision of an impending tornado that will wipe out Arcadia Bay, and she wants to somehow prevent it. That's the big inciting incident and the climax, but it isn't what the game is about, not really. No, Life Is Strange is really about the characters and the odd little town they inhabit. It's the journey of Max and Chloe - the girl she saves in the bathroom. And it's this journey that has me still thinking about the game a week after the credits rolled.

To be or not to be...

Life Is Strange is a fantastic game in the way it tackles real-life issues. I won't list those issues here because, again, I'd rather spoil nothing. However, I will bring up the issue of sexuality. The game sort-of allows you to decide which way Max sways, and it's heavily implied that Chloe is a lesbian. Max has a male admirer, but it's up to you which way you want to go. That being said, it's never an outright choice, it's simply defined by the smaller choices you make and it never has any real impact on the story. Maybe your Max likes Warren, maybe she likes Chloe, maybe she doesn't have time for relationships. Regardless, Dontnod presented homosexuality in a way few others do - with respect and class; it's believable, honest, and never a "thing".

Let me explain. In my personal playthrough, I gradually began to believe Max loved Chloe, and not just as a friend. As the episodes progressed, my view was cemented and I began playing as though the two were irrevocably in love and nothing would separate them - so those of you who've played the game can guess how my final episode went! My Max loved Chloe and I never once thought of it as though they were lesbians, they were simply two people who are entwined on some cosmic level.

The only comparison I can draw is with Brokeback Mountain. I'm a heterosexual male, and I had to read and watch Brokeback Mountain as part of an English course at my university. I initially groaned at the thought -- to clarify, I am in no way homophobic, but the idea of reading about two men didn't exactly appeal to me. So I read it, and to my surprise, I never really thought of it as two gay men. They were just two people who, despite themselves, fell in love. It's a very emotional story, and one that truly changed my views on homosexuality - it made me see that sometimes love trumps sexuality. (Which is not an easy thing to explain to other heterosexual men!) And that is how the issue is presented in Life Is Strange, should you lean that way as the game plays out.

The relationship between Max and Chloe, which is never heavy-handed or cringe-worthy, is a big reason why the game has such an impact on me. I care a lot for those two and I really, really want them so make it. It's similar to the attachment I, and many others, had with Lee and Clementine, and Joel and Ellie - the stakes are higher when we can see visible love between characters.

The soundtrack to small town life

But I want to make it clear that sexuality does not define any character in Life Is Strange. They are very well-rounded characters that you've probably known at some point in your life. Max is a fantastic character who shows tremendous growth throughout the 5 episodes. Chloe is immature, self-absorbed, and undeniably fun to be around. Then there's Warren, Victoria, Frank, Nathan, Kate, David, Mr. Jefferson, Joyce, and more. Each of these characters are believable and will stir emotions within you -- some you'll love, some you'll hate, and some you'll pity. Character is key in Life Is Strange, and Dontnod absolutely nailed character.

And it also nailed atmosphere. Life Is Strange is a beautiful game. The game takes place in Oregon, in the small seaside town of Arcadia Bay - which is reminiscent of Twin Peaks or White Pine Bay (Bates Motel). The town is perpetually bathed in golden sunlight, similar to Infamous: Second Son, which gives the game an artistic sheen like few others.

Dontnod didn't aim for realistic graphics, but I think the art design of the series is phenomenal. Everything has an almost-cartoon look to it, which is counteracted with a raw, realistic design for every element. For example, character models look a little plastic, and hair is in thick strands, but this is complimented with blemishes, intricate details of clothing, tattoos, and coloured hair. Basically, it results in a really fantastic looking game.

Then there's the music. Oh the music! Episode 1 begins with you in class and, once that's over, you make your way to the infamous bathroom. But before Max begins that epic journey, she stops at puts her headphones in. 'To All of You' by Syd Matters kicks in and completely sets the tone - it's like a beautiful indie movie. Between the aesthetic, the level of detail, the dialogue, and the music, I was sold in the first 10 minutes. But it didn't peak there -- no, the music continued, and so did the overall atmosphere of the game, never ceasing or ejecting me from my immersion.

