Tell Us Dammit: How Do You Feel About Episodic Games?

I have a weird bias. I find it difficult to get involved in episodic games — like The Walking Dead or Life is Strange.

How do you feel about it?

Part of me knows I'm missing out on great games, but I just like having the complete package ready to go. Force of habit I guess.

How do you feel about it?


    I've no problem with episodic games, however when I've invested in them early I find that I lose interest before they're all released. Perhaps it's better to hold off and buy the season when it's completely released?

    On the other hand - I have to say I think the Telltale games are really overrated. I played through The Walking Dead Season 1, and although the story was good, it just feels like an interactive TV show. Not enough actual game for me, but I understand my tastes aren't representative of everyone.

      I don't start until at least the second last episode is released for exactly this reason.

      Plus it's cheaper. What's the point of buying a season pass on day 1 when you can only play the first episode? The first episode is normally made free by episode 4(ish) and makes a good demo if you need one, plus the content that you couldn't play anyway normally ends up on sale before it's even all released!

      As a format I don't mind if for adventure games (the ones that play like a TV show), but it sucks ass for anything that's complicated or difficult. Nobody wants to have to re-learn the controls or master the games combat over and over again!

      Last edited 22/10/15 12:16 pm

    Tales from the Borderlands is the best episodic game I've played. Great story, great characters and statisfying episodes.

    i liked to 1st series of the walking dead, and was looking forward to each new episode.

    After delays etc i found myself forgetting what is going on and the relationships built.

    I played the 2nd season of walking dead and the same problem.

    I pay for them now, but wait until the entire series is out and then play it as a normal game.


      Why on earth do you pay for it first if you don’t play it until it’s finished?

      Wait until the first episode is free (if you want a demo) and wait until at least it’s all available before you pay for anything. They normally drop the price or have a sale between ep.1 launch and the finale.

        because i used to pirate every game when i was younger, now i have more money then sense and try to support the devs

      I've started doing this too. For TWD I played it as each episode came out. Same for season 2. I think I bought The Wolf Among Us when only 2 episodes were out and after I finished those I didn't touch the game again until the final episode was out. I've played 2 episodes of Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice and have decided to wait until the final episode is out next month before I continue, at which point I will probably start over. I own but have yet to play Tales From the Borderlands but I believe it's finished now so I will probably get started this weekend.

      Minecraft: Story Mode just game out and I've decided to wait until:

      a) I see how it reviews;
      b) more episodes are out; and,
      c) it's in a steam sale.

      I think I'm yet to pay full price for any Telltale game. They're ALWAYS included in Steam's huge seasonal sales so between that and my tendency to take a long time to play them, I have no incentive to order them early.

    I'll start replaying Telltale games once they have better have better writing, make your decisions actually matter and make a new engine with better gameplay.

      What you've basically said here is you don't like Telltale's style of games and that's fair enough - it doesn't offer the things you want so why should you lay down money for it? I don't like coconut, so I'm not going to buy a stack of coconuts and write to the farmers to tell them to grow peaches instead. That would be lunacy.

      Telltale's engine is in sore need of updating but I have to admit, I rather like the aesthetic the engine produces in the games, and it gets the job done. I believe a new engine is coming though, so we'll see how that pans out. I rather like the writing too. There are missteps here and there but they give me an interesting story and characters that feel like they have depth, so I tend to understand them (even the jerkiest bad guys seem to be relatable to an extent).

      I think the gripe that "decisions should matter" is a little unfair on the game developers. I mean, pretty much every video game follows a set narrative. The gimmick Telltale rely on is that you watch the story unfold with small decisions that shape and personalise that narrative, without the gameplay being too challenging because the story is what we're invested in. It makes gaming accessible to a broader audience, which I will always approve of.

      Anyway, just a differing viewpoint.

        I liked Walking Dead S1 and Wolf Among Us. Everything they have done since those has been the same thing over and over again.

          Tales from the Borderlands is hands down the best Telltale game they've done. And this is from someone whose played all of them.

    Ehhhhh... I always thought one of the points of episodic games was that if you don't like the early content, you don't have to buy any more. Everything episodic these days seems to want a full price up front but won't deliver the content in the same way.

      That's a really good point... I know the mobile version of Tales still does the $7 per episode thing, at least, but Steam versions are only per-season purchases... Maybe not enough people were using the per-episode model on PC.

