The Walking Dead is not quite a game, but, at the same time, not a movie either. Albeit this confused identity, it still is a rich experience that tells an emotional and thrilling story. Although, it does make me wonder whether or not a well-told story has to be told in the extremely linear fashion of The Walking Dead.
The basic premise of the title is based on the successful comic and television series. I’ve never read nor watched the series, but I still found this game very enjoyable. It is broken into five different episodes with each one progressing the story of the man, Lee Everett. About to be taken to prison when the police car driving him there gets into an accident. From that moment on, he learns that the dead have risen and he needs to do what he can to survive. Over the course of the five episodes, Lee meets several other people, like him, who are just trying to stay alive.
Stop looking at me in the rearview mirror and keep your eyes on the road!
It was through these other characters that I felt this game come to life. With the ongoing zombie threat, other hostile survivors, and minimal supplies it tends to raise tensions amongst Lee and his companions. Each of these characters has his own backstory and help the plot move in some way. You start to care for each of these characters, or on the flip side wish they’d die so you didn’t have to deal with them anymore.
Nothing is going to happen to you, Clementine. I promise.
However, much of the time spent exploring this world, crafted by Telltale Games, and learning about the characters seemed to be more through watching the “game” rather than playing it. Most of the gameplay revolves around clicking on things and the occasional quick-time event. The core of the game and what makes it hard is the decisions that have to be made especially when you have to think fast.
Even the dialogue and choices you make seem to be quite rigid. In the long run of things, the outcome of the game is still the same no matter what you decided to do to get there. Point A leads to Point B with a few twists and turns in the road that ultimately don’t change anything.
It’s then that I feel this game probably good have been just as effective in telling its great story as a short animated series. A Kotaku writer, Kirk Hamilton, had said, in his reflection (“Yes, Your Choices In The Walking Dead Mattered“) of the game, that it was more about the decisions Lee had to make in order to get to where he was. There wasn’t any major change to the story, but it did craft Lee in a manner of the player’s intent.
I guess with that being said, I can see that side of the coin. It’s not what I expected, but I can certainly respect the decision of the developers if that’s what they had intended. With a second season in the works, I feel I am now better prepared for what to expect from Telltale Games.