Last year, players got to experience a Walking Dead experience that rivaled the comics with Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Sticking to a traditional point and click adventure style of storytelling rather than an action game or shooter (like AMC’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct).
Last week on Tuesday for PSN users and Friday for XBLA users, Telltale released a special episode for The Walking Dead. Meant to act as a bridge between season 1 and the upcoming season 2, there is a departure from part of what people loved so much of the first season for. But, the new aspects of the game and its storytelling keeps the hook there for players for the next season.
The first thing players will note in The Walking Dead: 400 Days is the separation from the main characters in the first season. Where there is an appearance from some periphery characters, the majority of those seen in the game are new to both the game and the comics. There is also a group of six characters players take the role of (five characters with their own chapter and then one epilogue) as opposed to only playing for Lee in the previous title.
This is where things start to feel starkly different. Part of what was so addictive in the first season of The Walking Dead was following the relationship between Lee and Clementine. In 400 Days though, before you can get too invested in a single character, you move onto the next. The long term results of these actions also remain to be seen as to how these characters will play a role in the second season alongside those who made it through the first.
While I understand how the format needs to deal with a number of characters in a somewhat short period of time, it doesn’t leave much room for actual characterization. There is a quick introduction to each player character, a quick decision and then someone runs off. While there is intrigue to see where this will go next, there is certainly not the connection between characters that was already etched into the player like they experienced between Clementine and Lee before Season 1, Episode 1 had even completed. What also feels strange is how earlier decisions player into a choice the characters must choose later. What seems like tiny points or points that are completely incidental to the decision affect the characters drastically. It feels like in some cases the characters went against the way I played them during the decision process.
In addition to the storyline structure change, there have been small changes to the control and gameplay in The Walking Dead: 400 Days. While most of the game still revolves around a player making quick dialogue decisions or the point and click method, there has been an introduction of action scenes where a player needed to hold one button down to grasp an item and then move the left stick to perform the action. This helps in especially tense scenes where the action starts getting heavy and the player begins to fumble around, making for added drama.
Visually, not much has changed. The team has retained the great cell shaded look that helped define the first game and brought it back rather than attempt a more “realistic” look like AMC’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. The new voice actors do a solid job with the new roles as well, even if there isn’t a ton of time spent getting to know each of the new characters.
And the Short
The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a solid experience but possibly the weakest of any of The Walking Dead episodes. Being the weakest of a series that would average 9’s and 10’s isn’t a slight though. It just doesn’t focus on what made the first season great and it does sometimes feel like a holdover before the second season starts rather than stand on its own. But, for anyone who has played the first season and plans on continuing to the second, it is a must play just for the sheer fact that we have seen actions in early episodes affect later ones drastically and the combination of that with five characters is quite the intriguing possibility.
XBox Live Arcade (also available on PlayStation Network, PC, iOS and PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Price: 400 Microsoft Points ($5.00 USD)