Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a heartfelt story that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished its final episode.
Over the past few years, zombies have become one of the most boring and overused tropes in popular culture. TV series, movies, comics, books and of course, video games have made use of the zombie apocalypse for some time now, but just when people were starting to think that this recurrent theme needs to go away, Telltale does the unthinkable. With The Walking Dead, the independent company crafted a mature story punctuated by harrowing moments. No matter how you look at it, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead will leave a lasting mark on you.
In the game, you play as Lee Everett, a former university professor who’s on his way to prison after being convicted in Atlanta, Georgia. The deputy sheriff is taking Lee to jail, when suddenly, he runs over someone… or something. That’s when it all starts. The city of Georgia is teeming with zombies (called walkers in the game) and there’s no immediate explanation regarding the situation. We don’t know if it’s a virus outbreak, a weird disease or neurotoxins, but what we do know is that the world has changed and nothing will bring it back to the way it was.
From here on, Lee will meet numerous secondary characters. Without a doubt, the most important character besides Lee is Clementine, an eight-year old girl whose parents left to Savannah. Lee finds Clementine hiding in her tree house and since she has no one to protect her, he offers to take care of her until she finds her family. Overall, there are a couple of reasons why Clementine simply “works” as a character. Although Lee eventually becomes a father figure for her and he’s forced to teach her how to take care of herself in this brave new world, Clementine is still a child. Not only does she represent a sort of moral compass, but she also serves as an emotional centerpiece throughout the game. Soon enough Lee becomes not only a man who wants to survive, but also a man who wants to protect an innocent child who’s all by herself. Clementine represents a glimpse of hope in a world that seems desolate and demoralized.
One of the most important elements in Telltale’s The Walking Dead is choice. The story adapts to the choices you make and they carry over to subsequent episodes. Defend a child from a walker and his father will remember it in the future, tell the truth and characters will trust you, choose who you save and who you left behind and so on and so forth. But while this might give the impression that the game has the traditional “good or evil” scale, making choices is a much more convoluted process than that. Interestingly, you have a limited time to make choices and this makes the entire process thrilling and, at times, harrowing. Playing The Walking Dead takes an emotional toll that’s hard to recover from.
Each episode features five specific points in which the player needs to make an important decision. The servers keep track of all these decisions and at the end of each episode, the game let’s you compare the decisions you’ve made with those of the rest of the player base. Not only does this inventive feature add a social aspect to the game, but also let’s you see which choices were more popular. In a way, analyzing these choices can be a though-provoking experience and you’ll definitely think about the decisions you’ve made, long after having finished each episode.
When you’re forced to decide between saving the life of an innocent child or saving the life of a man who helped you escape from a walker-infested metropolis, it’s hard not to feel afflicted. The Walking Dead can be dark, distressing and simply unfair, but the game deals with some horrible situations in the mature way they deserve and does a great job of making you care about every single character. Sharp writing and complex characterization makes The Walking Dead a thought-provoking tale that sets a new standard when it comes to writing in video games.
But while some of the most memorable portions of The Walking Dead are related to making choices, its gameplay is quite simplistic. Gameplay relies heavily on quick time events, moving the cursor around, inspecting items, talking to other characters and solving light puzzles. It’s worth pointing out that even though the gameplay seems remarkably simple, the focus of the game is on character development and story, so it’s understandable that some of the gameplay components are merely serviceable.
Sadly, The Walking Dead isn’t without some problems, most of them technical. Although the game’s cel-shading visuals are quite appealing, there are some glitches related to animation. While failures like these weren’t a common occurrence during my playthrough, when they did happen, they negatively affected the sense of immersion the game works so hard to create. In addition, some of the save problems that some people have had with the console versions are pretty much nonexistent on the PC. So if you can choose between platforms, the PC version is probably your safest bet.
The Walking Dead has harrowing moments, a poignant story, stellar voice acting, great character development and emotionally resonant moments. The result of such a unique concoction is more than a riveting piece of entertainment. Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a heartfelt story that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished its final episode.