There hasn’t been a game in recent memory that told a story that gripped me, and took me on quite the journey like The Walking Dead by Telltale Games. (A very close second would be The Last of Us). Even though the game has been available for quite a while, both in digital form and physical, there’s no denying what impact Season One, has had on games as a whole. Using player choice, amazing writing, along with your very own emotions turns The Walking Dead: The Game into something that every one must experience.
Originally it released in episodic format starting in April and ending in November of 2012. We are cast as Lee Everett, a convicted murderer who is on his way to prison when the zombie apocalypse begins. This of course gives him new goals, mainly surviving at all costs, and protecting a young girl named Clementine. Its these two goals that make The Walking Dead: The Game, the huge juggernaut that it is. The game is an adventure game, but its not your typical adventure type game that you’ve played hundreds of times before. The decisions you make in the moment have a ripple effect that will effect your entire play-through. The Walking Dead: The Game is literally “pick your own adventure”.
As you play through the five episodes, the big and important moments come when you must choose on how Lee responds to the situations and what he says in conversations with his fellow survivors. Both choices and dialogue options appear with timers, so you have only seconds to decide on what to do or say. Once you’ve made your choice the game moves on adapting the story to each choice.
This is what makes The Walking Dead so special. The main goal will always be to survive and protect Clementine but the way the player goes about doing it will be completely different from how they’re friend did. I might decide to befriend someone you hate while you might choose to save a stranger instead of kill them immediately after meeting. Either way on what you say and do, your little group will remember and the dynamic will change.
The Walking Dead: The Game is telling the same story so the ending will be the same for everyone. It’s just how you get there that is truly unique to each person who plays it. It allows each player to experience it in different ways. This might create a few naysayers who say that the game in of itself is an “illusion of choice” as no matter what the choices the player makes throughout it, the conclusion is always the same. This however is selling the journey short.
The game is like a blank canvas and its up to us as the players to paint it to tell our own unique story. The relationships that you’ve built, the emotions that you will feel, and the choices that you make is what makes the game so endearing. A portion of that connection comes from the amazingly well done writing from the staff at Telltale Games. The writing manages to be funny, tense, scary all at the right moments, which when paired with the equally excellent voice acting creates a visual style that is pulled directly from the comics and manages to never get boring.
When it comes to actually playing the game, Telltale Games have changed the dynamic on the usual adventure game control scheme. Like I mentioned earlier choices for dialogue pops up on the screen and you have to jump on it to choose what you’re going to say. You use one stick to control Lee, and the other to control an on screen reticle that you can use to interact with people and things in the environment. When the time comes to squeeze off some shots at a few walkers, it may be jarring trying to line up the shot, but that’s part of not only the fun, but also the charm. The game catches you off guard and you have to scramble to the new controls in order to survive.
The only thing that keeps The Walking Dead: The Game from being flawless are a few technical issues. Scenes freeze as the next one loads, and game-play slows down as the game tries to process the intense action. Plus save files have been known to inexplicably disappear. These are of course disappointing but in the end, experiencing The Walking Dead: The Game is well worthy any technical issues that you might have to sit through.
Don’t mince words, however. The Walking Dead: The Game is something really special. By giving players the ability and option to craft relationships, and make choices that fill out the story, The Walking Dead wraps you up in its events and story-telling in a way that very few games can. (Again for me the closet game that I’ve come to in comparing the way of story telling is Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us). There are moments where Lee’s animations look jagged. Yet it is the story that is what’s driving the action here, and it’s one that no one should miss.
Contributor: [Adam Buskirk]