5 Adventure Game Studios Who Could Fill Telltale's Shoes
With the sad news of Telltale’s closure, one of the biggest creators of episodic adventure gaming has left the industry. While this is obviously a blow for fans of great titles like The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead, it represents an opportunity for other players, both large and small, to fill the void that Telltale has left. Adventure gaming is very much alive and well — and we think there are at least five studios active today who would welcome Telltale’s fans (and possibly even their staff) with open arms. Here are our choices:
The biggest name on this list, and deservedly so. With Life Is Strange, Dontnod proved that it has the chops to handle episodic gaming and make it both interesting and unique. A time-travel mechanic may have seemed like a bizarre thing to put into a game where most of the story is determined by your choices, but we needn’t have worried — the French studio cleverly tweaked the outcomes to ensure that even if you did rewind time, the different options you could pick from all had potential repercussions further on down the line.
Life Is Strange quickly amassed a huge following thanks to its poignant human interactions, melancholic music and grounded narrative where the supernatural elements played second fiddle to the growth of its characters. The sequel to the hit adventure game is out very soon, and if it’s as successful as its predecessor, it will surely cement Dontnod as the industry leader in episodic adventure gaming.
Big Bad Wolf
Another French company, but far smaller than their Parisian counterparts, Big Bad Wolf has recently come to the table with its episodic alternative history adventure The Council. Rather than relying on just dialogue choices to progress the story, the Bordeaux studio integrated RPG elements into the gameplay. The protagonist Louis de Richet can level up a host of skills and abilities such as Occultism, Politics and Subterfuge to open new dialogue choices and paths through the game. Confrontations — the equivalent of boss fights, but with dialogue — tested your knowledge of the game’s detailed world, and the political intricacies of the shadowy cabal of characters making world-changing decisions was a welcome refresher after the slew of licensed IPs Telltale released over the last few years.
The Council isn’t perfect by any means; its episodes are prone to bugs and the graphical quality and voice acting isn’t a match for the bigger studios. But it’s a proving ground for Big Bad Wolf, and for all of their faults the episodes are playable and interesting, and possibly ramping up to a satisfying conclusion. It’s easy to forget that Telltale’s output before The Walking Dead wasn’t great either — this studio could be one to watch.
With four episodes of a critically acclaimed adventure series under its belt, it feels like US-based Cardboard Computer is just getting started. Kentucky Route Zero has been lauded by almost everyone and was one of the few episodic games — alongside the likes of Telltale’s most successful output — which got better and better with each new instalment. It focused on characters over puzzles and built up a unique, realistic world with a lovely aesthetic and enticing atmosphere.
The fifth and final chapter is scheduled for release this year, and when it’s complete the three people making up Cardboard Computer will no doubt be looking for their next project. Stepping into the void left by Telltale Games is a big ask for such a small developer, but it’s proven it has the chops to tell stories which people adore.
Red Thread Games
Moving over to Norway, Red Thread Games is another indie with a pedigree in adventure gaming. Headed up by Ragnar Tørnquist, it comprises staff from the now defunct Funcom who were responsible for the cult adventure hit The Longest Journey and its sequel Dreamfall.
Tørnquist’s determination to conclude the story led to the creation of Dreamfall Chapters, five instalments which divided fans and critics alike, but which showcased the developer’s potential for creating episodic adventures that Telltale fans may love. Red Thread Games is currently working on a first-person survival horror entitled Draugen but we’d welcome another narrative-driven game from them in a heartbeat.
The Odd Gentlemen
It’s easy to overlook this tiny US studio, but it was responsible for the reboot of King’s Quest as an episodic adventure game back in 2015. It was released over five parts, and was a combination of free roaming, quick time events, on-rails sections and more, all overseen by the gentle narration of King Graham recounting his life’s events. It was a surprisingly forgiving game which offered different outcomes based on your dialogue choices, but only positive ones.
Well-received upon release, King’s Quest was the only game in the genre that The Odd Gentlemen has made to date, but if it was up to the task we’d love to see them take another swing at an episodic adventure.
Are there any studios we’ve missed who you think could take up Telltale’s mantle? Let us know in the comments!