20 Aug

The Walking Dead

Filed under: PC Games One Response

WalkingDead101 2013-08-19 14-59-47-54

Survivors, but not for long.

My most recent assays in the adventure game genre have not been terribly rewarding. Despite this, after hearing so much about the adventure game version of The Walking Dead, and in particular about it is the best version of the franchise, being better than both the television series (which I bailed out of after the first season) and the graphic novel series (which I read only the first several arcs of), I simply had to buy it. I am now pleased to report that as incredible as this claim sounds, as far as I am concerned, it is perfectly true.

  • The story is absolutely as riveting and emotionally powerful as everyone says. The voice acting is superb and the writing is, for the most part, excellent. This really is how The Walking Dead as it deserves be told. The kicker is that the game presents nothing new whatsoever. You’ll recognize similar situations, dilemmas, politics, character archetypes etc. from the tv show and the comics. But this game simply does a great job at distilling them and using these familiar elements in the best possible way.

  • The pairing of Lee Everett and Clementine is one of the best written characters in video games. It is impossible to describe how gratifying to see Lee finding meaning and motivation in caring for Clementine, knowing all the while that everything he says and does is an influence on the child. That’s the sort of character development you would be proud to see in any entertainment medium, let alone a video game. One problem I had with the comics is that it is 100% bleak and dark, all the time, every time. This game doesn’t water down the wretchedness and horror the survivors are going through, but I love how the game allows the characters to enjoy little moments of quiet, connect with other people and feel their love etc. The game does end with a major tearjerker, yet
    the ending is not wholly without hope. That’s what makes this story so very satisfying.

WalkingDead101 2013-08-16 23-16-47-08

It’s probably not a good idea to set off a store’s alarm in a zombie-infested city.
  • That said, the writing isn’t quite perfect. Sometimes the manufacturing of drama is just a tad too on the nose, with characters screaming their heads off at each other at the slightest provocation. It’s also a bit sad that the writers didn’t avoid some annoying plot holes, such as when characters do stuff offscreen that shouldn’t be realistically possible or when zombies show up in an area which should be completely sealed off. Another problem is that Lee seems implausibly competent compared to everyone else. Since he’s under direct player, practically every problem the group encounters can be solved only through his personal intervention. It would be nice if from time to time, the survivors talked about a problem that turned up when Lee wasn’t there but someone else solved it.
  • Arguably this isn’t much of a game at all. The puzzles are often extremely simple while the action sequences, requiring some reflexes and hand-eye coordination, are more annoying than fun. Without these, the game would just be an interactive video with selectable dialogue choices. And yet it all works remarkably well. There are some brilliant touches with camera placement and user controls that gives the story tension and added drama that wouldn’t be possible in a non-interactive medium. For example (and this is a spoiler), in one scene Lee has to free a man from a bear trap while zombies are closing in. Predictably the only solution is to chop off the man’s leg. But as the player, you’re motivated to try all other solutions first. Maybe you can activate the trap’s release mechanism? Maybe you can use the axe to pry the trap open? Maybe you can hack through the chain that prevents the man from being moved? And indeed the game allows you to do all of these actions, all the while the clock is ticking and the zombies are moving in. You find yourself wondering, maybe I just need more swings of the axe to break through the chain? Maybe there is some other way that I missed. In the end, when you do chop through the man’s leg, you feel that it is your decision, you own it and you feel the full force of the emotional impact.

WalkingDead101 2013-08-16 23-47-05-66

Drama! Why can’t the characters in zombie stories make nice with each other? Because otherwise there would be be no story!
  • The plot is straight as a rail road. Despite the player’s choices, you can’t really affect what happens. No story-telling centric game can allow that. The combinatorial explosion of so many different choices would overwhelm the ability of any team to create enough content to cover every possibility. What you can affect are your relationships with the other survivors. If the story says this character must die, then he or she dies. But does he die as Lee’s friend or as his enemy? That’s well within the ability of this game to deliver. And, wonderfully enough, this actually does work. The sense of control may be somewhat illusory but it was sufficient to keep me invested in the story and to feel that this story is my own, shaped by my choices. For this reason, it’s hard for me to imagine replaying this game. I already played and made my choices. For good or ill, the choices are mine.
  • I really enjoyed the cel shaded art style, though the animations could be improved. I am particularly amused that the game successfully used a relatively cheap technology to create completely believable and expressive characters while LA Noire spent oodles of money on hiring name actors and used expensive technology to capture their real facial expressions, yet the characters in this game will be way more memorable to most players. Incidentally, I almost always play games with subtitles turned on. I must say that the subtitles for this game are fantastic, with appropriate capital letters and even character-specific colours!

So, it’s fair to say that this is one of the best video game stories I’ve ever experienced and would love to see more adventure games of this quality. While I certainly will be buying Season 2 when it comes out, I would really hate it if they use Clementine as a main character. If they do, they will either have to give her plot immunity, which kills the tension, or kill her off, which robs this first season of some of its emotional power. What I would really like to see is a sequel that takes place with new characters in another locale. Why must every Walking Dead story take place in the state of Georgia?

WalkingDead101 2013-08-20 10-12-59-60

Probably not a good idea to engage a zombie in unarmed melee combat.
Written on August 20 2013 and is filed under PC Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “The Walking Dead”


I sorta skimmed some of this, because I got this via a Humble Bundle and need to start playing it soon. Woohoo!

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