Review Copy Provided by Skybound Games
Pioneering effectively an entire genre, the legacy of Telltale Games, despite its cataclysmic end, has made a resounding impact on the medium, propelling interactive storytelling to a place where it never could have reached before. But there’s no denying that the path to such a legacy wasn’t divisive even before the closure of the studio. Fans questioned the exact reason how their narratives lent themselves to games especially when most of the actual gameplay (choices, exploration, etc.) were considered average at best. Critics frequently compared their new releases to that of the LEGO franchise, simply just chugging along and gobbling as many new projects and IPs as it can. All of these criticisms are warranted, but most would also agree that they are overshadowed by the top-tier narratives and storytelling, characteristics that are seen best in their The Walking Dead four-season saga. And thanks to Skybound Games, there is now a definitive way to experience all four seasons, the spin-off Micchone storyline, and all DLC episodes in a brand-new coat of paint. The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Experience represents the growth of a studio from the first humble leaf to the final somber flower. It’s a growth that has its highs and its lows, but it’s one worth taking nonetheless. Games like these aren’t being made as often as some fans would hope for, with only the waning Life Is Strange franchise and QuanticDream holding up the fort. It’s a saga of interactive storytelling that, despite its numerous warts, is simply brilliant.
Realized by the efforts of Skybound Games, The Telltale Definitive Experience collects all of the studio’s The Walking Dead projects and bundles them in a sweet collection decal for $49.99 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via the Epic Games Store. At face value, this is a remarkable deal, and there are also exclusive features that only this “definitive” experience holds. From developer commentaries to music players to even real-time animation viewers, there is genuine passion going into every component of the collection. The new “Graphic Black” feature for every season excluding The Final Season doesn’t add much aesthetically, mostly coming down to a contrast slider difference, but there’s no denying that Skybound Games went above and beyond to deliver the ultimate love letter to fans. Easily surpassing the meager efforts of remastered collections like Batman: Return to Arkham and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, there hasn’t been a remaster quite on the level of this one, outside of 2018’s Shadow of the Colossus from BluePoint Games. Point being, for both newcomers and returning players alike, The Telltale Definitive Experience offers genuine value for your buck.
In regards to optimization and the techy side of things, there hasn’t been much done here. The limited graphical settings from all the seasons return with this year’s The Final Season still having the most options out all of them. But outside of a massive fifty-gigabyte install requirement, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, the option to disable V-Sync would have been nice but they pale in comparison to the fact that these games aren’t taxing to run, to begin with. The only technical hiccups that players may run to is the install space, but after deleting that RPG players haven’t played for months, it’s most likely not an issue.
In 2019, all of these seasons have aged remarkably well with the fierce cel-shading being a notable contributor, but it’s also the storytelling itself that holds up surprisingly well. Being able to essentially marathon the entire collection of Telltale’s works was far more rewarding than I could have ever expected it to as I was able to continue the story once one episode’s credits rolled without having to eagerly wait a few months. Having collections like these makes me further question the actual point with the divided episode model for videogames. It doesn’t help the narrative in the way that its laboring writers may have imagined, and it didn’t help the business side of things for the suits given the studio’s sudden closure. Like I said before, the collection shows all of Telltale’s achievements in the very genre they founded including the many gaping holes.
In summation, The Walking Dead The Telltale Definitive Edition is a more than capable and accessible way to revisit or explore for the first time some of the best interactive narratives the medium has ever seen. Its characters are unforgettable, its storytelling untouched by anything else the studio has accomplished. The Telltale Definitive Edition is very much just that. The definitive way to experience the very best (and some of the very worst) that the studio has created.