Fan-tastic Community

I should point out that I didn't start Life Is Strange until all 5 episodes were released. I hate playing episodic games 1 episode at a time, so I always wait until the season is finished. And yet, I still took about 2 days between each episode, just to let each sink in and resonate. Just when I thought the story couldn't get any better, it did. Each episode left my jaw closer to the floor than the one before it, and more than once I felt a lump in my throat.

When I finished Episode 5, I was flabbergasted and physically exhausted. To be a little cliché, it was a roller-coaster of emotion, and I was left to mull over the decision I had made. It was all I could think about that night, but I figured I'd move on in a day or so - that's usually how games work.

But I found myself still thinking about it 2 days later. It was then that I began watching Pewdiepie play it, and I decided I wanted a t-shirt. I searched online for a t-shirt, but couldn't find an official one. So I went to Redbubble and found dozens of fantastic designs. For some reason, this game was really sticking with me and I wanted more.

So I took to the Internet to see if there was a Reddit page for the game - I wanted to know what other people thought of the season. I was pretty surprised then when I found the page and realized that it has over 15,000 subscribers. For comparison, the subreddits for Telltale's Game of Thrones and Avalanche's Mad Max have a little over 2000. That's pretty impressive for a 2015 digital game.

I was then even more surprised that the Life Is Strange Reddit page wasn't like many other game pages. If you jump onto the majority of other game threads, you will find screenshots, game clips, complaining, tips, and the odd discussion. But the Life Is Strange subreddit is like a fan club; it's made up of fan theories, amazing art, respectful conversations, and more - it feels like what a community should be. The subscribers love the game. It was here I realized I wasn't the only person who was left reeling and just a little obsessed with the world Dontnod had created. The game has a ravenous fanbase, and I was glad to know I wasn't alone.

Game of the year

So why, then, might it be my Game of the Year? I mean, such praise surely warrants Game of the Year status. Last year, Life Is Strange would have definitely been that game for me. But this year, there are (massive) barriers in Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3.

This year I played Bloodborne, The Witcher, Batman: Arkham Knight, Mad Max, Rocket League, Until Dawn, and am currently 80 hours deep in Fallout 4. And those are just the games I consider plausible Game of the Year winners. I spent over 120 hours playing Mad Max and I loved every second of it. Yet 10 hours of Life Is Strange eclipsed it entirely. The Witcher 3, on the other hand, was also something special. It was arguably the best RPG I've ever played and I think it is very nearly a perfect game. It's huge, beautiful, and full of great characters. It stands at the top of the mountain for me this year.

Then there's Fallout 4, a game I am in love with. I adored Fallout 3 and New Vegas, both of which would be in my top 10 of all time -- so it says a lot that I think Fallout 4 is even better than both of those. And yet The Witcher didn't stick with me the way Life Is Strange has. The jury is still out on Fallout 4, but I don't expect to be thinking about it come February. Both of them are better games than Life Is Strange, but neither were as impactful an experience.

I find it very hard to say I prefer Life Is Strange to those two behemoths, when I spent so much more time with them; they're both massive RPGs that I love for different reasons. Geralt and Ciri were great characters that I was attached to, and Fallout's greatness is almost impossible to put into words. But as I mentioned at the beginning, Max and Chloe feel imprinted upon me. I cared more about Max Caulfield from reading 8 pages of her diary in Episode 1 than I do for most characters - in any medium. I know that from here on out, whenever I see a screenshot or hear a song from it, or hear the term hella, I will feel serious nostalgia and love for Life Is Strange.

This reminds me of the 2012 Game of the Year nominations.

That was the year when Telltale's The Walking Dead, Giant Sparrow's The Unfinished Swan, and thatgamecompany's Journey were all up against Mass Effect 3, Dishonored, and Borderlands 2. That was the first year that digital (or "indie") games were taken as seriously as the AAA releases. Many gamers couldn't (and still can't) understand how such smaller, often more artistic games, could be considered in the same breath. But it comes down to impact, innovation, story, and enjoyment.

I think The Walking Dead should have won that year because it had the best story and the biggest impact upon me. So if that criteria is the same, Life Is Strange would win this year. Thankfully, none of this really matters and I can enjoy as many games as I wish, but I always like to choose a Game of the Year.

And in case you can't tell, I still haven't totally decided what game that is for me in 2015. However, when I'm considering my game of the year for, I feel like I know which game I will remember most fondly; a little indie title that has a certain golden sheen to it.

