Previously, on The Walking Dead
The shocking and heartbreaking end to Telltale Games’ left fans of the studio and their titular title series distraught of its future. Fortunately, The Walking Dead would get to finish its final season and even release a definitive edition last year in 2019.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead, a relatively older game series for many, released back in April of 2012, where it received critical acclaim and over 80 game awards. This success brought about the 400 Days downloadable content as well as multiple future games that expanded on the story of the main cast. Telltale’s The Walking Dead takes place in the same universe as Robert Kirkman’s original The Walking Dead comic book series. Fans of the source material will be happy to know that the game keeps a hard-edged art style, which are very similar to Kirkman’s books, and all with a beautiful soundtrack to match.
You begin the first season of the game with Lee, a convicted murderer on his way to prison. From the start of the game – and later demonstrated throughout the season – he is shown to be a morally grey character. Lee ends up looking after Clementine, a young 7-year old girl whose parents go missing, as the zombie apocalypse quickly beings to spiral out of control. Over time, you raise and eventually take control of Clementine in later games, as further iterations of the game expand on the style, the cast, and even the playable characters.
The absolute best part of this game is the characters and their interactions with the protagonist during and after the intense cinematic scenes. Clementine, Javier, and Lee make up the best part of the characters, 3 dimensional, heartfelt, and wonderfully voice acted. Even the side characters are memorable and have their own interactions with other characters that make the world feel alive despite the undead circumstances of this gritty world. These characters change and progress through the events that unfold, and truly, they are what make the early iterations of this series a classic.
But alas, here come the criticisms.
First and foremost the game is less of a “game” and more of an interactive story. It came in episodic iterations each taking place in a season which would make up the game. The few instances of gameplay are more of a point and click movie experience than any sort of traditional game. Those few moments of gameplay are often clunky, poorly polished, and feel like they serve as filler to pad out the game’s runtime.
There is a notable difference between the original and the Definitive Edition collection, even in the early games.
Next on the short list is bugs and glitches, which can often draw players out of the immersive experience. Instances of save games being deleted are commonplace, and screen tearing are just as frequent than the sometimes annoying “gameplay” segments. While the series improves on these glitches in later renditions, the immersive breaking moments can completely ruin an otherwise emotional or intense scene.
The starting focus of the series was clearly the story with the main emphasis on its characters. Over the course of the first and second seasons, this remains the case. However, after the second season, the story takes a nosedive. I don’t mean something you didn’t expect, what I mean is the story itself skips over a huge segment of time, and from there, the quality of the writing begins to decline. Character interactions from the third season feel as clunky as its gameplay, while the story line feels as much of a chore to sit through as the quick time events of the first season.
The art style deviates from the classic comic-book aesthetic and tries to be more “mature” and “accessible” to new audiences. The root of this problem is the change in development perspectives, as somewhere down the line of successes in the first two seasons, upper management may have been more oriented to making money, rather than satisfying the main player base. This poses two huge problems: One is that the original source of money for the developers, the fans of the first two seasons, are going to be upset. Second is that the game quality will shift downward in order to make the game more readily available to common audiences. While the soundtrack remains amazing, its artistic style becomes far too smoothed and the storyline, the main selling point of the game, falls flat.
Overall, this game series is one close to my heart, as I played it a few years after release in High School. When I played, it made me feel like a crybaby, I mean seriously, never had I cried that much over a video game until The Last of Us came out. Memorable scene after memorable scene, I can recall almost the entire first season this many years later. Although my opinions on the following seasons of the franchise are not so positive, I can say with certainty that this series is one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, story based game series.
If you have not tried it, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot.
Prepare yourself, and make sure to check out the Definitive Edition if you’re looking to do so!