10 Video Game Universes that Telltale Should be Exploring that Would be More Interesting than Borderlands

Telltale Games might be the equivalent of HBO in the video game series. That analogy could be a little poor, I do not think Telltale has the money or the fame of HBO, but they do have the best stories. Their game, the Walking Dead Season One is the best adventure game in recent times and could be a contender for the best ever. And Telltale has not stopped there. Since their explosion back into fame (after the abysmal Jurassic Park: the Video Game, which will be seen very soon), Telltale has expanded. They are currently producing two story games with two more on the way. The Wolf Among Us( from the Fables universe) is currently unfolding like an excellent crime novel with the player joyfully inhabiting a sheriff who happens to also be the Big Bad Wolf, and the Walking Dead Season Two continues all the gut-wrenching, no-winning scenarios that made the first game have such an impact. Later this year, Telltale will expand with a Game of Thrones adventure that will no doubt be filled with the sex, betrayal, and political intrigue that makes the show worth watching and the books worth reading… Telltale is also making a Borderlands adventure game…

Now I’ve never played either of the Borderlands games but I have seen enough of them to gleam that that is not a series known for its story. It is known for quirky characters and quirky guns and shooting said quirky characters with said quirky guns. Fun, to be sure, I look forward to playing them one day (I love the song that begins Borderlands 2), but I feel that Telltale is wasting their potential in terms of source material. The following are ten video game universes that would make for better fodder for choice-driven adventure games:

10. Earthbound

I’m not going to say much more about this one since I already touched upon it in an earlier article. Needless to say, Earthbound is one of the most charming role-playing game experiences to be found in earlier gaming, and it is a sad fate that it has vanished from the modern video gaming world. Since Nintendo seems to rather suicide to revival, I wish they would give the license to Telltale. At least we could finally hear Ness and Lucas brought to life, outside of punching noises.

Imagine how rich this universe would look in 3D.
Imagine how rich this universe would look in 3D.

9. Jade Empire

That’s right, forget Mass Effect and Dragon Age, Bioware’s worst original series would still make for better story fodder than Borderlands. If I were to describe the Jade Empire universe, I would liken it to a poor man’s Avatar: the Last Airbender. Nevertheless, there is sufficient mystery and mythology to make a worthwhile game. Heck, maybe Telltale could finally make the “philosophy” system into actual philosophy, as opposed to light side versus dark side.

Two philosophies: in one, you help an old lady cross the street, in the other you murder her and her family. Sounds like legit life perspectives.
Two philosophies: in one, you help an old lady cross the street, in the other you murder her and her family. Sounds like legit life perspectives.

8. Star Wars

Speaking of light side and dark side: come on. I know this is technically cheating (Star Wars is a film universe first) but there is such a rich history of Star Wars games that I feel it counts. From Knights of the Old Republic to the adventures of Kyle Katarn, Telltale could pick any time period they wished without impairing the story options. They could even set it during the prequels and give audiences the first good prequel plot (that’s right, I went there – go cry, George Lucas).

It has been too long since the last Jedi Knight game.
It has been too long since the last Jedi Knight game.

7. Warcraft

I’m going to blow your minds real quick: Blizzard already made a Warcraft adventure game. No, I’m not talking about World of Warcraft, I’m talking Warcraft Adventures. Never heard of it? That’s cause it was never released. Now, Blizzard games are great in every area except one: story. What’s the one thing Telltale excel at: story. Sounds like a happy marriage to me.

Man, the art design for Warcraft Adventures looked amazing.
Man, the art design for Warcraft Adventures looked amazing.

6. Prince of Persia

Assassin’s Creed has replaced Prince of Persia in terms of gameplay, no question. However, if one were to play the first modern Prince of Persia game again, one thing would become apparent: there’s a story there. Not just that but it’s great, it has compelling characters and a time travel mechanic that would be very interesting to incorporate into a choice-driven adventure game. Prince of Persia has no future against Assassin’s Creed, but maybe if the series were to change its identity, it could re-attract its fan base.

5. Wolfenstein

What better backdrop for an adventure game than World War II? What better World War II series than Wolfenstein? What better name for a main character than B.J. Blazkowicz? I’m not kidding, that’s his name. It’s supposed to be a serious game. Awesome.

Mecha Hitler cannot be in enough video games.
Mecha Hitler cannot be in enough video games.

4. Dungeon Keeper

EA has done wrong by Dungeon Keeper. This newly released mobile game: they can go fornicate themselves with an iron stick. Dungeon Keeper, the first game in particular, was one of the most in-depth sandbox games ever made. Despite the fact that none of your minions talked, they all had a personality. Imagine if they did talk and you played a wonderful adventure game as the bad guy?

So many possibilities.
So many possibilities.

3. Saint’s Row

I know, you’re saying what? Let me explain: this would be the parody game, the game to mock all other adventure games. Saint’s Row has already established itself as the parody series, have you seen the intro to Saint’s Row IV (it’s amazing). Telltale is at the height of the adventure game market, meaning they have earned the right to poke fun at themselves and the industry. No better way to do that then getting personal with the Third Street Saints.