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Tales from the Borderlands Episode 5: The Vault of the Traveler Review https://www.gameskinny.com/frvua/tales-from-the-borderlands-episode-5-the-vault-of-the-traveler-review https://www.gameskinny.com/frvua/tales-from-the-borderlands-episode-5-the-vault-of-the-traveler-review Wed, 21 Oct 2015 11:25:18 -0400 Robert Sgotto

When Telltale Games announced that they were doing a Tales from the Borderlands series, I'll admit I was skeptical at first.

Not only did they prove me wrong, episodes 1-4 were fantastic, but episode 5 knocked it out of the park.

The Vault of the Traveler is a perfect example of how a Telltale game should end. Choices you make actually matter and the story doesn't give you a chance to catch a breath. It was one heck of a roller coaster and I'm sad that the journey with Rhys and Fiona has ended.

You will feel the consequences of your actions

It is an amazing feeling when the choices you've made in the previous episodes actually have an impact on the story.

If you were a jerk in the other episodes, you won't find yourself with many friends. If you didn't save your money, you'll wish you had. People you had the option of saving will return the favor, or they might not. It all depends on your actions.

The Vault of the Traveler made me want to go back and play the earlier episodes again, so that I could see the different outcomes of my choices.

An epic conclusion that will hit you right in the feels

Episode 5 ties everything together in a way few stories ever do.

Character arcs were relatable and superbly written. Characters that I had disliked in previous episodes stepped up to the plate when things mattered, and I found myself rooting for those people that I previously wouldn't have.

Everybody from Loader Bot to August gets a chance to shine, and those end up being some of the coolest moments in the episode.

When the dust settles and Rhys and Fiona see what's left, they have to ask themselves, "Was it all worth it?" The game starts to become heavy with emotion and the voice acting is so well done that it's hard not to sympathize.

For a series that was able to make me laugh so much, it was surprising to see that it could make me fight back tears.

Unexpected twists were shocking but managed to connect everything in a way that seems so obvious after you have all the pieces of the puzzle.

The conclusion for Tales from the Borderlands was more than satisfying.

Is it worth your time?

Yes! If you've played the previous episodes, the Vault of the Traveler is a must have. A nearly perfect conclusion to an epic series, episode 5 will not let you down. 

If you haven't played any episodes yet, and you're skeptical like I was about Tales from the Borderlands, at least check out the first episode. Telltale might surprise you with how interesting a Borderlands story can be.

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Life is Strange's season finale launch trailer is stranger than ever https://www.gameskinny.com/zocx9/life-is-stranges-season-finale-launch-trailer-is-stranger-than-ever https://www.gameskinny.com/zocx9/life-is-stranges-season-finale-launch-trailer-is-stranger-than-ever Mon, 19 Oct 2015 09:29:23 -0400 Michael Falero

Hold on tight to your Polaroid cameras, the end of Life is Strange is almost here.

In the run-up to the release of the game's season finale later today, Square Enix has posted a launch trailer to their YouTube channel (see above for the full video - be warned of possible spoilers for Episodes 1 through 4).

The fifth episode, titled Polarized, concludes a dramatic turn of events for Max Caulfield, the photography student at Blackwell Academy who finds out she has the ability to rewind time.

As the beginning of this trailer shows (with scenes taken from the previous episode, as all Life is Strange trailers have done), Max is in some pretty serious danger, even life-threatening. Her investigation of the disappearance of Rachel Amber has led to Max's capture by the very person who is likely behind Rachel's disappearance.

The trailer features many of the characters the player has met over the past four episodes, many of whom players will have very mixed feelings about.

The trailer features many of the characters the player has met over the past four episodes, many of whom players will have very mixed feelings about. Also featured are some of the major events that have come to pass in Arcadia Bay - freak snow flurries, mass whale beachings, and the ominous cyclone heading for town.

The finale to Dontnod Entertainment's breakout hit drops later today and will be available for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Steam.

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Tales from the Borderlands' episode 5 trailer live, episode drops Oct. 21 https://www.gameskinny.com/xeu08/tales-from-the-borderlands-episode-5-trailer-live-episode-drops-oct-21 https://www.gameskinny.com/xeu08/tales-from-the-borderlands-episode-5-trailer-live-episode-drops-oct-21 Fri, 16 Oct 2015 07:28:09 -0400 GameSkinny Staff

This is it, the final episode of Telltale's critically acclaimed Tales from the Borderlands series goes live on October 21st and this trailer is our first glimpse of what's to come.

