The final episode of Telltale Games’ episodic adventure series Tales From the Borderlands has received a release date. The fifth and final instalment in the series, titled The Vault of the Traveller, will be released on digital storefronts like the PlayStation Store, Xbox Store and Steam on October 20. The first episode, Zer0 Sum is currently free for people looking to give the game a try. Set in the universe of Gearbox Software’s smash hit shooter role playing series Borderlands, the game began it’s staggered release schedule almost a year ago in November of 2014. Telltale Games still has their Game of Thrones series in progress, which originally launched a week after Tales From the Borderlands and has yet to receive a release date for it’s sixth and final episode.
Compare and contrast that with the release of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 earlier this year. The five part episodic spin off of horror series Resident Evil was released with one new episode every week. That, I would argue, is the way to do episodic releases. Even Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange, which began months after both current Telltale series, and is scheduled to release it’s final instalment on October 20 as well, had a semi reasonable rollout, though one that was nowhere near as consistent as the new-episode-every-six-weeks schedule the game was supposed to have.
Taking eleven full months to release five episodes of a video game is utterly ridiculous. Telltale Games has never been particular consistent with it’s releases but this is the first time they have come close to a calendar year. The biggest issue is that most of us have already paid for the full game. Telltale Games’ products, like most episodic titles, use the season pass method, allowing you to buy each episode separately or purchase a pass for all the episodes at the outset. People who bought the pass a year ago have still not gotten what they paid for. Part of that is inherent to the design of episodic games of course, but the length between instalments are what makes this a problem. Aside from the simple fact that some people will simply forget about the game, there’s also the very real problem that lies with the possibility of players forgetting the game’s story and controls. I played Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us as it was released from 2013 into 2014 and it convinced me to simply wait till the entire season is out for future releases. There was too long a gap between instalments and I kept forgetting the stories’ intricacies.
This may all sound like a rant against episodic games but it’s not intended to be. Rather, it’s a rant against Telltale’s business practices. Telltale Games tells excellent stories, and they benefit a great deal from the episodic format. The writer’s shape each instalment in a way that is reminiscent of television serials and when done correctly that format is extremely effective. The difference between Game of Thrones the game and Game of Thrones the TV show, however, is that people don’t have to wait two months to see the next TV episode air on HBO. True, the season finales have extensive gaps between them and the next season but those episodes are designed to be a climax to the season, rather than a chapter halfway through a story.
Telltale Games’ seems to have bitten off more than it can chew. Back when the company was doing one game at a time it released instalments in a reasonably timely manner, but as they continue to add to their development slate the gaps between releases increases. They show no sign of stopping either. On top of Tales From the Borderlands and Game of Thrones the company still has Minecraft: Story Mode scheduled to begin later this month, while a Marvel series and a brand new series created by the company are also in production. I have to wonder however, how many people are like me, waiting for the game to be finished before we play it.
Tales From the Borderlands is available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Android phones and iOS devices. If previous Telltale productions are any indication, you can expect a boxed retail copy in the near future.