*Contains no big story spoilers for episodes 1-5 of The Walking Dead *
Well, I just got around to finishing one of the most talked about downloadable games, The Walking Dead. It’s based on the hit comic book, shares the same art style and some characters from the book crossover. But for the most part this is entirely a new original story designed for an adventure game. What did I think about it? Well, I absolutely loved it and it deserves all of the praise it received.
The game begins with you in the backseat of a police car on your way to jail as man named Lee Everett for murder. On your way there the zombie apocalypse is just getting started but you get into a car accident and now you have to escape thus leading you into the beginning of your adventure. First things first this is an adventure game, not some action shooter.
It’s a point and click game similar to other Telltale games (the developers) or other recent big adventure games like Heavy Rain. It’s very reliant on dialogue choice, interaction, and figuring out what to do and where to go. Most of the gameplay is through dialogue options but there are plenty of moments where you’re left trying to figure where to go to get out of a tight situation or how to help your group by investigating the environment and figuring out how all the puzzle pieces connect. You move the character the around with the left stick and the right stick is like your mouse pointer that allows you to interact with the environment. There are also the occasional action commands and some slick action moments that really make you feel like you’re in the action whether you’re taking down zombies with your weapon of choice or the occasional shooting moments . There is ample gameplay here just like other games but those not familiar to adventure games will complain that there isn’t enough. Story is the main focus and can easily be explained as interactive entertainment.
Sure, zombies are in this game but it is by no means a zombie game. As with The Walking Dead franchise the zombies are never the real focus but its effect on humanity. The stars of this game are the human characters and how you interact with them. This game is a character study and does a great job at doing so. The way you interact with the characters in the game will vary the way characters will treat you or act around you. All of your interaction with them adds up over time and you really start to become cautious with your responses. The game however doesn’t give you much time to time to respond as they’re all timed with a fading bar on the bottom so pick your responses fast or you’ll give the characters the silent treatment. The choices you make in this game matter for some things that may happen to you and your team. Unfortunately the choices don’t seem to matter much in terms in of the story.
It seems due to time constraints Telltale games wanted to focus on telling a cohesive story and they delivered by giving us one of the grittiest and gut wrenching stories in video games. It will suck you in from the beginning and you’ll wont want to wait to get to the next episode. It’s entertaining and I can’t count how many times this game truly affected my mood and emotions. It got to me quite a bit. But on the downside no matter what your choices may be, good or bad, the events will most likely still play out just by another means. At the end of the day you’re still going to end up with the same big plots points at the end of each chapter. The only thing your choices seem to change is character interaction. Some characters are just set in stone to die no matter what choice you make and it’s a bit of a bummer. They just seem to be able to die at different moments because of your choices. I would have liked the story choices to make much more branching paths which I hope to see in the sequel. Regardless by the last episode the story has a brilliant story twist of making you feel the repercussions of your actions. You cannot get through this game being a saint, no matter what.
There were characters I absolutely despised in this game that were created to simply test your moral integrity and there were characters I loved. The character that stood out most to me and most likely others is Clementine. She kind of becomes your adopted daughter in a way and at several moments in the game it’s up to you on how you’re gonna raise this girl in this cruel world. Make her tough? Choose to train her for the trials? Be a jerk to her or treat her kindly? She becomes your right hand girl of sorts. While she may only be 8 years old by the end of the game I not only saw her as my daughter but an absolute equal. She was such a sweet and caring little girl and when ever her safety was in question I would go insane like the main character Lee hoping nothing would hurt her. She was just an absolute sweetheart who I helped be able to handle herself on her own through this zombie apocalypse. She a very well written child in not just games but in general. I also found myself growing attached to few of the other characters but not nearly as much as with Clementine. This game does a great way of making you simply “feel”.
The game isn’t perfect however. Though the game has nice cel-shaded, comic book like graphics some of the textures and animations look flat out outdated. The game is several years behind in the technical aspect. It’s made all the more worse by the occasional glitches and hiccups the games runs into at times. Sometimes the cutscene to gameplay aspect isn’t smooth, so you’ll wait a few seconds on a frozen screen til the next scenes loads. Some of the animations have an occasional weird hiccup. At one point in the game none of the button presses for dialogue were working for me and I had to rewind to the last chapter again to get it working. It’s a shame this generation of gaming is filled with so many bugs but they are so few and far between. Bugs are so commonplace now that these are so small compared to other games with worse bugs but still manage to excel. These don’t mar the game in any way I feel. 95% of the game was solid, about 5% was the occasional ‘wtf?’ glitch.
It’s a pretty decent length adventure too. I only played $20 bucks for the whole package and with all five episodes, not a single episode will take you less than 2 hours to finish. With each episode running at 2-3 hours you’re looking at least over 10 hours of game time and for the price you can’t go wrong. I was absolutely pleased with the length and felt it told its story in an adequate time. Now I only find myself itching for season 2.
The game also has some good music but there isn’t much of it here. Most of the sound comes from a natural sounding environment and the music only comes in during the most intense moments. It’s used to a sparingly but effective degree so when music does play you know you’re saying “Oh shit!” in your head and things are going down on screen. The sound design is fantastic in this game and has some raw sound effects. The sound effects truly shine in this game and when you take a cleaver to a zombies head and you hear the blade hit the flesh, the meat cleave, and the blood splatter I knew the sound effects team took a lot of time and care here.
It’s a truly fantastic game that delivers an emotional and gripping story with memorable characters. Any fan of adventure games or The Walking Dead must play this game as soon as possible. You won’t be let down. Hearing all the hype I had to check it out for myself, and I am absolutely glad I did. Worthy of the few Game of the Year and other awards it received. A true gem of this gaming generation.