Telltale has been knocking it out of the park with this series so far with smart writing and fantastic characters. It's been a journey, and we can only hope that the ending is as climactic and memorable as Telltale's finale to Walking Dead Season One (we cried, a lot).

What are you expecting from this season finale?

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New updates for Life is Strange coming ahead of final episode release https://www.gameskinny.com/c8a4x/new-updates-for-life-is-strange-coming-ahead-of-final-episode-release https://www.gameskinny.com/c8a4x/new-updates-for-life-is-strange-coming-ahead-of-final-episode-release Fri, 16 Oct 2015 03:37:37 -0400 Michael Falero

Life is Strange is getting some fine-tuning, and its final chapter is very nearly here.

Developer Dontnod Entertainment announced via the Life is Strange Twitter handle that they plan on releasing updates in the coming days for the previous four episodes of the interactive drama adventure game. The Twitter update came in the form of a short list - really of only two points of information, as the third was a thank-you to fans.

Episode 5, titled "Polarized", drops on Tuesday, October 20th. It concludes the gripping tale of Oregon teenager Max Caulfield, who finds herself in serious trouble as she tries to understand both herself and her mysterious power to rewind time.

Dontnod has not yet announced the exactly when "Polarized" will be available on Tuesday, but states that they will post those times "nearer to release". The game debuted on January 30th, 2015, and passed 1 million sales this summer.

For more on Life is Strange, check out GameSkinny contributor Autumn Fish's coverage of how realistic the game's characters actually are, and see the trailer for Episode 5 below:

 Life is Strange is available for PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.

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Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Arriving on PS Vita this Summer https://www.gameskinny.com/4lavn/resident-evil-revelations-2-arriving-on-ps-vita-this-summer https://www.gameskinny.com/4lavn/resident-evil-revelations-2-arriving-on-ps-vita-this-summer Sat, 11 Apr 2015 12:48:42 -0400 Elijah Beahm

It seems like every other week, fans are either loving or hating the latest entry in the Resident Evil franchise. As Capcom rides its current upswing with the generally well-received Resident Evil: Revelations 2, the PS Blog was happy to announce that the game will be coming to Sony's console in handheld form, the PS Vita.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will include all DLC the box copy release for consoles and PC has, along with optional gyroscope aiming using the motion sensor, and more currently undisclosed Vita-exclusive features.

Unfortunately, the game will only feature online and ad-hoc co-op post launch. Single-player will be fully functional, even in the game's popular Raid Mode, but you'll have to wait a few weeks after launch to team up with a friend. There's also no confirmation on whether or not there will be cross-play with PS3 and/or PS4 gamers - but if the team porting the game is struggling to just add in Vita-to-Vita co-op, then the odds are not good.

If you'd prefer to just play the game as it is now on consoles and PC, you can. In fact, even the PC version has split-screen co-op (something many PC games should include by default at this point) in addition to online play. You can buy each of the game's episodes individually, or in a full package for a higher price, but with additional DLC (including Wesker and Hunk as characters in Raid Mode).

How do you feel about Resident Evil: Revelations 2 coming to PS Vita and not 3DS, where the original Revelations released? Do you think you'll pick up the game on Vita at launch, or later when co-op has been added? Let us know in the comments below!

Video Credit: Gamespot

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How to Review Episodic Games: A New Hope https://www.gameskinny.com/7cd7o/how-to-review-episodic-games-a-new-hope https://www.gameskinny.com/7cd7o/how-to-review-episodic-games-a-new-hope Tue, 07 Apr 2015 17:52:25 -0400 The Soapbox Lord

Episodic gaming has been around in some form as early as the late 70’s. However, it had largely been neglected for more standard forms of development and release. This thinking changed with the release of Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and the rise of Telltale Games. Telltale has almost exclusively used the episodic format for their titles, and it has worked to their success.

Telltale has proven great games can be delivered in an episodic format. Despite having years to develop a system for reviewing episodic games, games media has stayed with the traditional review format for these titles. This traditional format does a disservice to readers and the games. So is there a better way to review these titles? There most certainly is!

