Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: As the world is plunged into an apocalypse, five survivors try and stay alive in a world where the zombies aren’t the worse danger out there…
Few would have predicted the break-away success that came with 2012’s the Walking Dead game. Not only was it a relatively cheap DLC game, but it shied away from action and went for a more character-driven experience. Yet it instantly became a hit, gamers appreciating the emotional, powerhouse storyline. Not only do we have a second season on its way scheduled for September, but Telltale have treated us with this quick teaser game to make the wait a little less painful.
The trick with enjoying this game to the full extent is to understand that this is a teaser and little else. There is a sense that we are playing through five origin stories rather than getting a powerhouse climax. Therefore do not come into this game expecting a tear-inducing finale. Rather throw yourself into Telltale’s keen eye for direction, artistic aesthetics and the tough choices that we have got used to making. There is a lot here to enjoy, but I can see the majority of gamers looking in the wrong place. This game is short, so the writers have no momentum to work with, therefore unable to get the amount of emotion we are used to them working with. They do what they can, and do it well, but I hope people don’t mistake this lack of heart-breaking shocks to be laziness or a drop in quality.
We are given five characters to work with. Vince is the convict who shot someone to protect his brother (like Lee, the details of his crimes are kept minimal). Shel is an older sister trying to protect the remnants of her family, while trapped in a group of survivors who are losing their touch on morality. Wyatt and his friend, Eddie, are being stalked by a mysterious bandit. Bonnie is a recovering drug addict, who is falling in love with the husband of the couple who are nursing her back to health. And then we have Russell, alone in the Walker apocalypse, grown untrusting of any form of human contact. I imagine that these five characters are going to make up the group for season two. This is a good format as now when Season two begins we are already intimate with the backstories of each of these characters.
Sadly the entire game takes around two hours to complete. It really is a teaser. Also, the story is spread too thin with five different stories interconnecting with each other. While Lee’s origin worked as the writers had all the time in the world for exposition, with some action and humour squeezed in there as well, with 400 Days the writers have a small gap in narrative to work with. Therefore, the deaths and shocks feel a little standard, rather than mind-blowing. There is action, but it feels slightly restrained. Sure the chase through the cornfields is tense, yet it could have been drawn out a bit longer. Gun fights often consist of running from cover to cover, until your partner deals with the shooters. The flaws are understandable, yet you cannot help but want more.
Not to say that you will not enjoy this game. We are given interesting characters to work with and the game throws us in some cool scenarios to come to grips with the characters. Again, more build-up would be nice, but the writers work wonders with what they have. We play a wide range of characters this time around, rather than a male lead at the height of his strength. There is something for everyone here and the story can go to places we couldn’t go as Lee. For example, the game is much scarier when you aren’t playing a capable fighter like Lee, but a slightly overweight guy lumbering through foggy woods. It’s a nice change of pace and is appreciated, showing us that the writers aren’t doing the easy thing (although we could never even suggest they ever were).
So in conclusion, this is a bite-size version of the Walking Dead we are used to, but we are still given all of the cool little quirks that the last season did. Tough choices, intriguing characters and even a nail-biting game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Final verdict: Shorter than we would have liked, yet it is still a welcome release from Telltale Games. Worth every penny.