If you said Telltale’s Walking Dead games are terrible I wouldn’t blame you...
...and if you were angry about The Wolf Among Us too, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Last weekend I decided I’d invest in the season pass for the The Wolf Among Us on Xbox 360. I wanted to start the game, and my girlfriend was desperate to play through Episode Two. I’d heard there were some issues with the second episode unlocking for season pass holders. I looked into it, and it seemed Microsoft and Telltale had a workaround. Telltale assured consumers via their forums: “If you intended to buy a Season Pass for The Wolf Among Us, but haven’t yet, you can continue to do so.” Purchasers would receive a code via a system message for Episode Two. Problem solved.
So I bought the season pass with confidence, but, as of this writing, it has been over 48 hours without that code. The response from Xbox Support has been to just keep waiting, and my girlfriend is just about ready to give up and buy the individual episode. This isn’t our first issue with Telltale’s games.
For Season One of The Walking Dead, I played most of the episodes on the day of release without issue. When I loaded up 400 Days, I found that my progress from Episode 4 was gone, and the game retroactively took away my unlocked achievements, something I didn’t even know was possible. When Walking Dead Season Two came out I was paranoid about my oddly incomplete save file, with Episode One, Two, Three, Five, and 400 Days completed. Thankfully, it seemed the progress for Episode Four was buried in there somewhere, and the game let me use my own choices.
Lucky for me, not so lucky for my girlfriend. She had a similar issue of corrupted saves on Xbox 360 and ended up having to replay from the start about midway through Season One. Then, when the Vita version of the game came out, with assurances that Vita saves would carry over to Season Two, she replayed the entire thing there.
If you’re up on your Vita releases you know that the announced versions of The Walking Dead Season Two AND The Wolf Among Us are nowhere to be found. I almost replayed the game on Vita myself, assuming the second season would come to all platforms simultaneously. I have friends who only played The Walking Dead Season One on Vita and don’t even have another platform to fall back on.
Now when I went back to my old 360 save I got it to work, despite it being incomplete. But my girlfriend, who had now played through Season One 2.5 times, couldn’t get Season Two to recognize her save file on 360. Her only option was to throw away fifteen hours of difficult decisions and play Season Two with randomized choices for Season One.
I have another friend who never even got through the first season because of a game-breaking bug on the train in Episode Three.
What. The. Mother F&#k. Telltale?
There’s a lot of hand-waving regarding the technical issues of the Telltale games because the stories are so good and the choices are so difficult. The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us are two of the finest examples of interactive fiction ever made. But it is precisely because they’re so good and so steeped in important choices that these problems hurt so much.
The games are built entirely on choice. The only reason these games have “good gameplay” is because the decisions you have to make are so challenging. Your save file is the key ingredient in keeping the games engaging from episode to episode, yet Telltale seems determined to hold the record for most corrupted save files in a video game.
Why does Telltale think it’s okay to put out their hotly anticipated, story-focused, easily-spoiled, EPISODIC game series in a staggered release across multiple platforms? Why do they cheekily announce releases on platforms like Vita, encourage players to “hang on to those save files” (which they have a habit of losing more than any player does), and then go completely dark on when the game will actually come to those platforms?
If Telltale’s Game of Thrones or Borderlands games are announced for Vita, why would anyone buy them when they know they’ll get stuck waiting around while other platforms get a headstart?
Telltale needs to slow down. They have to focus on getting their games out the door bug-free and without staggered releases on various platforms. If they’re going to continue down this episodic, choice-fueled route, they need to help people maintain their save files. And if people do lose their choices for some reason, a tool should be offered to rebuild their choices, rather than sticking them with random ones.
For now Telltale is riding a train of critical acclaim and good will, but how long will that last if they can’t put out a single game without massive issues?
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