The Audience

There are two major player bases for the episodic genre. The first player always buys the entire season. The second waits to see how the season as a whole shapes up and decides whether or not to purchase. The people who intend to buy the entire season do not benefit from reviews, so reviews should be tailored towards the players waiting to see how the proceedings pan out.

The Problem

The current review system evaluates each episode individually upon release, but it rarely evaluates the season as a whole. Why is this problematic? Well if you want to see how the entire season of The Walking Dead turned out, you have to research each episode’s review individually. Not only does this take a lot of time, but it rarely gives you a cohesive image of the season as a whole. Some seasons have lulls or slower episodes to either build tension or set up major events for future episodes.

For instance, the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands was zany. There were a lot of crazy and exciting things which occurred in the episode. Compared to Episode 1, Episode 2 is more restrained and a plateau episode. It is still good and some zaniness occurs, but it is obvious the episode is more reserved to further set the stage for future episodes. This is perfectly fine, and it is a great tactic to space out your water cooler moments with character and world building. Looking at the score differential between Episode One and Two, you might think there is a drop in quality. This is not the case. The second episode is simply a stage prep episode for what’s to come.

 They deserve to be treated as a singular game instead of multiple entries in a franchise. Your perception of the entire season can change on a whim, depending on how the rest of the season turns out.

So why is this a problem? If the second episode is not as good as the first it deserves a lower score right? Not exactly. While each episode is released individually and sold individually (although I have yet to meet anyone who purchases them this way), they are all part of a cohesive whole: a single game divided into easily digestible chapters. As such, they deserve to be treated as a singular game instead of multiple entries in a franchise. Your perception of the entire season can change on a whim, depending on how the rest of the season turns out.

Remember The Walking Dead: Season Two? It had some highs and lows, which would be easy to overlook as a whole if the final episode knocked it out of the park like Season One did. In the end, I found myself disappointed with Season TwoOn the other hand, The Wolf Among Us also had some issues. However, after playing through the season, I immediately recommended it to several friends. Sure it had awkward pacing at times, some strange character behavior, and under-utilized characters, but it was easy to overlook those flaws when evaluating the game as whole.

Depending on the rest of the season, my glowing opinion of Tales from the Borderlands and my negative opinion of Game of Thrones may change. The beauty of episodic games is how they are smaller portions of a whole. The way they are evaluated should reflect this.

A New Approach

I think the solution is a rather easy one, but it seems no one is doing it. When I reviewed The Wolf Among Us, I reviewed the season as a whole. Since I had just played through the entire season, it was easy to assess the game as a single meal instead of individual courses at a meal. But what about when sites need to keep up with each new episode’s release? Rather than simply reviewing the episodes in a traditional format, write an impressions post. In comparison to a review, an impressions post is more personal and less concerned with delivering a score. Being an impressions post, these posts should also eschew the beloved review score.

In comparison to a review, an impressions post is more personal and less concerned with delivering a score. Being an impressions post, these posts should also eschew the beloved review score. 

I know. I know. Blasphemy right? However, along with writing a more impressions style post and abandoning reviews scores, the posts should evaluate the episodes as they relate to the entire season. Instead of simply appraising each individual episode as separate entities, the posts would detail how the entire season is coming along. How are things shaping up as a whole and paint of picture of the impressions of the season with each release instead of a definite review. As I mentioned before, one episode or moment can ruin an entire season of solid content in the same way a stupid twist can ruin an otherwise solid or decent (stretching that definition there, I know) film.  

TL;DR
  • Stop reviewing each episode as a singular game
  • Refrain from assigning a score to episodes
  • Write more impression-based posts instead of definite reviews
  • Evaluate the episodes as they relate to the season as a whole
  • Keep the consumer in mind

By altering the way we cover these games, we better assist the consumers who did not purchase the season beforehand. After all, aren’t we in the games media covering these games to help the consumer decide what is worth their hard-earned money? If there is a way we can better enlighten the player, should we not change the way we cover these games?

The suggestions I have outlined here are by no means the definitive way to cover these titles, I am sure someone more intelligent than me could devise something more appropriate. But we should rethink the way we cover these games to paint a better picture for consumers and also to do more justice to the games themselves. 

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