I feel that this could be the title for the game.
I feel that this could be the title for the game.

2. Oregon Trail

Think about it, think about what made the first Oregon Trail game so amazing. Anything could happen: someone in your party could get sick, bit by a snake, or drowned in a river crossing. You could lose the trail for a few days or get helped by Native Americans. You could shoot so many animals (SO MANY). Now imagine an Oregon Trail game where you got more direct control of your party and they were all flushed out characters. Oh, and your choices dictate if you survive or not: bitchin’.

Shoot all the buffalo. How fun (and sadly historically accurate).
Shoot all the buffalo. How fun (and sadly historically accurate).

1. Bioshock

Why should Ken Levine get to have all the fun? Irrational Games is gone but Bioshock can live on. It was the story that made those game so memorable in the first place. Who better to continue the legacy than Telltale Games?

 

Maybe Telltale will prove me wrong and Tales From the Borderlands will be riveting. I hope it is. They will be able to take all the credit (or all the blame) for whatever story they come up with though. Maybe that was the point of it all along.

The Beginning of the End for Assassin's Creed?

In the last generation of video game consoles, certain series dominated the sales charts. Halo, Call of Duty, Uncharted, Grand Theft Auto: all of these were powerhouse series that continue to push out installments at least every few years. For video game company, Ubisoft; the last generation represented a changing of the guard. Prince of Persia, a video game series once wildly popular, was dying down. Sales had diminished greatly in the last couple of games and even rebooting the series did not prolong its lifespan. For Ubisoft that meant one thing: move on. The outcome was Assassin’s Creed. If you owned an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, odds are you tried out at least one of the Assassin’s Creed games. They were fun an addictive, with interesting story campaigns and competitive multiplayer experiences. Like any cash-cow: Ubisoft made a lot of them. In total (including the portables), sixteen games have been made in the series. However, as a new generation begins: the changing of the guard may be upon Ubisoft again.

Ubisoft's original wall-climbing, death-defying protagonist.
Ubisoft’s original wall-climbing, death-defying protagonist.

Let’s start with Assassin’s Creed III. Many fans of the series regard this game to be a miss-step in the series. Indeed, reviews were not overly wild when the game was released. This was also the first in the series to be released on a next-gen platform (the Wii U). However, despite the lukewarm critical reception, Assassin’s Creed III did very well for itself. It sold fast and became Ubisoft’s biggest game to date. Financially speaking: nothing to worry about. At least until Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was released.

Assassin's Creed III marked a notable departure in both time period and setting. Ambition was not lacking in this game.
Assassin’s Creed III marked a notable departure in both time period and setting. Ambition was not lacking in this game.

Where Assassin’s Creed III was determined a step back, Black Flag triumphed; being mentioned on multiple lists for “Best Game of the Year“. It was released on two more platforms than its predecessor as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were released in time to receive ports. Critical reception went up, platform count went up: sales went way down. 60% down according to initial estimates. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag did not have the quick start that Assassin’s Creed III enjoyed. The game has not flopped: selling 10 millions units since its release. That is impressive but down 2 million from what Assassin’s Creed III sold in the same time frame.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag continues to mess with the formula. However, gameplay remains largely unchanged.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag continues to mess with the formula. However, gameplay remains largely unchanged.

What does this mean for the franchise? Nothing… yet. Ubisoft blamed poor sales on the incoming consoles. Ubisoft’s CEO, Yves Guillemot, felt that the initial slow start was caused by people waiting to purchase the game on new consoles. Consoles that, in many homes, likely weren’t entering the picture until Christmas. True, Black Flag was not the only major game to hit this slump. Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 were also affected. However, Call of Duty: Ghosts received less than overwhelming reviews and Battlefield 4 had significant technical issues. This was not the case with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

New consoles: bad for business in the short term, but essential for innovation.
New consoles: bad for business in the short term, but essential for innovation.

Ubisoft may be facing another problem: fans might just not care as much as they once did. Assassin’s Creed III enjoyed quick sales… but those sales came mostly from pre-orders (people feeling confident spending $60 on a game before hearing any critical feedback… you know, morons). How many of those games were sold back in less than a week or only played for a few minutes before being banished to the shelf? Ubisoft doesn’t care about those numbers because they don’t reflect the bottom line. They made their money: the product was profitable.

Sixteen games is a lot for any series. Granted, ten of those are not associated with the major releases so let’s just say six. There have been six major releases for Assassin’s Creed in the past six years: that’s a lot. That is Madden like levels of production. Eventually fans will say: is a new one worth $60? They may have already started. How many unique, worthwhile, assassin adventures are out there? If Ubisoft is producing a title every year (not leaving much time for experimentation) are these games really so different from one another?

Every series can only survive for so long.
Every series can only survive for so long.

Ubisoft has spoken of ending the series, before backtracking on their statements. It is unclear just what higher plans, if any, they have. That must lead one to think that there is only one bottom line: money. For as long as Assassin’s Creed is profitable, there will be new games. That time might just be running out.

Assassin's Creed will expand to the cinema next year.
Assassin’s Creed will expand to the cinema next year.