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Recognition of Mortality: The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review

by on July 10, 2013

Developer: Telltale Games   Publisher: Telltale Games  Rated: M for Mature
Available: Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, PC, iOS   MSRP: $4.99
Release Date: July 2 (Playstation Network), July 3 (PC), July 5 (Xbox Live Arcade), July 11 (iOS App Store)

By Terry Randolph and Chris Medrano

Warning: Heavy Spoilers throughout the discussion. We also played the Xbox Live Arcade version.

Last year, TellTale Games created a magnificent, if technically flawed game called The Walking Dead: Season 1. The game is a story of a group within the world of the famous comic book that shares the same name from creator Robert Kirkman. The characters feel real, believable and do a fantastic job examining the psychological toil people experience in such a harsh world. It is a tale that is influenced by the choices and action you make; some of them having an outcome that feels like a lose-lose. The tone is somber, melancholic, but very immersive and real. The artwork is fantastic, and maintains the tone of the story perfectly. Overall, it is a game I would think anyone should play, justifiably deserving its Game of the Year award and commendations.

Last week, Telltale Games released a special episode that takes place inbetween  Season 1 and Season 2 called The Walking Dead: 400 Days. My friend, and fellow reviewer, Chris Medrano sat down to play it with me. For this review, we decided to discuss the game, story, mechanics and graphics. Just as another warning, major spoilers for the game in this discussion:

Terry: So you were the first to play, what did you think about it?

Chris: I thought it was good, I liked the ending…it was different because it wasn’t a full story. I thought it was weird because it was like “Pick five” I was like oh…these are really short, this is kinda dumb. After I played Wyatt, then I played Vince and was like “Oh nice story, that was it? I only played for 20 minutes.” As Wyatt, “I went Oh No! The Truck dude!” then the truck dude disappeared. It made me go “Well, ok, I haven’t done anything yet…nice stories?”. Then for the third one I played as, who was it? Chick and her sister?

Terry: Steph and Becca?

Chris: Yeah. Was it that one I started? When I started playing and thought “Oh, they’re all part of a story together.” Especially after Russel, I noticed that the diner was connecting them. I wanted to play through the game again to connect the pieces.

Terry: Even though I know they were trying to make it a “special episode”, I honestly thought they could have split them each into an episode, you know? It felt like there was more to each story, and it felt like they were a little bit short, and I get what they were doing. I do-

Chris: It was interesting, because we’re used to last year’s game [The Walking Dead: Season 1] and that was Game of the Year…for most people. That was one epic story compared to, now we have five. I was worried it would be like Resident Evil 6 where it would have too many stories but it was fine. Like when Vince had the gun, and he shot someone, I was still confused about it and I wonder if anyone figured it out.

Terry: When he shot –

Chris: He shot someone, and the guy was like “That wasn’t your brother,” or… “I don’t know your brother,” Who was she shooting at? Was it Glenn?

Terry: I don’t think – It might’ve been.

Chris: We don’t know if anyone is connected.

Terry: It’s hinted that they will be part of season 2, based off of what Telltale has been talking about on their website. What was interesting was that if you kind of look at it from how it was all set up, it was really one campaign or one story interwoven in segments of non-chronological events.

Chris: It was kind of chronological if you choose your chose your stories from left to right, it would go from “2 Days later” to “40 Days Later” slowly

Terry: It was interesting that, you know how the game tells you your decisions are going to play out later on? If you would’ve Wyatt’s first before playing with Russel, you would’ve seen the finger broken. For example, the bloodstain in the Diner in Becca’s story that you can look at it and go “I wonder why that bloodstain was there?”…that was the Old Man/Woman in Russel’s story.

Chris: Oh yeah! So they did that first and then…the sisters. So what’s the order.

Terry: So Vince is first…wait. No wait it goes Vince, then Wyatt, (Nate) Russel, Bonnie then the Sisters.

Chris: It could’ve been Russel, then Bonnie, then the sisters.

Terry: I think the sisters were supposed to be the last one.

Chris: Yeah because they found the flashlight

….

Terry: I get that there were more key parts for other stories but…I wanted to know what happened to the others like Vince after he got off the bus

Chris: They hinted at it, like with Danny

Terry:  But what would have happened if you shot the other guys leg –

Chris: We didn’t play through every option

Terry: I mean afterwards, like how would it have affected Vince’s perspective. Like the guy in front of you was a rapist, but the guy behind you was a little pretentious but extorting money from people on Wall Street who were extorting people. How would their journey had been? How did everyone meet up. It felt weird.

Chris: Like they were bros before all this.

Terry: Yeah. The other thing that bugged me was that you see the board, but you have no idea you’re supposed to move and select the story.

Chris: You’re confused for a minute like “Oh you need to move.” It was a small, simple thing.

Terry: Overall though the storytelling was great.

Chris: Especially when you put the pieces together. I kind of like putting the pieces together like that lead to that, and reading up more on them.

Terry: Yeah, it was cool reading up on the easter eggs to see how each story intertwined. I really like the art style.

Chris: You don’t need an epic, realistic look. Although I wonder how that would look.

Terry: I don’t think it would.

Chris: You’ve seen how Survival Instincts looks.

[laugh]

Terry: I don’t think it would’ve been as effective, I think the animated style is what brings out the tone in the atmosphere in the game.

Chris: How about that works for stories and all that, but what if it was an open world Walking Dead game with realistic graphics, do you think that would work?

Terry: I think it could, it just depends on –

Chris: If it looks really good and is well done.

Terry: It’s the execution

Chris: With Survival Instinct they went “We need to rush this for Season 3’s ending”

Terry: The problem I had with Survival Instinct was that I knew it was going to be bad when they didn’t show gameplay trailers.

Chris: Had potential, needed to be open world…why are we talking about Survival Instinct?

 

Terry: Just about execution in general. Getting back to 400 days its execution is done well, and the look of it sells it really well too.

Chris: Pricing wise it’s 1 DLC, 400 MS points, and you’re entertained for a good…2 hours? You can go through it back more if you wanted to.

….

Chris: I think one issue I had was that you know how they your decision makes huge impacts? Like in the other episodes you make choices but it still ends up getting to the same point.

Terry: That’s the interesting thing about with Telltale’s game, they promise that your decision affects the game heavily but there are limitations. Like Mass Effect, where they promise you huge changes but it doesn’t.

Chris: A change in color scheme!

Terry: [laughs] Yeah, but it was subtle changes if that makes sense.

The conversation continued on with our ramblings and musings, but we both came to the same conclusion: this is something fans of the Telltale game should play and enjoy. The stories are written sharply, and are unflinching in showing the turmoil characters are going through in this world. Not to mention the artwork is terrific and fits perfectly with the tone the story had. Even though the stories can feel short at times, and some technical freezes can happen, the game does a great job setting up things to come for Season 2. You can play the game with only having played episode 1 of season 1, but you’ll truly appreciate this more if you play through all the first five episodes.

So tell us what do you think about the game? The story? Are you looking forward the next season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead?

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