        Mobile also has Borderlands Tales first ep up for free.

        Totally sold a couple folks on it by showing them that. That first ep is pretty damn packed.

      ...if you don't like the early content, you don't have to buy any more.Then I would have incomplete things in my collection. The collection must always be completed.

    I tried it, now I've gone right off it. I get started, I'm enjoying the game then *bang* sorry, that's it, come back in a couple of months. Then by the time the next episode comes out, I've forgotten about it and I'm busy playing other stuff.

    I'm waiting for the final episode of Game of Thrones, and after that I'm done with episodic games. I'll wait until they're finished and I can play them right through in one go at a time that suits my schedule.

    I'm pretty much sick of the Telltale thing now, anyway. Will probably give Life Is Strange a go at some point.

    I'd rather have all the episodes available at once, but certain series like Life Is Strange, I just can't help myself and dive in each time an episode is released.

    My only issue with episodic games is that there's usually a month or more between episodes, which makes it hard to get invested. If they got every episode done and then released them weekly, I'd be fine with it, but telling a thirty-ish hour story over the course of six-to-eight months (a) makes it harder to follow than it would otherwise be, and (b) requires a constant effort to avoid spoilers in the interim if the game's high profile.

    Can't do 'em until they're either done or almost done. I don't mind waiting a week or so, but multiple weeks over multiple months? No.

    Buying the season pass early is still a thing I'm happy to do, it's good for them to see money early, but I won't actually sit down and play until I know I can binge.

    This is typically how I approach TV series, too. Binge or abstain. Some shows are good enough to trick me into putting up with a week-by-week TEASE, but it's not common.

      it's good for them to see money early

      After drug addicts, gamers might be the dumbest consumer market in the world.

      “Here, have my money for something I won’t play for a year. I don’t mind that the first episode will be free in 5 months and that it’ll be on sale several times before the finale”.

      People pissing their cash away on products that aren’t released yet, buying DLC packs for games that won’t be out for months for games they haven’t even tried, giving Kickstarter money to massive corporations to build products that they’ll then make millions selling back to you……

      Not having a go at you personally, it’s just a hilarious market. A first-world market for enthusiastic young boys with first-world priorities and no cash-management skills.

        Possibly. I think for things like, say... Wolf Among Us, you can see that the quality of the first episode is absolutely outstanding and you would reasonably assume that the rest will be, too. But if there's 'production problems' and those other eps don't get made, then you'd be kicking yourself for not having fronted for the full season to help those other eps happen.

        That said, this is coming from an older mentality that probably no longer applies, given that Telltale in particular has secured itself very comfortably to ensure they can deliver. Some others... not so much. I probably have 'episode one' of at least three or four different titles sitting in my Steam library which will never see their conclusion, and I strongly suspect it's because they didn't see the initial response they needed to continue development.

          I see where you’re coming from, but we ultimately get better games if we just let the market be naturally competitive.

          Some developers just cash out if you give them money up front, Kickstarters do all the time.
          Games are released broken because people hand over cash early, or buy games before they’re reviewed.

          It’s still a hard market to survive in if you’re a developer, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the consumers who get screwed at the end of the day. Our willingness to hand over money out of nothing more than enthusiasm means that the whole market is skewed away from just delivering quality.

          Let the episodes be good and then pay them what they’re worth (or don’t), do the same with the rest of your games…. Ultimately it’s the best way to ensure that the best products make the most money and the end result is more good products for us.

            Mm. You are right and I am weak. :)

              Don't worry..... I pre-ordered Fallout 4.

              To be fair though, I did it because I wanted a digital version of Fallout 3 (so I can get it BC on the Xbone), which is at least a known quantity of awesome.
              Still hypocritical to hand over $70 (US XBL) for a $10 game that I already own and a game that might suck.

                I did it for the pip-boy. Collector's edition statues, books, cases, and trinkets I don't care about, but playing the game with a pip-boy on my arm?


        I have a massive stack of unplayed xbox 360 games that completely supports everything you've just said, and a much smaller pile of Xbox One games that hopefully suggests I have learned from this. If I could have all the money back I paid for games I haven't played that I just had to have on release, and the difference in price for games that I paid full price for that went on sale well before I actually played them, I'm pretty sure I'd be able to take my wife on a lovely two week cruise around the Caribbean.

