After years of being released just under the radar, episodic games are now getting much more attention. Here are a few older episodic games on Steam you may have forgotten about, but are worth playing in 2015.
Just Chill, ‘Til The Next Episode
Episodic games are a midpoint between AAA games and casual games, meaning they’re bigger and more story-heavy than most casual games, but still not as demanding of constant attention as your average $60 release. They can also be released on a staggered schedule to draw out interest (and draw in more cash, depending on the game). Just as with television, the format is ideal for telling short stories while maintaining a single overarching narrative.
Until recently, episodic games were something of a niche product. They existed and some even won moderate acclaim, but it wasn’t a popular format for years. Thanks to the resurgence of Telltale Games and such new games as Life is Strange and Resident Evil: Revelations 2, episodic games are more popular now than they have been in years. So as we’re all waiting for the next episodes of the new series to come out, we can all enjoy some of the older episodic games you can find on Steam.
The Penumbra series is Amnesia in embryonic form, as it is an older franchise from the same studio. If you’ve played Amnesia (and most horror gamers have done so by now), you’re familiar with the basics of Penumbra. There’s even a fan-made mod for Amnesia that continues the story, called Penumbra: Necrologue. There are technically only two episodes, Overture and Black Plague, with Requiem being a puzzle-based expansion pack for the latter. It’s atmospheric as its spiritual successor Amnesia, and if you like one, then you’ll probably like the other.
This game was originally supposed to be a technically-brilliant PC release, but that never really panned out; instead, the PC version was released quietly two years after the Xbox 360 version. Starring the titular character, a novelist who writes thrillers, the game leans heavily on the fourth wall and namedrops several things from modern pop culture: Alan’s first words are “Stephen King once wrote . . .” It is divided into six episodes, with two subsequent episodes “The Writer” and “The Signal” being packaged with the game on Steam.
These days, Telltale Games has cornered the market on episodic games. The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands . . . there’s nothing the Californian cabal is incapable of adequately adapting. All of their earliest efforts are worth checking out, including Tales of Monkey Island and Sam & Max: Freelance Police. But since it’s 2015 and Marty McFly should be joining us from the eighties shortly, I think the Telltale’s tribute to his adventures through time is a must-play!
This game is the long-awaited sequel to noted adventure games The Longest Journey and Dreamfall by Red Thread Games and series creator Ragnar Tørnquist. Funded via Kickstarter, Chapters is a direct sequel to Dreamfall and stars Zoë and Kian, player characters from that game. Familiarity with the past two games will give you an advantage, as Chapters begins with a massive nod to continuity, but even new players will quickly find much to like in the game’s haunting beauty.
If you have any taste for classic adventure games, this game’s pedigree will bring some déjà vu. Developed by the people behind the much-contested “fan sequel” to King’s Quest and featuring Jane Jensen of Gabriel Knight fame, the project sold itself via Kickstarter on that basis alone. But the game that resulted was good enough to stand on its own. The story revolves around the cases of FBI agent Erica Reed, who has a sort of ESP that allows her to see the past by touching objects. While a bit shorter than most, the writing and voice acting is pretty good.
Tell me what you think!
Let me know about any good episodic games on Steam, or the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live Arcade, that I may have missed!