The Walking Dead: Season 1 Review
May as well be the best zombie game to have come out in quite some time
There is no doubt that when it comes to movie, TV show or comic book video game adaptations there have been more misses than hits, so naturally when a game based on the Walking Dead franchise was announced many kept their hopes low, especially since it was going to be an episodic point-and-click adventure. On the other hand, the studio responsible for the title’s development was Telltale Games, and if there is one thing that these guys have shown us is that they know how to create great games while fully respecting their source material. Fortunately, from the very first episode, the game proved more than worthy of Telltale’s reputation.
The 1st season of the Walking Dead game consists of five episodes, each taking around 2-3 hours to complete. The game’s story takes place in the world of Robert Kirkman’s comic books rather than that of the AMC series. The events occur sometime before Rick Grimes – the main protagonist of the comic and the series – wakes up from his comma, which allows a few cameo appearances from well known characters like Glenn Rhee and Hershel Greene, but without spoiling anything for those who are not familiar with the Walking Dead universe. In fact, the game can be perfectly enjoyed by someone who has never watched the series or read the comics, since it mostly features new characters and the overall situation is cleverly explained in the early conversations and events of episode 1.
We are introduced to the main protagonist, Lee Everett, a former history teacher, as he is being transported to jail after being arrested for murder. We do not get much information about Lee as his conversation with the officer transporting him is cut short when the car hits a walker (as the undead are often called in the Walking Dead universe) and crashes. Lee barely makes it, and after managing to exit the car and deal with the dead police officer who has come back as a walker, he finds refuge in a seemingly abandoned house. Soon enough he is attacked by another walker and manages to escape with the aid of Clementine, the young daughter of the house owners. As Clementine has been left all alone, with the exact fate of her parents remaining unknown – although it is heavily hinted that things are not so good for them – Lee takes her under his protection.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the story is the relationship between the two main characters as it evolves through each episode; we see Lee start to genuinely care for Clementine, protecting her and eventually turning into a sort of father figure for the little girl. The story progresses as Lee and Clementine meet other survivors, some friendly and others not so much. Much like the series and the comics, the game’s story is less about the undead and the threat they pose, and more about the people and how each of them reacts to the situation. The characters that we meet are everyday people who respond realistically to the ‘apocalypse’ that they are facing. They are human, therefore flawed; they get frustrated, they freak out, they get angry at each other, and they are often overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding them. Moreover, we will meet characters that have resorted to all kinds of extremes in order to survive, having actually become way more dangerous than the walkers.
From the beginning of the game Telltale promises the player a “tailored” gameplay experience, which is true to a certain extent. Choices do affect some parts of the story but they mostly impact your relationships with other characters. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices to make and there is almost never a way of keeping everybody happy. As the player is asked to make a certain decision it is never clear to them what the consequences might be. Additionally those decisions are never easy; in a life threatening situation who are you going to help? and how will you deal with the criticism of your fellow survivors? When food is scarce, how do you divide it?