The Backlog is back(log) again! This time with games I played before the ones I played the first time! If it doesn't make any sense then that's okay because it's a METAPHOR.
In this installment I play two episodic games that might be similar in concept but very different in execution. But -SPOILER ALERT- I quite liked them both.
Life is Strange
|The cinematography guy should get a raise|
This game may be the one that finally convinces me I have a heart. The story of Max, an 18 year old reuniting with a long lost friend under some pretty intense circumstances. It certainly reminds me a lot of my childhood when I would actually go outside and make friends. Most of those would usually end to some stupid childish shit, like fights or something. One such friendship ended when I was asked to let them steal my dad's semi truck. I told them, uh, no, and he tried to stab me with a loose stick off of the ground. It didn't really do anything but he instantly hated me and never talked to me again. It hurt me deeply and I was especially sad because I couldn't go to his house and play Killer Instinct on his N64 anymore.
Immediate reaction to the first episode: Neat. I loved the opening and the idea of this young superhero(?) using her powers to do things like: Solve murders, fix social issues within the school, save people from dying, stopping people from accidentally hitting some poor lady in the head with projectiles.
The game goes in some really interesting directions, ones I did not see coming. Going in to alternate timelines entirely and seeing firsthand just what power you truly have. It was also interesting seeing how that affected your relationships with people you know, including the one with Chloe.
The relationship with Chloe was also really well done. There were a few moments where you get to make a choice that felt very poorly written, like when you are at the Diner and Kate calls you. Chloe freaks out if you accept the call from Kate, because apparently waiting like a minute is a real chore. The game didn't really do too much of that but it was odd when it did.
It did a thing that not too many games do, introduce a relationship that's organic. When Chloe and Max are reunited, you can tell there is a deep connection. They were once upon a time best friends until Max moved away, and there is some bitter resentment for not reaching out sooner. I've never had a lot of friendships in my life, not by choice mind you, but it made me think of a better time where me and my friend Ramon didn't break up by me being stabbed with a stick. Instead, reaching out to me today as a matured young man much like myself with an olive branch of friendship, to begin anew once more. But that's not going to happen. He's probably dead.
And that's where I had my issue with Life is Strange. Time Travel is an often convoluted storytelling mechanic. I was willing to put that thought aside but the ending caught up with me and things started to fall apart. The issue being, changing time isn't cool, or something. Time decided that it wants something to happen, in this case, Chloe was destined to die. And trying to prevent her death in turn causes a lot of death in turn. So the rules were never made clear. They talk about "spirits" and you even see some, alluding to this paranormal or even spiritual element to the world, but it's never really addressed or brought up in any meaningful way.
So the end asked me to choose: Save Chloe and condemn Arcadia Bay to a giant super tornado, or go back in time and never save her from her initial demise. The decision I went with was a clear one: Save Chloe. It sucked to let so many that I originally saved die, but in the end, love beats all. And the game ends moments later, with a very short scene of them driving out of the city, and (probably) towards their new lives. It made me ask a bunch of questions that I didn't want to ask. Like, yo Chloe is still alive, so is this just going to keep happening? What was the lesson? Did Max retain her time powers, or were they taken away? Again, if she continues to use her powers to save people, won't time just keep trying to correct itself and cause another calamity somewhere else?
They were trying to instill another message into the story that goes a bit beyond "Love conquers all", but really it just made it seem like "Love will ultimately kill hundreds of innocent bystanders in horrible, horrible ways".
Ultimately I was disappointed in the ending. But the rest of the game was so good I couldn't be mad at it. The soundtrack, not something I'd usually be into, was actually quite good. I added a number of tracks to my growing spotify collection and listen to them every once in a while. The scene framing was also very nice. Each shot felt really well done and it added something to the game. It made for a very cinematic and moody experience. The voice acting could be weird at times, but it was still a great experience from beginning to end... well sorta kinda.
Tales From The Borderlands
|Jack is back! And more emotionally toxic than ever!|
Borderlands and Telltale, two things I thought I was pretty burned out on. I was pretty surprised when TFTB was announced because it was taking one game series and turning it into another one, which Telltale hadn't done before, but rather adapted things from comics or other some such. I wondered if they were just going to straight up make a smaller Borderlands game or what.
Getting my hands on the complete collection around Christmas time and after I was finished with Life is Strange, I took a dive through.
I was immediately surprised by the graphics. They uh, they weren't great. The characters and most of the key objects look fine, but the environments were mostly flat. Coming from the great looking Life is Strange was actually pretty jarring as the graphical differences were quite intense. But graphics schmaphics, I didn't come to play this shit for how it looked. I'm not that far gone.
Another thing that surprised me was how from very early on in the game, it just does its own thing. The other Telltale games were so formulaic and kind of boring to me now, even though I liked the first season of The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us. Tales From The Borderlands immediately starts out by showing you this isn't some "adaptation" or "side story". It takes the narrative it was given and fucking runs with it. And, actually, quite a bit of important shit goes down in this game. Each episode brings the stakes higher and higher for the world of Borderlands and there are some really interesting moments that lead to huge consequences for the franchise that could potentially lead to some interesting things in the future.
But really, the best thing that Tales From The Borderlands does is inject a much needed dose of humanity into the franchise. You get to see so many new and interesting angles and characters who aren't just the typical murder-hobos that inhabit the world of Pandora, and also a whole shitload of murder-hobos that inhabit Pandora.
Aside from seeing a few familiar faces, like the incredible Handsome Jack, the cast of original characters are all pretty noteworthy in their own right, as the course of the game changes them into what I can only imagine are major figureheads for future games.
The only disappointing thing about this game is that there so far hasn't been a sequel announced. I know a lot of people get tired of sequels as most of them tend to suffer from some sort of sequelitis, but I was taken so aback by an earnest attempt at some non-shooty Borderlands action that all I can do is ask, more please, and also could you keep your shit together so it doesn't take almost an entire year just to get all 5 episodes please thank you.