We played so many games that Justin is actually playing a game while talking about games. Kody talks about Dark Souls and how misunderstood it is, James opens the discussion on Shadowrun Returns, and Justin is all about handling a Solid Snake. Phil quits games and Acti-Blizz buys itself. Oh and Neil Gaiman is making a Beetlejuice game.
In a statement made on July 27th, Phil Fish said:
FEZ II is cancelled.
i am done.
i take the money and i run.
this is as much as i can stomach.
this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign.
There is no broad lesson to be learned from the events leading up to this news.
Lets just get on with our lives until FEZ II comes out and we can play it.
Finishing Virtue’s Last Reward left me with a profound sense of incompleteness. It’s not that the story was unfinished (it was) or that there were plot holes left wide open (there were). The creator of the game, Kotaro Uchikoshi, had given me the ability to jump through a timeline at will in order to complete the master plan set in place at the beginning of the game. Unfortunately by time that master plan had wrapped up, I had certain expectations. In normal games, death is simply a barrier to lateral progress. You die, you go back to a checkpoint, and try again with the character you’re controlling blissfully oblivious to the horrors that befell him in some alternate timeline. Unlike a normal game, Virtue’s Last Reward doesn’t do what you’d expect.
When you first start playing those normal expectations are very much intact as the interactions you have with the various characters in game seem odd, but no moreso than other games you’ve played in the past. You wake up in a locked room with Phi who seems to inexplicably know things that she shouldn’t. Okay so you run through possible reasons in your head. One of those tropes is probably the reason. Then you reach the end of that story and die, Game Over, and are presented with a branching patchwork of story. At this point it still didn’t click with me that this game was in anyway going to change my expectations. The branching path of narrative was just a creative way to present you with different options in your play through. All of those expectations changed as soon as the main character, Sigma, began to notice that he had knowledge of events that he couldn’t. He was becoming aware, that in some other timeline I had lead him to his doom.
Of course, his awareness didn’t extend beyond the fourth wall. He is not aware of some external controller that makes him do things he doesn’t want to. But he had some vague knowledge of times I had failed. That’s how the story is built in Virtue’s Last Reward. You follow a set of actions to their inevitable conclusion (sometimes hilariously unexpected conclusion) and gain a bit of information which you can use once you return to some other point to either advance the story, or save your skin. Death, then, was just another tool for the hero to win with. I no longer anxiously tried to stop bombs from going off, but instead embraced the end and quickly jumped backwards to make a different decision. Of course, all of this story jumping is built on top of a game in which you solve puzzles to continue certain parts of the story. I won’t go into laborious detail in this review, but the characters are forced into solving certain puzzles in order to maintain their life and for a chance at escape from the seemingly sadistic game they’re participating. Said puzzles are all well thought-out and very often logical in their conclusion. (Though some are, as Rachel would put it, “2+2=Fish”).
Why then, do I feel incomplete in my experience with the game? Because the expectations the creator built up in me cannot be accomplished within the game. I finished it, and the character who was me continued on to a new story while I was left to complete a crummy trophies list. I desperately wanted the story of Virtue’s Last Reward to continue on while knowing full well that at some point it had to stop.
Suppose for a second that I had Sigma’s special powers. I could travel back to 2012 and correct the mistake I had made in naming Walking Dead the GOTY. It clearly belongs to Virtue’s Last Reward.
- Review – Virtue’s Last Reward (petexxvii.wordpress.com)
- Zero Escape’s creator discusses the series’ past and future (gamesradar.com)
Kody makes his triumphant return and plays all the video games that Justin and James managed to avoid. We talk about the Don Mat-Trick and remember Ryan Davis. Also, plans set in motion for the killing of myself and James at the hands of Justin and his trusty Beard-Axe.
