The Walking Dead: Season 1 – PC
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment, Telltale Games
Release Date: April 24th, 2012
Nerd Rating: 8.5/10
Reviewed by THEbipolarBear
Should you stay with your dysfunctional group or set out on your own? Could you kill a man in self defense for the slim chance that he might turn? Would you choose to save an innocent child or a capable man? These questions are undeniably difficult to answer, but that doesn’t stop Telltale Games from demanding an answer from you in The Walking Dead, usually in a time-sensitive situation. Furthermore, every decision you make after painstakingly pondering the pros and cons in your head will have a high cost, flooding your mind with thoughts of “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.” It’s not often that a game can draw a tear from a hardened gamer’s eye – and that’s not for lack of trying. There have been heart-tuggers, mind-blowers, and flat-out depressing games (looking at you, Red Dead Redemption). But none tips the sad-scale like The Walking Dead. This is because the game is simple yet unpredictable, and while the gameplay isn’t anything more than an enhanced point-and-click, the strained father-daughter relationship between Lee and Clementine in their godforsaken world will drive any moral individual mad.
The touching story of how Lee, a single man with a dark past, and Clementine, an abandoned child lost in this zombie-strewn wasteland, found each other and worked together to keep themselves safe is incredibly emotional, as you can imagine. You play as Lee, and your main objective is pretty straightforward: keep Clementine safe through various choices you make and paths you take. Along the way, every decision you’re faced with almost always has two clear sides. For example, you save the boy or the man, you kill the father or let him live, you hold up in the house or make a run for it, and others in this way. However, especially when you feel confident in the prediction of your choice’s impacts, The Walking Dead will prove that your zombie-apocalypse strategy is severely flawed. But after the third or fourth difficult decision that leads to another character’s death or, even worse, Clementine’s unhappiness, the gamer becomes desensitized to the horrors of their choices. It is around this time that Telltale Games proves that it’s an elite game developer.
Most decision games are nice. What do I mean by this? Well, take Mass Effect for example. You have a paragon choice and a renegade choice, each with incredibly predictable outcomes. This makes the gamer feel safe in his character’s identity. Or, better yet, take inFAMOUS: Second Son, which also has one “good” choice and one “bad” choice, leaving no room for any misconceptions or tricks on the game’s part. This seems to be the mold for all decision games, and there are no deceptions or spooks, so, therefore, the game is nice, benign. The Walking Dead is not nice. It is instead incredibly malicious and turns a paragon-streaking gamer into an emotionless survivor (true story). This is because as soon as you think you know how you want to play, a decision will arise that will make you “lose your religion,” so to speak. Whether it’s shooting a turning child or leaving a member of your group to die on the side of the road, you will make a decision that will stick with you throughout the rest of the game. And while you justify your choice with the exact words, “anyone would’ve chosen this,” the poll at the end of each episode of who-did-what will show you that you were the definite minority.
While it’s nothing more than a glorified point-and-click, the gameplay does not take away from the meat and bones of The Walking Dead, much like the literal point-and-click gameplay of Five Nights at Freddy’s does not take away from the suit and endoskeletons of the game. There is WASD movement, and even I played this game through a gamepad, so there’s no reason to discount this game for lack of playability. The mechanics were not perfect and may have caused a few unintentional laughs, but, quite frankly, this game needed those moments of blissful ignorance – seeing character after character getting torn to shreds by the undead isn’t exactly light content. However, the fighting mechanics do get repetitive, since it’s mainly composed of aiming your kick to the teeth and button-mashing your way out of a zombie-full-nelson. Even still, there’s no harm, no foul as far as the gameplay and mechanics are concerned, essentially for the reason that all of the other parts of the game are so flawless.
Spoilers, Spoilers, Spoilers!
Finally, let’s get into Lee and Clementine’s relationship. From beginning to end, the bond between these two is always strong. They don’t even know each other at the opening of this game, but as soon as they meet, they know that they need each other. For Lee, Clementine is his innocence, his only salvation from his condemnation as a murderer. For Clementine, Lee is her guardian, her only salvation from her doom as an orphan. They are together throughout the majority of the story, and slowly their relationship turns from guardian and orphan to father and daughter, which is a strong but gentle relationship in any situation. But when it’s juxtaposed by the ruthlessness and insensitive post-apocalyptic world, the little moments of the relationship become more powerful than ever. And since this game is literally a graphic adventure, it plays out like a well-directed movie with on-point voice acting and an incredible plot that evolves into your worst nightmare as the game adapts to your choices, bending your heart to the breaking point. Lee and Clementine’s bond could be the sole causation of this game’s success, which is obviously a very bold claim, but coming from me as words on a screen, a lot of this game is lost in translation. Nothing can quite paint the full picture of The Walking Dead except for actually experiencing it yourself.
No Spoilers, No Spoilers, No Spoilers!
So if you’ve only watched the AMC series, or if you’re new to The Walking Dead world altogether, this game is a must-have for zombie enthusiasts, heart-felt gamers, and suckers for Telltale’s games. Many developers can get an entire gamer community down in the dumps (like the entire EA Games fan-club), but few can cause community-wide depression over a relatively flawless game, such as The Walking Dead. Therefore, this game is absolutely brilliant, and kept gamers coming back episode after episode, season after season as faithfully as non-gamers kept coming back to the AMC series. All in all, this game is worth it’s price as long as you enjoy having your heart put into a blender and watching it spin around into a beautiful oblivion, especially if you can catch it on it’s frequent debuts at the Steam Seasonal Sales.
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