        I don't think I've bought a new release game other than Destiny and the DLC since, well, since Destiny came out. This will be an unbroken streak until next month when I pay for two copies of Fallout 4.

    I never really thought I was interested in episodic games. The point and click gameplay looked boring. However, when xbox one Games With Gold was giving away The Walking Dead Season 1 for free, I thought "why not?". And now I'm hooked. There are so many situations where I have to make some really tough choices and I love the pain of living with them later. I've tried to make my Lee as good and kind as the game would allow me.

    Having said that, I do think that if I had to wait a couple of months for each next episode, I would have lost interest. It's just better to buy the whole season when it finishes. I can't wait to play Game of Thrones! I guess the season isn't finished yet? So I'll wait till that's done.

    (Aside, this is my first comment ever on Kotaku!)

      Final episode of Game of Thrones comes out November 17th. Also there's a second season of Walking Dead that might interest you once you're done with season 1 & 400 days. :)

    Episodic games for me are like Early Access games. I'm always going to buy a finished and complete product rather than investing early at the risk the end product isn't what I wanted.

    I've become spoilt in the digital age. I like my episodic games the same way I like my Netflix. I want to binge. I am perfectly happy to wait until all the episodes are released before I jump in.

    I like episodic gaming...but only when all episodes are out.

    The format kinda suits me currently as I don't have a massive amount of time to play games right now so breaking it down into digestible chunks is handy. I just like having all episodes out by the time I play it (plus it's usually cheaper).

    The biggest problem for me is that I forget where I left off from last time and the decisions I made and how I should react to someone. So coming in a few months later, I am behaving in a manner that isn't like how I would normally react.

    I like the concept and think it can lead to interesting content but I just wait until the whole thing is finished before playing them. I tend to get too impatient waiting or forget everything I did in the previous episodes.

    Stuff where they're just self contained stories like the Telltale Sam & Max ones are fine to play individually since they didn't have the mechanism for changes to carry across episodes. It's when you have to decide if you help or screw over character X in episode 2 and the results are felt in episode 5 that it gets a bit annoying. If they had an efficient enough process where they could release episodes on a weekly basis that kind of thing might encourage me to play them as they come out but no one would be that efficient, especially not Telltale...

    Same way as I feel about games with ongoing DLC - "ehh, I'll just wait for the GOTY/complete edition".

    After the first season of Telltales The Walking Dead I decided to wait til all the episodes of each episodic game is out before I decide to buy the season.
    I usually end up saving money to as they tend to put the season on sale when they release the last episode.

    I'm so far behind my pile of shame now that it's not difficult to wait until most things have run their full season before I start. It seems like most Telltale games, at least, have sufficient backing that they don't need people to buy Episode 1 to produce Episode 2 (which was kind of the original point of episodic games, wasn't it?)

    Last edited 22/10/15 12:35 pm

    I like the idea, but I think the first episode should -always- be free, right from the beginning. If it means adding an extra dollar to each episode after that, so be it. Looking back a generation, Doom was episodic. Episode 1 was free and everyone in the world played and loved it. Duke 3D was episodic. I didn't particularly like it, preferred Doom, but I had a full 10 levels to try it out first. There needs to be more of this, not how Telltale release Ep1 for free right before the final episode is out.

    I'd like to see bigger games like Mass Effect adopt this method. "free" episode gets you access to the first area and the Citadel. 3 or 4 "episodes" unlocking the major story content worlds that could be visited in any order including a handful of side areas each, with a final "episode" for the finale. It could work, give people a proper taste of the game that they can just buy the next part...

    I think it's fine, but I don't buy them till there finished and I can play at my own pace. The episodes can make a nice "put the controller down" point.

    The wolf among us was incredible.

    I buy season passes when they're cheap on PSN. Usually wait until they're all released, then binge away. Love them, not because they're episodic, but due to their DNA - modern adventure games, a la Day Of The Tenticle and Monkey Island. Nowhere near as taxing, but certainly just as entertaining. Love 'em.

    Hate episodic games... So I wait till it's finished and buy a "complete" set for a cheaper price if the reviews have been good through the whole series.

    I really enjoy getting on an episodic game from day one and discussing it between episodes. The nature of whats currently out there these games are usually mercifully short which means with a day or two I'm done and I can join the die hards in spoiler forums. You cant really get that when a title is released wholesale. People are long done by the time I finish and the hype is gone.

    Also Life is Strange is amazing.

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