It took them a while but Telltale has finally completed the Tales from the Borderlands series just as they got Minecraft: Story Mode off the ground. It’s fitting that one of Telltale’s game spin-offs ends as another begins. From what I understand of Minecraft: Story Mode (review coming soon), it’s apparently designed to appeal mostly to kids which is how I would peg the stereotypical audience of Minecraft proper.
I look at Tales from the Borderlands in a similar way. No, it’s not a kids’ game but it is a game designed to appeal to the audience of the proper game that it’s based on. In its final episode, though, Tales from the Borderlands finally clicks in the way we’ve gotten used to from Telltale Games.
If you were to ask the critics, Tales from the Borderlands is the hidden gem of Telltale’s slate of episodic adventure games. I’d hazard that those critics are also going to be fans of or at least have played the Borderlands games at some point in time. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never put much more than five hours into Borderlands.
When you take that into consideration, it’s probably not that much of a surprise that I haven’t rated Tales from the Borderlands as well as most critics. And while a number of critics saw the penultimate episode of TFTB as the best episode in the series and called the series the best thing out of Telltale since the first season of The Walking Dead. I saw it as just an episode.
I’ve never really understood how Telltale can be so good at writing these episodic narrative arcs but be so completely incapable at writing the second episode of those stories. They go from great starts to non-existent follow-up and that certainly dampened my enthusiasm for the third episode of Tales from the Borderlands. Fortunately for Telltale, they aren’t too bad at bouncing back from a subpar effort and certainly did with this episode of TFTB.
I know these episodic reviews of Telltale’s games aren’t exactly the most timely but the increasing length of time between Telltale’s releases aren’t exactly speedy either. We’re getting to the point where I’m not exactly sure that Telltale will be able to complete Tales From The Borderlands during this calendar year since the gap between releases is just over three months.
So some three months after it was released, I’ve finally gotten around to reviewing the second episode of Tales From The Borderlands. It would have been a lot easier to review this is I felt any passion for this product but I’m not entirely sure that I don’t feel a little more passion than Telltale does.
I don’t know how many times that people have to be told not to pre-order games for it to sink in but I’m not sure that it will matter. For all the convincing pitches that game companies themselves make with games that are broken on launch or otherwise in need of a lot of work to be considered of triple-A quality, publishers are coming up with ever more convincing pitches to get you to pre-order games or upgrade to more expensive editions of the game and it all comes down to money.
It used to be that pre-order perks were limited to things like skins or weapons or other little bonuses that didn’t really make that big of an impact on the overall game. Those traditional pre-order bonuses should not be confused with the setup that Turtle Rock Studios and 2K Games have come up with their latest hoped triple-A money printer Evolve.
In order to move pre-order copies of Evolve and to sell the various deluxe editions of Evolve, Turtle Rock and 2K have come up with one of the most complicated and ridiculous DLC schemes in recent memory. People have actually come up with charts in order to keep track of what is included with which version via pre-order, purchase, season pass and a la carte. Evolve might be one of the better games this year but its DLC will make it one of the most controversial at the same time.
Don’t look now but I’m pretty sure the game demo is dead. In its place are “betas” that accomplish a multitude of things simultaneously. They act as a demo without needing to polish a vertical slice of the game. That’s because they can slice out a portion for QA testing by the general public without paying professional QA testers to find problems with the game. And by limiting access to betas, devs and publishers drum up demand relative to supply to goad people into pre-ordering the game to get into the beta.
Shockingly, this doesn’t bring us to Heroes of the Storm. That’s a column for another day. It does bring us to Evolve. Turtle Rock Studios left E3 with the whole world in its hands after cleaning up most of the major E3 awards. However, 2K seems hell-bent on throwing it all away with their utterly confusing and transparently greedy pre-order, season pass, deluxe edition and DLC scheme.
So when Turtle Rock gave us one last chance to get a taste of Evolve before its February release date, everyone who could jumped at the opportunity. But was this one last taste of Evolve enough to convince me to spend $60+ on the game from the Left 4 Dead developers?
I’ve never really been a big first-person shooter fan. Maybe it’s coming from a console background in my youth rather than PC but I was never really into FPSs. So I’ve never been into the Borderlands franchise. Sure, I’ve got some ten hours into the first game and my sister knows the franchise inside and out (she’s the FPS player in the family) but I’ve never been compelled to keep going with those games.
That being said, I’m a big fan of the last couple of years of content from Telltale Games. While I haven’t had time to get to The Wolf Among Us (though I hear it’s fantastic), The Walking Dead seasons have been absolutely fantastic so of course I’m going to pick up the next game from Telltale. So can a merger of genres and developers that may not necessarily work at first glance come together to make another Telltale and Gearbox classic?
As someone who has BioShock on their personal top ten games of all-time list and top three of 2013, I had to go back to play the DLC that marries the two worlds of Rapture and Columbia together. But is Burial at Sea capable of properly combining two memorable stories and two memorable settings into one cohesive whole or does Burial at Sea come off as nothing but BioShock fan service for the sake of nostalgia?
I recall hearing a games critic say that playing bad games is much more fun than playing good games because there’s so much more to write or talk about when you play a bad game. I have to disagree. There’s nothing fun about playing a bad game. Playing through a bad game is a painful and frustrating experience. Once you move beyond the frustration, it gets funny but you have to get to that point. At least writing the review can be somewhat cathartic.
And that brings us to The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. This game started life back in 2006 as just XCOM, a first-person survival horror about an alien invasion. The idea of an XCOM shooter terrified fans of the classic 1990s PC strategy game and the shooter was seemingly put to the side to make way for the rebooting of X-COM as a strategy game franchise with 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
However, the XCOM shooter didn’t go away. The game from the seventh circle of XCOM fan hell was pulled from the seventh circle of development hell by 2K Games and 2K Marin. It was almost completely reimagined during a seven-year development cycle from being a first-person horror to a third-person squad-based tactical shooter. Unfortunately, it should have remained in development hell, never to see the light of day.
At the beginning of January, I wrote up a detailed breakdown of how much a publisher actually makes for each new copy of a game they sold. With today’s release of BioShock Infinite, I thought it would be a good time to apply these numbers to a practical example to show how profitable games actually are.