After a series of upsetting layoffs, Telltale Games recently announced the closure of its studio. The news was devastating for a number of reasons, first and foremost among these is that many hard-working and talented employees lost their jobs without severance and with only a short time to gather their things and leave, causing backlash from fans and fellow game developers. Additionally, this news meant that the studio that had brought new and interesting stories to some of our favorite franchises would no longer be around to tell its tales. Furthermore, the status of Telltale’s future projects now seem to be up in the air, as only a small skeleton crew remains at the company.
In light of this news, we wished to honor the great games, as well as the hard-working, though unfortunately poorly-treated and overworked talent behind them. We are doing this by counting down some of our favorite Telltale games while also mourning the loss of the projects that may never be completed after the layoffs, be it because the company may never finish them or because they plan to, but supporting these games would be supporting the company’s mistreatment of its former employees. Politics aside, we’re here to praise what the studio and its employees accomplished in their collective heyday. We hope the talented game devs who were laid off find work so they can bring the same powerful and artful storytelling to future projects as they did with Telltale games! Until then, let’s look at the masterpieces they created, and those that we may never now see.
BEST – SAM & MAX SERIES
Telltale was born out of LucasArts, which helped to turn the Sam & Max: Freelance Police comic books into a series of point-and-click adventure games that quickly became cult hits. When Telltale was formed, developers continued the Sam & Max series, putting out three games: Sam & Max Save the World, Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space and Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse.
These games were just as beloved as the original LucasArts games, perhaps even more so, bringing the wacky world of Steve Purcell’s buddy cop comic to fun and insane places. While the games started with LucasArts, the duo’s Telltale titles will forever be remembered as some of the best entries in the franchise.
WON’T GET TO SEE – STRANGER THINGS
Stranger Things was an instant hit, so it makes sense that a video game would be in the works. However, with such a rich story and world, a generic adventure format just wouldn’t do, which is why Netflix turned to Telltale to develop a Stranger Things game in the studio’s signature choice-and-consequence style.
But, with the studio’s closure, the game’s status is unclear. Netflix did make a statement claiming it was pursuing other options to complete the game, but nothing is certain. This is especially disappointing following the release of early gameplay footage, which showed that the project had a lot of potential in both its storytelling and fantastic visuals.
BEST – BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE GAME
Before Telltale entered its “modern era,” so to speak, of choice-based games, there was one property that it managed to do a lot of good with: Back to the Future. Sticking with the point-and-click adventure format that it brought itself up on, Telltale continued the story of Doc Brown and Marty McFly with five episodes of time-stream-breaking/fixing adventures.
The gameplay was rather simple and mostly involved puzzle-solving, but the story perfectly captured the world and characters of Back to the Future, taking us back to Doc Brown’s youth during Prohibition where we had to help Marty get things back to normal. It might have come before Telltale’s Walking Dead series, but Back To The Future still stands as one of the studio’s best games.
WON’T GET TO SEE – GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 2
The first season of Telltale’s Game of Thrones series might have had somewhat mixed reviews, but it was clear that fans wanted more, and since the GoT fandom is, well, massive, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that fans were disappointed to learn of Telltale’s closure.
Telltale has stated that it may attempt to finish production some of its slated games, but the status of GoT remains uncertain, and as stated, it wouldn’t be doing the laid-off employees justice to support Telltale after its actions. Either way, it doesn’t seem like Season 2 of Game of Thrones will be coming any time soon.
BEST – THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON 1-2
Though Telltale’s Back to the Future gained a decent amount of praise, it was its foray into The Walking Dead that really put it on the map. The first season of the critically acclaimed game followed Lee Everett, a convict on his way to prison who got a second chance due to the virus outbreak, during which he takes care of and looks after a young girl named Clementine.
The first season gained praise for its brilliant emotional storytelling, hitting fans in the feels with its final episode. The second season put Clementine in the main role, a choice that made for an interesting follow-up to the original, both seasons standing as two of Telltale’s best games.
WON’T GET TO SEE – THE WALKING DEAD: THE FINAL SEASON (EP. 3-4)
Clementine has grown up quite a bit since the first Walking Dead game, and it’s fitting that she is a major part of the final season of the series that reinvigorated Telltale. Unfortunately, with only two episodes of the final season out and over 250 of its employees terminated, the release of the latter episodes of the final season seems unlikely.
This is another unfinished project that Telltale claims will be completed by its remaining employees, but the skeleton crew may not be enough to stick the landing. If the final two episodes are finished and released, it would represent the company’s recent poor choices in prioritizing the game over its employees, which may incline some fans not to purchase them.
BEST – THE WOLF AMONG US
The first volume of Bill Willingham’s Fables played out like a noir detective story, but as things went on, the series cycled through various genres, leaving some wanting more of Bigby Wolf’s detective-like adventures. Telltale provided exactly this with The Wolf Among Us, a prequel to Fables that took place and ended just before the first volume of the comic.
