With the debut of the Season 2 teaser 400 Days and considering that this really is the only thing from The Walking Dead that I have yet to review, I think it is high time that we talk about the mini series that took the world by storm last year. TellTale’s The Walking Dead. Unlike the television show which seems to be creating its own separate entity and Survival Instincts which is one of the biggest pieces of shit I have ever had the misfortune to sit through, TellTale’s The Walking Dead to this day is the medium outside of the comic series that really gets the ‘essence’ of what it means to be apart of the Walking Dead universe. It is a game in my opinion that hit all the right notes at the right time and gave it to us at such a great value that it is easy to see why it won so many titles for game of the year last year.
We will get into the details of why this game was so successful in a moment, but first what I want to do is explain how this review is going to take a bit of a different route. Just like my normal reviews this will cover the pros and the cons of the game and give a conclusion and a final score at the end. However I do want to give some special attention to ‘400 Days’ the recent DLC that is sort of a prelude to Season 2 of The Walking Dead. So after the finish of this review we will have a little mini review for 400 days and my thoughts on how Season 2 is going to go.
In case you have not yet played Season 1 the brief synopsis is that this game comes in 5 different episodes that are about 2 hours apiece. It follows the story of Lee Everett, a man who had just recently been convicted for murdering a senator who was having an affair with his wife. After his car crashes en route to prison, he finds himself in the world of the dead and quickly bonds with a little girl named Clementine, whose parents are gone on a trip to Savannah. The rest of the story centers around the relationships that Lee forms with Clementine as well as the people in his group and what all occurs in the 90+ days of Lee’s experience in the zombie apocalypse.
The Game is Character Driven
One of my biggest complaints about The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts is that it was just a straight up First Person Shooter zombie killer. This game understands what the Walking Dead is, it is a character driven story of the lives of these people living within the zombie apocalypse. Is there zombie combat? Oh hell yes, you have to kill tons of zombies in this game… But it isn’t the focus. The focus is not how many zombies you kill and how you kill them, the story is about Lee Everett and his relationship with Clementine and his group and the decisions that he makes within that group.
Because of this we grow much more attached to these characters and want them to succeed and if they die, we feel strong emotions. I honestly cannot think of a death in this game that did not affect me in some way. Every death, every person lost is dramatic and painful. You feel intense emotions and because of this the game feels… Real.
Because of this, this game succeeds. The creators of the game knew that they had to get this spot on, they had to get the character development just right because that is what the Walking Dead is, it is a character driven type of story.
It Pulls No Punches On Difficult Decisions
My God… You want to find a game that makes you make difficult decisions… THIS is the game. This game pulls absolutely no punches and forces you to make some of the hardest decisions. You have to decide who lives or dies, whether or not to shoot a child, if you should kill someone for the betterment of your group, if you should bring a young girl into dangerous situations to teach her of the horrors of the world.
In the first episode alone you have to decide if you should try to save Hershel’s son Shawn who is trapped under a tractor or Kenny’s son Duck. Not to mention you have to choose between who lives and who dies between Carley and Doug. You have to decide if you should try to save Larry, a man who has despised you and constantly admitted that he wants you dead or smash his head in with a salt lick because he may have had a heart attack. You have to decide if you should shoot Duck, a little boy in the face so that he doesn’t reanimate. You have to decide whether or not a young boy dies just because he is a fuck up and then you have to decide if you yourself should be left to turn into a zombie or have a little girl shoot you in the head. My word! That is some pretty heavy stuff!
I love this game simply because it doesn’t try to coddle you or protect you from the world. It flat-out makes it clear this game is not for the weak at heart. This game is brutal plain and simple. The one thing I do dislike about zombie stories is it gives the illusion to the viewing public that the zombie apocalypse is just going to be a breeze where you kill as many dead people as possible. But this game says “Oh really? Well here this kid who you have lived with for 3 months is about to become a zombie, shoot him in the head while his father watches.”
I love it because it feels real, it feels based in reality and shows the brutal world that these people have to live in.
One of the biggest pros of this game is the price. Instead of coming out on disc with a $60 tag on them, The Walking Dead was released in 5 separate episodes for $5 a piece and after they were all released you could buy a disc for $25 which is what I bought. This game in a nut shell is a testament that just because a game costs a lot does not make it a good game. This game was set at the right price and you got plenty of value for what you were paying for. It would have been so easy to just send this out on a disc for $60, but TellTale didn’t do that. They kept it small-scale and they let the game speak for itself and thanks to a better price value, the game made much more money.
This is most likely the biggest criticism of this game. At the beginning of each episodes the game says that gameplay is decided by the choices you make and you have to live with the consequences. The only problem is that it feels like no matter what decisions you make it all ends the same way… Which it actually does. No matter what you do, Lee Everett will always end up on the floor of the Jewelry Shop dying and saying goodbye to Clementine. Even the decisions you make in the game do not feel like they have a very large lasting impact. Now do not get me wrong, some of them does change gameplay.
