The doors to Telltale Games have started to close, but considering their treatment of employees, it’s for the best. As this company’s story comes to an end, it’s important to remember all the memorable adventures they created. Two games in particular, The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands, stand out from the rest and have more in common than one might think. These stories left a lasting impression in many ways.
One of the cornerstones of a Telltale title is a relatable and down-to-earth protagonist. From fantasy settings to the real world, these characters have a degree of realism that allows the player to identify with them.
In The Wolf Among Us, the player takes the role of Bigby Wolf, the infamous Big Bad Wolf archetype prevalent in many classic stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. This story takes Bigby’s established role and flips it on its head by placing this recognizable villain in the position of protector. The player joins Bigby as he attempts to fulfill his duties while trying to earn the trust of the citizens and struggling with his own personal demons.
Earning a reputation as a company that produces dialogue-heavy character-driven stories, Telltale put the reins of the story in the hands of the player. Throughout the game, the player has to make various choices throughout the game to shape how the plot unfolds. These choices ranged from something as small as deciding to pay someone a compliment to choosing whether to let a character live or die.
Throughout Tales from the Borderlands, the player alternates between the different characters Rhys and Fiona who grow to share the same goal. The player guides them both along their respective paths and forces them to make choices in hopes of achieving that go, with as many or as few bridges burned as possible.
Alongside grounded heroes, Telltale was able to compliment them with interesting and engaging villains. While players are able to identify with heroic characters, they could also sympathize with if not understand the villainous ones no matter how evil they seemed. The main antagonists of both Wolf and Tales — The Crooked Man and Handsome Jack’s AI — embody greed while also acting under the delusion of working towards the greater good.
The Crooked Man carries himself as someone who is working in his community’s best interests by loaning money to citizens who need it to survive. However, he also keeps them in a state a fear by threatening death to those who can’t pay back.
Handsome Jack’s AI, while behaving in typical megalomaniacal fashion, suffers from a personal crisis in realizing that he is only a digital recreation of the real Jack, who was killed in Borderlands 2. The AI then feels compelled to act how he would and do whatever it takes to keep the spirit of Jack alive.
Telltale lives up to their namesake: they tell tales and good ones at that. From comical adventures to gritty dramas, they’ve done it all. The best part of a Telltale story is the journey that the player gets to embark on. More often than not, the game keeps them guessing how things are going to turn out. There’s nothing better than when a story leads the player to think a certain way to surprise them later.
While both Wolf and Tales share a lot of similarities, they are in fact at the opposite ends of storytelling spectrum. Wolf is a murder-mystery detective story inspired by the noir genre of fiction, taking place in the Fables universe. In contrast, Tales is a comedic sci-fi adventure that stays true to its source material. Despite their conflicting genres, both stories have no shortage of difficult decisions or emotional moments.
The mark of a good story is one that can develop and flesh out its setting and background as much as it does for its characters. While both Wolf and Tales are set in worlds established by different creators, each Telltale-designed game does a fantastic job of staying true to its source while giving its own unique perspective.
The neighborhood of Fabletown, set against the backdrop of New York City, captures the sense of gloom and struggle experienced by almost every character living in it. It also has a degree of irony by having a fantastical name while representing the harshness of life in the big city. In Tales, the player returns to the Borderlands world of Pandora but experiences it from two different perspectives: as an off-world corporate executive and as a native of Pandora. Each world has its own life and mysteries which the player feels encouraged to explore.
Telltale may be closing its doors, but players can take comfort in revisiting their released titles. Most importantly, one hopes that the company’s former employees will move on to better working conditions and, of course, games that will impress us.