400 Days Is Not Enough

walking-dead-400-days

Telltale’s ‘The Walking Dead’ kind of took the gaming world by surprise last year. When the first episode was released it was immediately clear that this was going to be something altogether different and better than Telltale’s previous efforts in the format. Jurassic Park: The Game and Back To The Future: The Game were fresh on peoples minds and caused many to be weary of what would come next with The Walking Dead. There was no need to be scared though as they were able to serve up 5 episodes on a relatively predictable schedule that kind of changed everyone’s expectations of an episodic, story driven game. They’d basically done the impossible. The game rivaled the experience of the property it was based on and in some ways surpassed it via the medium ‘Adventure Game’.

Following up on that success is going to be challenging to say the least. Those new expectations are a burden that is are made especially tough by the highly story driven format of The Walking Dead. We don’t have Season 2 yet to compare to Season 1, but with the release of The Walking Dead: 400 Days we are getting a depressingly short look at how they might follow up on the most impossible game of last year. I’m not going to spoil much of anything below (besides a short line of dialog) but if you’re someone who avoids anything that you could possibly spoil you, then you may want to stop reading.

400 Days eschews the single character focus of the previous 5 episodes in favor of a more scattershot approach. You are told a story from the viewpoint of 5 different characters as they all interact with a Georgia gas-station and a zombie apocalypse. As the name suggests, the story is spaced out over 400 days with day 1 being the start of the mayhem. You choose which character you want to play and can choose them in any order. There is a chronological order, but it’s not necessary to play it that way (I didn’t). The geographical location is similar to the original game, but there is barely any overlap between it and 400 Days, which is how I’d prefer it. I’ve already seen Clem’s story.

If you’ve played through the first 5 episodes of The Walking Dead then you know what to expect from playing the game.  This time around there are no ‘puzzles’ to speak of, just you interacting with your environment through directed mouse-clicks and repeatedly bashing the ‘Q’ button. If this slight turn in the gameplay is an indication of the newest season, I’ll be disappointed. As much as I love the story they’re telling, I want there to be the gameplay trappings of past PnCs. You don’t have to make me find a duck and a feather and use those to solve a puzzle, but more of the contextual puzzlers you found in the Pharmacy from last season would be appreciated.

As it stands, 400 Days is a completely serviceable story bridge that just makes me impatient and worried.

The strength of The Walking Dead was found in how deeply empathetic you were to the people you were interacting with and the person you were controlling. Like a good book, it took a bit of time before you finally started connecting with these people and since 400 Days gives you, in at least once case, about 15 minutes of time with these characters you may find it hard to empathize. If you can’t empathize with them you can’t relate to the difficulty of the decisions.  It had to be done if they wanted to introduce these new guys and gals for the upcoming season but  I find myself sharing  misgivings with one of the characters at the end of the DLC who asks themselves “Is this really a good thing?”.

Overall it’s more of what you’d expect from The Walking Dead but in a highly condensed package that does not allow for you to really get to know anybody. 400 Days felt like a five clever ways to force you into uncomfortable decisions more than a coherent story of intertwined fates and makes more more nervous than ever in their ability to deliver an experience that will match last years success.

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