Taking a look at the Zombie point and click game that shook up the industry years ago.
Enjoy this lengthy review of not only the first season of The Walking Dead but the 400 Days DLC.
A Paladin’s Steam Review: The Walking Dead (Season One). A Point and Click Zombie Apocalypse Worth Playing.
- Genre: Telltale Point and Click Adventure.
- Developed & Published by: Telltale Games.
- Platform: Windows and Mac.
- Business Model: Episodic plus Single DLC, Season Is Complete.
- Copy Purchased by Myself
When The Walking Dead released, it was an anomaly for mainstream games. Episodic business model, point-and-click mechanics and limited amounts of combat. After a successful launch, the game would go on to shape Telltale and their future series for years to come. Is TWD worth your attention? Well, read on.
Overall Gameplay Thoughts
The main focus of the story is on Lee Everett. A convict on his way to prison when the zombie apocalypse occurs. After the police car gets into an accident, killing the officer, and revealing a walker, Lee sets off in search of shelter. Whereupon he finds Clementine in a tree house near a home. After learning that her parents had gone off to a city nearby, Lee offers to protect her until she can be reunited with her parents. What follows is a journey of survival not just against the rising undead but against the remains of humanity. I won’t go too much into the story as it is the bulk of the game and the main reason to play TWD.
TWD is a narrative driven, point and click adventure. Unlike most point and clicks, puzzles aren’t involving and inventory items that you pick up are used in the immediate area you’re in. You’ll be playing as Lee, moving around from a third person fixed-camera perspective on anything from a small room level to a large outdoor area. Usually trying to figure out how to solve the conundrum he, or the group he is with, has gotten into. Other times, he’s just exploring the level and talking with people. Combat requires you to quickly select the right area to “shoot” at the enemy to perform whatever move Lee needs to do. Whether that’s punch, shoot or hack at them. Each combat sequence keeps the tension up by only giving you a limited amount of time to react. Quick time events are used often. If you don’t react in time, it will either give you another chance to succeed or sometimes it’s game over and you die, though very rarely. While you may think you can just sit back and relax during a cutscene, the game may sucker-punch you when you least expect it.
Main Character Thoughts
The characters are fairly deep in scope, each with their own faults and problems. Clementine, the girl you find early on in episode one, is one of the best written kids in a videogame I’ve ever seen. Sympathetic but not pathetic. Strong in spirit but still vulnerable in this messed up zombie apocalypse. Never did I want to drop her off the nearest cliff from sheer annoyance and she didn’t come off as a useless liability. While she is a companion NPC, there aren’t any of the typical escort/protection missions most games seem to implement. Lee is a more somber, level-headed and protective character. But a lot of his personality depends on how you direct his actions. He’s a bit of a blank slate, made that way intentionally so the players have flexibility in how he acts so that it doesn’t feel awkward or out of place. That said, you get some of his backstory through his conversations with Clementine and their relationship, well, it’s really touching.
Conversation System and Your Influence on the Story
Telltale implements an interesting conversation system to keep you involved even during the “cutscenes”. It gives you three to five conversation options, often times including a remaining quiet option. To add a bit (or a lot) of tension, each conversation choice has a timer to each so you often times have to make a quick choice of how you want to respond to someone. Whether it’s with a witty retort, a silent glare or comforting words to a person in pain. While this does seem to add some flexibility to conversations, some of the responses the writers made are broad enough to cover all of the potential responses Lee can say. You’ll only notice that quirk on multiple playthroughs though.
TWD likes to assert that your actions influence the story. And your actions do influence it, but only to a certain degree. Your choices in conversation and action can affect how characters interact with you. Sometimes you get to choose whether a character lives or dies. But that said, the story does adapt to your choices and will eventually tie everything back together. There’s no real branching paths in this game. It’s very similar to how the Mass Effect series handled its story telling. There’s also a neat system in the game where it will compare certain important actions to what other players did in their playthroughs.
Business Model Thoughts: Episodic Release
I know that Telltale was using the episodic formula before The Walking Dead but I hadn’t heard of Telltale until TWD came into being. I found it surprising, when I first heard about TWD, that any company was still using this business model. As it had all but died when the 2,000s came around. As for whether I like it or not…well…I remain mixed. On the one hand, it does give people a choice on whether they want to experience the game in a more TV-like manner or as a completed, all-in-one splurge. On the other hand, it almost feels a bit like pre-ordering. While you do get the first episode of the series, there is no telling how long it will be until the remaining episodes are released. Nor is there any way to judge what quality those episodes will be in upon release. Heck, there’s no way to be certain that all episodes will arrive. In this case, I still bought it after all episodes had been released and found that each episode was reasonable. But I’m not sure if I would have liked getting the story in pieces like so many others had.
400 Days DLC Thoughts
This is the only DLC that was released for the first season. The main thing that can be said about it, is that it’s a very short experience. It follows five survivors and their individual stories in the verse of TWD, keeping the same atmosphere and seriousness featured in the original story. As a side-story to the main campaign it’s pretty good. I liked getting different perspectives on the apocalypse going on. But I’m not convinced it’s worth the asking price. The store page mentions that the choices you make will “resonate” in season two but I really didn’t feel like it had. I think that can be blamed on two reasons: 1) The DLC is too short to make the characters memorable and 2) I got season two a long time after this DLC, making it likely that I simply forgot about these characters altogether. If you’re wanting just a little bit more of the TWD experience, then it’s an ok purchase. Otherwise, you can skip it by and hit season two now that it’s fully released.
For my part, I didn’t notice any real framerate problems, crashing or other problems during my playthrough. There have been some minor startup issues and performance problems reported but they can be fixed. Graphics, Shadow and Texture quality have low/med/high sliders. TWD has a reasonable amount of resolution options from what I noticed. Full-screen, Anti-Aliasing and After Effects have on/off switches. V-sync is enabled by default and can only be disabled through graphics driver or a special Steam launch parameter. Keys can’t be rebound and controllers aren’t supported, though I can’t imagine why you’d need either for this title. You can find out more by visiting the PC Gaming Wiki article.
This will probably be one of the few point and clicks I ever recommend. It has a well paced story, a wonderfully crafted cast of characters and a point and click adventure that’s very approachable. The story is gripping and while it might be familiar to TWD readers/watchers, holds its own as an original entry to the universe of undead walkers. The rest of the cast is a diverse and sometimes divisive bunch as they have their own priorities and personalities. The graphic style does take some getting used to if you come from the TV series as well as teh controls. The DLC is of questionable value for the price they’re asking and I remain mixed on the business model of episodic releases. But, The Walking Dead Season One is a great start to this series and I look forward to what’s coming up next.
Thanks for reading!