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[personal profile] wyatt1048
Since the Steam Sales (oh god I spent HOW MUCH it's supposed to be a sale and CHEAPER dammit) I've played through The Walking Dead and The Wolf Amongst us, the latest adventure games from Telltale. Actually I'm not even sure that they quite fall into the adventure genre: there will be absolutely no getting stuck until you've rubbed every item on every other item, and tried every possible combination of verbs available on the skeleton statues, because the puzzles are short to non existent. No, these are all about the character interactions and how they melodramatic they can get in reaction to your choices.

First off: I'm probably going to sound as if I'm criticizing the games (and the format), so I have to say that I enjoyed playing these games, and would recommend them as enjoyable in themselves, as well as being useful experiments on the format of story delivery in interactive media. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way: The big problem with these games is the lack of effect your actions really have. Throughout, you are told that your actions are having a big effect on the world, but if you play through twice, you still end up in the same place, with the same characters living and dying. If you have the choice between saving one or the other, you can be sure whoever you save won't have much impact. Successfully save someone? Well, they'll be dead soon anyway. Nothing you do really changes the plot.

That's another problem: the story must move constantly forward, because these aren't really games that you play, they are shows that you watch, occasionaly making some input. Good shows, compelling and well written, to be sure, but a show nonetheless. The quicktime events are especially grating: these are success / failure states, where success means more of the story, and failure means doing it again. They are rather frustrating, but it's a case of limited interactivity, or no activity at all. Every now and again, there is an interesting take on the formula - like the babysitter zombie in Clemantine's house, where it only take two hammer hits to kill it, but there's so much time available that you can keep smashing away until there's nothing but a pulp left. You have to question: do you go for overkill, and if so, why? Panic? To be sure it's dead? Venting anger?

In a way, that is the great strength of the format. Because you don't have a huge amount of control over the character's actions as events overtake them, what you do control are their motivations. The player characters are well defined in most cases; you can be sure that Lee is never going to toss Clem to zombies for a distraction, and Bigby is never going to tear out Snow's throat. However, within the limits of how they are, you can still choose the reason they act the way they do. Basically, these are analysis simulators: you get to decide what is driving them, not what they do. Perhaps that's part of the reason these games are loved by reviewers, who love to analyze things deeply.

In summation: enjoyable games, with a heavy dependance on a scripted narrative.
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wyatt1048

June 2016

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