Rare is the game that can really, really move me.
The sublime exceptional game that has such great storytelling that you remember it long after the credits are done rolling.
The ones powerful enough to make you cringe in horror, heart race with excitement, and make you bawl like a child because you really care about the characters in the story being told.
Telltale’s Walking Dead is one such game.
The last episode in the five part arc was just released last week for this adventure game.
I’ve had my eye on this indie game for some time because of the uniformly excellent user reviews on metacritic (all 9 and above), and when there was an offer on Steam last week for the whole series I grabbed it. (I hate waiting for episodes and prefer to finish my content in one go)
I’m glad I did, as it was easily one of the best storytelling gaming experiences I’ve played through this year.
Now adventure games are typically not the genre of games I usually play, as I dislike cryptic puzzles and pixel hunting. But Walking Dead is not an old-school adventure puzzler ala Monkey Island, Longest Journey or Grim Fandango.
Walking Dead is heavy on story and light on puzzles. Although it uses a point-and-click interface, it’s mainly about nailbiting hard choices interspersed with quick time events during action scenes.
The closest analogue would be Quantic Dream’s PS3-only Heavy Rain, which was a genre-defining storytelling game experience where the story is more important than the actual gameplay.
And what a story the first Season of Walking Dead tells.
In a nutshell, it is about a bunch of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world infested with flesh-eating zombies. Based on the comic-book series of the same name, it has been made into a TV series and now a game as well.
The game doesn’t follow the story arc of the comics or TV series, but is set in the same world as those. I’ve had the chance to read the first few titles in the black-and-white Walking Dead comics, which are really pretty good as well.
Telltale’s Walking Dead tells a story of how Lee Everett, a convict due to be incarcerated, escapes when the cop car he is riding in crashes into a zombie. All hell breaks loose, and along the way he finds and bonds with a resourceful plucky little girl called Clementine.
In the game you play as Lee, and along the way you will encounter many types of people: Characters who will join and band with you as you all try to survive, psychopaths, murderers and worse.
Shocking events will be revealed, and lots and lots of people — some you will probably have great affection for — will die along the way. This is a dark game, make no mistake about it.
To reveal too much of the story would be to spoil it, but here’s what I can say: This is one of the best storytelling experiences I’ve had in recent years. In terms of pure story experience it’s even better than recent AAA RPG games I’ve played this year — Mass Effect 3 or Witcher 2.
The voice acting is top-notch, and there are no two dimensional characters in Walking dead. There are often no easy choices, and there is no standard paragon (good) or renegade (evil) path that will be obvious to take.
One thing for sure is that I haven’t been so emotional over a game’s ending in some time. Kudos to the really impeccable writing team at Telltale that made you really care about the characters.
Walking Dead is not about deep gameplay; it’s primarily about a great storytelling experience. It’s pretty short and the entire season can be completed in 15 hours or less, but it packs a powerful emotional punch.
This is one of the breakout dark horse games of the year, and I won’t be surprised if this indie sweeps tons of game awards this year.