Games have become more cinematic than ever before. The aggressive trailer and announcement campaigns, explosive cut-scenes getting increasingly elaborate and big names from the film industry being roped in to do everything from music to cinematography and storytelling. A lot of games get flack for being too much like films (see The Last of Us and The Order 1886), but on the flipside, Telltale Games series have only grown in popularity - how are they getting away with it?
An obvious choice perhaps, since BioWare already does an excellent job of playing out player choice in its games, but the key here (and with all of these games) is that it is another way to explore the universe.
The ‘Story’ difficulty of Mass Effect 2 and 3 made it possible to dial down the combat, but this game could come at the experience from a multitude of angles, on both sides of the fight. There is more than enough players not wanting to say goodbye to Garrus and the gang and so why not pitch something during Garrus’ time at C-Sec and make it more like a procedural investigation with elements of a thriller.
You could incorporate some of the slower elements of games like Batman: Arkham City which saw some glimmers of what could be really interesting detective work, and would fit into the established Telltale template.
There would be plenty of places to explore within the Citadel alone, but beyond that there’s a universe to explore. You could even take a different slant and follow the rise of Mass Effect 2’s Illusive Man, coming at the same scenario from two different perspectives, finally reaching a climax as both sides pit their wits against each other - since in a corrupt world, power comes from influence rather than strength.
The stories players have come up with alone could fill dozens of books (not to mention the dozens of actual books written about that world), and with such rich lore and diverse settings to draw on you could find yourself on an interesting quest.
The challenge is to not make the player feel like they are missing out on having ‘full’ control of their character as they would have in Skyrim. Perhaps the character you follow has taken an arrow to the knee and now can’t go out accomplishing elaborate feats of physical strength, or even that their story begins with their town being saved by one of the player characters from the series, which inspires them.
Encounters with dragons could prove problematic of course, since you can’t really talk them down (though they managed a minor encounter in the most recent episode of the Game of Thrones Telltale game). Stepping away from clichéd characters to really push the depth of a single character’s story could really draw players who (like me) have been too daunted by the scale and scope of an epic game like Skyrim in the past.
With corruption and propaganda rife in the world of Deus Ex, it lends itself to an exploration of some of the unseen few near those in power at the top. What would it feel like to realise the company or government you work for wanted to wipe out augmented humans, it’s never as simple as walking away, but staying and standing for something which you didn’t agree with so strongly could create some interesting internal struggles.
If a character was augmented and those implants were being messed with remotely, battling against your choices, then that could create a whole different level of challenge - swapping buttons around, blacking out the screen at a crucial moment so you have to fire blind.
Plus the augments themselves could offer some interesting choices, similar to how Rhys in Tales from the Borderlands is beginning to show some of his more unique abilities. Imagine remotely hacking other people in that world, tapping directly into their memories and seeing the situation from an entirely different perspective.
With Revelations 2, Capcom is already half way there with this one. It’s already an episodic title with a couple of main characters, some of whom even have different abilities.
The thing about Resident Evil is that is isn’t realistic, there is no way any of these characters would survive half of these situations, so you would have to find a way to dial down the mass of zombie hordes and make it about the characters, in a similar vein to how The Walking Dead deals with the zombie apocalypse.
The benefit with Resident Evil though is that there are already a lot of beloved characters which you can draw on and bring into the story. Some of the most engaging moments of Revelations 2 were character-based rather than action-based, and the story, though a bit silly, was what made me look forward to getting into the next episode, while the action just creeped me out and made me hesitate whenever I thought about playing it.
Take a leaf out of Dead Rising’s book and make the game a bit more self-aware, so that the characters acknowledge how mad it all is but still need to work together to get out of it. There might be less head stomping, but it would be far more fun than sitting through another CGI Resident Evil film which only has tenuous links to the original series.
Unlikely to happen perhaps, but the worlds of both Rapture and Columbia beg a return visit. To see Rapture as the madness started to take hold and deal with your character slowly descending into Adam-induced madness would be great fun.
The style of both games is so well carried out that you could find plenty of stories to tell in that world, perhaps taking a closer look at some of the characters you only really heard from in audio logs.
A looming sense of dread for each universe as both morality and truth are called into question everywhere you turn could fuel a really interesting Noir-esque investigative thriller which explores the founding of both of these great cities. Plus there’s great opportunity for Easter eggs aplenty.
Probably to have all of these series really happen would be a bit much, but hopefully there are some ideas there which make for some interesting and varied game experiences. Also, just to be clear, we would love to see new IP from Telltale as well, since The Wolf Among Us (despite being adapted from fairy tales) remains one of the strongest examples of what the developers can do. What would be your top picks? Let us know on the forum.