The Walking Dead by Telltale games is an episodic, interactive, point and click story adventure. It’s a story driven by decisions you make, and dealing with the consequences of your actions. Season 1 of The Walking Dead comes in 5 parts, and there’s a final bonus DLC titled “400 Days”. The main story is contained within the 5 episodes, and is not tied to the DLC, but you do get to see and experience more of the world and peripheral characters from the main story in the DLC.
The game takes place in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. A zombie infested post apocalyptic world where people try to survive. You play Lee Everet, a convicted murderer on his way to jail out of Atlanta when the zombie breakout occurs. The police car he was in wrecks, where he escapes the zombies to a nearby house to find a young, abandoned girl named Clementine, and they begin their search for a safe place together.
Along the way, you travel to several different places, meet many different people, face impossible situations and just try to survive. Choices are difficult, and consequences severe. Many times I catch myself wondering how anyone could possibly make these choices, and I question the morality of my every choice.
You’ll take roughly an hour to 2 hours per episode, depending on how many people you talk to, and how fast you choose to progress with the story. I’ve done both and I found it satisfying to take my time to speak with everyone before moving on. This game is not meant to be rushed, and it wants to bathe you in its world, so let it. If you speed up to the ending, you’ll just miss the beautiful scenery on your journey there.
Characters are deep and well thought out. They have their own agenda, their own motives, and are not cardboard stock characters. Though, you may see one or two stereotypical archetypes. You’ll know who. I strongly suggest talking to everyone, understand their characters, because what they say gives you more relevance to their story and how they feel towards different situations you may come across later.
The graphics in this game is nothing to boast about. The art style is similar to Borderlands. Think grungy thick outlines and pastel colors. That’s about it. You can’t come here expecting real-time high dynamic range rendering. Not gonna happen. Graphics are just not the focus here.
The interface is pretty simplistic. A mouse cursor dots to show you what you can interact with, dialog options with a timer, and that’s about it. You don’t even have an inventory menu, just a small bar by the side to tell you what you’re currently carrying. Minimalist. In an age of massively complex HUDs and UIs, sometimes simple is the right way to go.
Despite the lack of photo-realistic graphics, the game still manages a good range of scenes and different light dynamics. Scenes are varied and change fast enough for you to enjoy the different moods of the story without getting bored in between.
The sound in the game is passable. The Foley's well done, and you feel like you’re in those places, be it a farm, in the forest, store, whatever. Adding to the good Foley is the music. Tense music gets you on the edge of your seat while you wait for a zombie attack, and melancholic music plays as Lee contemplates or mourns over a bad choice or wallows in self-pity, which he does if you choose to.
The crux of the sound in this game lies in the voice acting. This interactive game would break down without a good cast, and they did a good job selecting one. The voice actors play cleanly to their parts. You get to see a huge range of emotions from the voice actors, and nothing feels out of place as they scream in rage or despair at their situation, making their plight all the more believable. It’s quite an experience.
The game controls are pretty simple. You get your standard WSAD movement and your mouse to interact with objects. There are QTEs in the game where you have to mash Q followed by E. It adds tension but serves nothing more than breaking the monotonous tempo of clicking and dialog.
There are side puzzles in each scenario for you to solve too. Find a screwdriver, unlock a door, make some noise, simple things. The difficulty is not high enough for you to get stuck, and they don’t offer you help or tips to solve them. Either way, the puzzles are just to keep you active and engaged while they tell the story.
And finally, the main attraction and problem with the game. Choice making. First with the juicy.
I liked how choices worked in the game. The many choices I made impacted the way the story moved, the reactions from the game CAME from my responses and the game world changed exactly according to how I acted in every situation. Honesty in certain situations gained trust led me to gains I didn’t expect would come from the brunt truth, and telling lies of withholding information might prove advantageous at times, and detrimental to others.
The things I said had weight, and my opinion, or lack of, mattered. Choices come with a silence option, and I could simply choose not to speak and allow the other characters to come to their own conclusion. And whether I did or said something, or not, mattered. The world moved on with or without my involvement, and that breathed life into the world of the game. This wasn’t some RPG which skidded to a halt if I didn’t continue the main quest, it was REAL, and I could buck up and survive, or just die of ignorance and inaction.
There are lessons in social interaction with this game. And all through the game, you see the consequences of your past actions show up here and there, and the world starts to shape with these little details of the specific decisions I made in the beginning, and this is what the game does best. It involves you in the greatest form of storytelling, by inviting you to help tell the story, and see a world built from the consequences of your actions, and there’s no greater attraction than that. To helped carve the story, that was an amazing experience.
There is, however, one issue I had with the game. A HUGE issue. See, I’ve played the first Season at least 3 times to completion, each taking a different course of action as I previously had. And during my replays, the game completely broke down for me.
I explained that the most exciting part about this game is about the choices you make in the toughest of situations, and how you deal and survive with those choices and consequences. It made the game feel real. And I felt that my choices actually mattered, that the story was driven by me.
Now, what happened when I played it over, was that I realized that, actually, my choices DIDN’T matter. And this really upset me. There were some that changed minor details along the way, but ultimately, the outcome was always the same. Nothing I chose actually mattered. I was railroaded like any other linear shooter. The game started to unravel, and I started realizing nothing I chose made any impact on the story they wanted to tell. That I wasn’t in as much control of my choices as I thought I was. I wasn’t shaping the game.
Perhaps this feeling of betrayal arose because I liked the game so much. That I had so much love for the world and its characters that when I saw the man behind the curtain I was disappointed. Like how magic tricks are revealed in an anticlimactic sort of way. Although it isn’t really a deal breaker, I like it just as much, but if I didn’t understand the mechanics behind the choice making, it would’ve been better. I’m still going to play Season 2, and the other games telltale has in store for me. It’s just too much fun.
Without a doubt, The Walking Dead by Telltale games is fantastic. It’s a great interactive story that keeps you on your feet, put you into the shoes of the characters and engages you wholly. You’re left wondering if you could have handled the situations better and made better choices. It’s nothing short of brilliant, and I highly suggest getting it, cause it’s cheap, and it’s worth that single playthrough. Just try not to think too deeply into the choices you make. Because in the end, only you could’ve made those choices.