Possible spoilers for Tales From the Borderlands, Walking Dead and Dragon Age Inquisition.

A game’s replayability is often touted as one of its greatest selling points. The ability to go back and see the same story from different perspectives has become another bullet point on the back of the box. Replaying a game for its mechanics and its gameplay is something I do on a near daily basis. But revisiting a game for its story, particularly one where I have agency over how the story turns out, has always put me off.

What first got me thinking about this subject was my finishing of Telltale’s wonderful Tales From the Borderlands. I adored my time with this game and a part of me never wanted it to end. Good news then that I could simply start up a new game and be back in the loving arms of Rhys, Fiona and Gortys. But I don’t want that, the story I helped craft in that game was personal to me and by pressing the reset button aren’t I cheapening the whole experience? I know there were scenes and options I missed out on because of the choices I made. I know there were jokes I never got to laugh at or tears I never got to shed.

It feels ridiculous to say that one path is personal to me when it’s doubtless that a thousand other people made the exact same choices.

It feels ridiculous to say that one path is personal to me when it’s doubtless that a thousand other people made the exact same choices. At the end of Telltale games, there is a screen that shows you how your personal choices corresponded with the views of the majority. In most cases, my choices correlated with the majority view, but my version of Lee’s life and times in The Walking Dead is my story. I became a surrogate father to Clementine as best I could, I tried to save the lives of those around Lee and when Lee was cut loose and allowed to be a zombie slaying badass I was there guiding the meat cleaver.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been revisiting one of my favourite games of the last few years, Dragon Age: Inquisition. This playthrough is dramatically similar to that of my first playthrough, with me taking on the role of a human woman mage who is skeptical of her place in what others have called a divinely mandated crusade. So far I’ve made the exact same choices as I did the first time round, sided with the Mages over the Templars, let Hawke die in the Fade. The only difference between this run and the first is my romance with Blackwall and the colour of my character’s hair.

So why am I revisiting this game when I’m so reticent to play Telltales output again? Bluntly put it’s the gameplay that drew me back to Dragon Age. I have in my mind the story that works for me and it’s easy enough to follow that path when I want to. The vast majority of the game, however, you’re just roaming various environments, making some minor choices here and there but mostly blowing stuff up with fireballs. But in a Telltale game the story is really all there is.

I want to express myself and my personality through a game the first time round, but not to then revisit the game, putting myself under artificial constrictions.

One game that’s been doing the rounds in many circles is Undertale. I’ve read many good things about it, from players connecting to the characters they interact with and being left with a lasting sense of guilt after doing something bad. Here the narrative is directly linked to how you choose to play the game; play the game as a pacifist and you get the ‘good’ ending, but go on a murderous rampage and you’ll get the ‘bad’ one. From what I’ve gleaned one of the game’s key appeals is to go back and replay the game after completion to see how things change if you play it differently. This particular selling point has been the one thing keeping me hesitant from playing Undertale. I want to express myself and my personality through a game the first time round, but not to then revisit the game, putting myself under artificial constrictions.

If you haven’t guessed by now the title of this piece is a play on one of the famous lines from the endlessly quotable Casablanca. In the last scene, they have together Rick looks into Ilsa’s eyes and tells her they’ll “always have Paris”. To them Paris represents a perfect moment in both their lives and if they were to restart their relationship it would diminish this perfect past with an imperfect present. I suppose in my own bumbling way this essay is me saying goodbye to these great games and closing the door on ever revisiting them.

About The Author

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All round song and dance man. Best known for his use of expletives, casual quoting of Jeeves & Wooster and his love for all things Timesplitters. Host of the Played Out Podcast and proud victim of five different gypsy curses

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