Telltale’s ‘The Walking Dead’ kind of took the gaming world by surprise last year. When the first episode was released it was immediately clear that this was going to be something altogether different and better than Telltale’s previous efforts in the format. Jurassic Park: The Game and Back To The Future: The Game were fresh on peoples minds and caused many to be weary of what would come next with The Walking Dead. There was no need to be scared though as they were able to serve up 5 episodes on a relatively predictable schedule that kind of changed everyone’s expectations of an episodic, story driven game. They’d basically done the impossible. The game rivaled the experience of the property it was based on and in some ways surpassed it via the medium ‘Adventure Game’.
Following up on that success is going to be challenging to say the least. Those new expectations are a burden that is are made especially tough by the highly story driven format of The Walking Dead. We don’t have Season 2 yet to compare to Season 1, but with the release of The Walking Dead: 400 Days we are getting a depressingly short look at how they might follow up on the most impossible game of last year. I’m not going to spoil much of anything below (besides a short line of dialog) but if you’re someone who avoids anything that you could possibly spoil you, then you may want to stop reading.
400 Days eschews the single character focus of the previous 5 episodes in favor of a more scattershot approach. You are told a story from the viewpoint of 5 different characters as they all interact with a Georgia gas-station and a zombie apocalypse. As the name suggests, the story is spaced out over 400 days with day 1 being the start of the mayhem. You choose which character you want to play and can choose them in any order. There is a chronological order, but it’s not necessary to play it that way (I didn’t). The geographical location is similar to the original game, but there is barely any overlap between it and 400 Days, which is how I’d prefer it. I’ve already seen Clem’s story.
If you’ve played through the first 5 episodes of The Walking Dead then you know what to expect from playing the game. This time around there are no ‘puzzles’ to speak of, just you interacting with your environment through directed mouse-clicks and repeatedly bashing the ‘Q’ button. If this slight turn in the gameplay is an indication of the newest season, I’ll be disappointed. As much as I love the story they’re telling, I want there to be the gameplay trappings of past PnCs. You don’t have to make me find a duck and a feather and use those to solve a puzzle, but more of the contextual puzzlers you found in the Pharmacy from last season would be appreciated.
As it stands, 400 Days is a completely serviceable story bridge that just makes me impatient and worried.
The strength of The Walking Dead was found in how deeply empathetic you were to the people you were interacting with and the person you were controlling. Like a good book, it took a bit of time before you finally started connecting with these people and since 400 Days gives you, in at least once case, about 15 minutes of time with these characters you may find it hard to empathize. If you can’t empathize with them you can’t relate to the difficulty of the decisions. It had to be done if they wanted to introduce these new guys and gals for the upcoming season but I find myself sharing misgivings with one of the characters at the end of the DLC who asks themselves “Is this really a good thing?”.
Overall it’s more of what you’d expect from The Walking Dead but in a highly condensed package that does not allow for you to really get to know anybody. 400 Days felt like a five clever ways to force you into uncomfortable decisions more than a coherent story of intertwined fates and makes more more nervous than ever in their ability to deliver an experience that will match last years success.
- The Walking Dead: 400 Days review – Oh My Darling, Clementine (metro.co.uk)
- The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review (amsiddiqui0001.wordpress.com)
- Telltale Explains The Walking Dead 400 Days DLC (ggtriple.wordpress.com)
Kody plays Persona 4 as a relationship simulator. To make FRIENDS. He also plays Soundshapes. Justin beats The Last Of Us and plays UnEpic with James. James continues his streak of not being impressed by Vanquish. Also we talk the Xbox 180.
This week, I’m not actually there! So they have free reign to hate on my superior style of camping. Though Rumn did play Rogue Legacy so that’s okay. Also, Justin throws down the GAUNTLET and challenges me and James to the fight of our lives. It’s like the Cell Saga but with less Bruce Falconer.
On a related note, we now host our audio directly from this very website! Download the podcast from the link below or if you want you can wait for the iTunes approval process to take place and then catch up… I’d just download straight from here though.