The two biggest that come to my mind is the decision between Carley and Doug and the decision to save Ben or not.
Carley and Doug are two characters from the first episode when Lee and the survivors are trapped in Lee’s parents old drugstore in downtown Macon Georgia. As the drugstore is being overrun zombies attack both Carley a young reporter who is terrible with electronics but a really good shot or Doug who doesn’t use guns but is an engineering genius. You have to choose to save either Carley or Doug and this decision dramatically changes the story until episode three. However… No matter who you choose either Carley or Doug will be killed by Lilly in episode 3 and there is nothing you can do about that.
The second big decision that comes to mind is in episode 4 when a school you are attempting to raid for supplies is being overrun and a young teenager named Ben, who up until this point has been fucking up everything almost falls to his death. Lee is able to catch him but Ben pleas with Lee to let go and let him die. You can either choose to pull him up and save him or let him fall to his death. However no matter what your decision is, Ben dies in episode 5 when he is impaled after falling off a balcony and Kenny kills him out of mercy.
There are other decisions in each episode and they do alter the game in different ways… But still regardless of your decisions, it really doesn’t change the overall outcome and for a game that claims that gameplay is decided by your decisions, this just feels like an area they could have worked a little harder on.
There Isn’t Much Replay Value
This game begins to get boring after the second or third play through. After you go back and play it three or four times, going through all the different decisions you can make, eventually it begins to wear thin. I’ve played it multiple times and for a while I couldn’t play it because it felt like I was wasting 2 hours of my life going through a game that I had already played through so many times.
Games like Skyrim I can play over and over and over again and never get sick of them… But sadly for a game like this, after I have picked all the decisions… I really don’t want to play it much more than that.
This game is phenomenal. Sure it has a few flaws but overall they are just nitpicks into what is a phenomenal character driven story that is nothing short of an emotional roller coaster. The characters feel real and you relate to them because of that, the gameplay while simplistic compliments the game at large, and even though some of the choices don’t effect the overall pictures, the different decisions do give very different experiences.
Since games like The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite have been released with very strong character development, I would like to think that The Walking Dead was the one that opened the flood gates and allow games to get very real and very dramatic about the characters that are portrayed in their story.
Final Score 4.5/5
So now we talk about what sparked this whole review in the first place. Just recently, TellTale released a $5 DLC as a type of prelude or appetizer for the up and coming Season 2 of The Walking Dead. The DLC follows the story of five new characters Vince, Wyatt, Russell, Bonnie, and Shel (with her little sister Becca). Each of the five characters has a short little vignette of what has been happening to them during the past 400 days of the zombie apocalypse with Vince and Wyatt being near the beginning, Russell being a few days after the events of the first season, and Bonnie and Shells happening nearly seven months into the apocalypse. This all culminates to a young woman named Tavia inviting them to a Woodbury, Alexandria esque safe zone and depending on the characters actions decides who joins Tavia and who stays behind.
The game itself is a very fun little two-hour ride and well worth the $4.99 buy price. It does have the essence of the first game and while you really don’t have a lot of time to grow attached to the characters, you do get a sample of the five that will be the main characters in the next game, their motivations, and just a taste of back story. Enough to make you want to learn more about them.
My Opinion on Season 2
Just judging from this DLC… I think Season 2 is still up in the air. This thing could be as good as the first but at the same time there was nothing in there that reassured me that this was not going to be a catastrophic failure.
Unlike the first game where it merely focused on Lee Everett, this game has five different protagonists. Now whether or not all five will remain as playable characters is yet to be determined. But if all five remain in this game, then that means that there are five characters that need a lot of time in order for us to feel the same level of love for Lee and Clementine that we do for Vince, Wyatt, Russell, Bonnie, Shel, and Becca.
The idea that they are going to a big settlement I, for one think is a good idea as that is how the story progresses in the comics. After the prison they find their way tot he Alexandria Safe Zone and just like this one these five characters after living in small hunting and gathering groups are going to join a much larger community…
But one thing we have to remember is that this is all happening in Georgia, the same location as the comic books and could be close to Woodbury. The game creators said they would be interested in showing Woodbury but if they are going to Woodbury then this opens up the games for plot holes which to this point the game has avoided.
This brings up the fact that they still could add cameos to tie it to the universe. They could do a post prison Woodbury type of plot that could work and could even incorporate players from the first game. Remember at the end Omid, Christa, and Clementine are still alive and we never directly see the deaths of Lilly or Kenny. So there is that as well.
Overall I still have to reserve judgment. Season 2 can go either way and I suppose we will just have to cross that bridge when we get there.
As always thank you for reading and my word this may be my longest review yet. If you enjoyed this review please like and subscribe for more as well as follow me on Twitter.