The game was praised for expanding the world of Fables and for how many different stories could unfold from the different choices that were presented to the player. Additionally, the game had fantastic visuals, writing and voice acting that cement it as the peak of Telltale’s signature video game style.
WON’T GET TO SEE – THE WOLF AMONG US SEASON 2
Not too far back, a sequel to The Wolf Among Us was announced, and fans were definitely ready to continue playing as the big bad sheriff of Fabletown. Unfortunately, after Telltale announced its closure, it was made clear that The Wolf Among Us 2 would be one of the casualties.
The Wolf Among Us was one of the studio’s best titles, so it’s unfortunate that the game’s second season will never be finished and that the team that was working on it are now unemployed. Fans of Fables always have the comics and their many spinoffs to satiate their need for Bigby and the residents of Fabletown, but nothing compares to being able to walk around Willingham’s unique world.
BEST – POKER NIGHT AT THE INVENTORY 1 & 2
Telltale’s Poker Night at the Inventory games weren’t exactly storytelling masterpieces that the studio was known for, but they were definitely a whole lot of fun. The concept was simple — a game of Texas Hold ‘Em played against four notable fictional characters conversing with each other.
Even if Poker wasn’t your thing, the casts and conversations in these games were worth the purchase. The first game featured the likes of Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade, Max of Sam & Max, Team Fortress 2′s The Heavy and Homestar Runner’s Strong Bad. The second game’s cast was just as crazy, featuring Brock Sampson of The Venture Bros., Claptrap of Borderlands, Sam of Sam & Max, Ash Williams of the Evil Dead franchise and GLaDOS of Portal as the game’s dealer.
WON’T GET TO SEE – SAGA
While no official plans for a game based on Brian K. Vaughan’s hit comic book series, Saga, were ever announced, Vaughan himself stated that if Saga were to venture off into other media, he would trust the storytelling skills of Telltale to handle a video game adaptation, under the condition that it didn’t follow the central characters.
This says a lot about the talented storytellers that work/worked for Telltale, since Vaughan has been rather adamant in preserving Saga as a comic and a comic alone, and we have to agree that a choice-and-consequence side-story of the Saga universe would make for a great game. Of course, this theoretical game adaptation is not likely to happen in light of the layoffs and closure.
BEST – TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS
The Borderlands games have a huge following, which comes as no surprise with how fantastic the RPG-shooters are. The games also have a rich story and setting, which made the world perfect for a story-driven game. Enter Telltale, who presented us with Tales from the Borderlands, a choice-and-consequence game that took place in the canon of the beloved game series.
The series was released to critical acclaim, many praising its writing and the lore it added to the world of Borderlands. Though the game only got one season, Tales from the Borderlands stands as one of the studio’s best games.
WON’T GET TO SEE – BLACK MIRROR
This is another game that was never officially announced or teased, but one executive of the company stated that it would be a dream project for the studio. We’re inclined to agree that the anthological nature of Black Mirror would make for some interesting Telltale-styled game episodes — the first season could perhaps be five separate, but somehow connected stories.
Of course, without the talent to make this game work, this dream project is just that: a dream. Telltale has stated that after wrapping up a small number of projects, it would be closing forever, so we will never see what their ex-employees could have done with a property as cool as Black Mirror.
BEST – THE WALKING DEAD: MICHONNE
The Walking Dead: Michonne got somewhat mixed reviews; most people liked the game, but critics lowered their scores of the game due to the short length of the episodes and various gameplay glitches. However, aside from these issues, many praised the story of the game and how it helped to develop Michonne’s character.
We’d have to agree with this assessment, as the game filled in the story during a time-jump in The Walking Dead comics, depicting what Michonne was up to before she returned from sea. It also filled us in on some of Michonne’s past, expanding on what was revealed in the comics, which is part why it was one of Telltale’s best Walking Dead games.
WON’T GET TO SEE – MORE MARVEL AND DC PROJECTS
While Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy series wasn’t its best-reviewed game, we imagine the studio’s ex-employees would have liked to do more projects with Marvel properties, and the same goes with DC, since it ended up doing two seasons of Batman. If the studio wasn’t closing its doors and if it hadn’t terminated most of its staff, we’d love to see which other Marvel and DC projects it would’ve put out.
Maybe the studio might have gone for lesser-known characters, a choice-driven series about the Doom Patrol perhaps? Or maybe we might have seen the Telltale Marvel universe’s version of the X-Men. Who’s to say what might have become with Telltale’s relationship with the Big Two publishers had the closure not happened.
BEST – BATMAN
Speaking of Telltale and DC, one of the best games the studio put out was its Batman series, which ran for two seasons, both receiving critical acclaim despite a few game glitches. These games had a lot of cool ideas going for them, both featuring awesome visuals that took the usual Telltale style and added some new, stunning elements.
Both seasons of Batman also had smart, dramatic and interesting stories that took familiar pieces of the Batman mythos and threw them into a new, modern lens to make for something we’ve never seen from the comics. Additionally, the gameplay also added a few new ideas to the usual Telltale format, which helped the game stand as one of the studio’s best.
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