Greetings dear, neglected blog!
Today, I want to talk about – yes I know you already know, it’s in the title – The Walking Dead. I don’t mean the comics (I haven’t read them) and I don’t mean AMC’s TV series. I mean the game series by Telltale Games. The precis: it’s intense, emotional and surprising in its innovation.
I may be gushing somewhat, but I assure you that it is entirely justified. Having just completed the final episode, I can say that I have rarely been so affected by any form of fiction. It fills me with hope to be able to say that about a computer game.
What stands out, above even the excellent script and voice acting (those alone are enough to make this game stand out above most others), is how masterful the story is at using the fact that it is a game. This is that innovation I mentioned. The majority of the game is about making decisions: who do you save, who do you feed, who do you agree with? All of these matter.
It feels ridiculous for that to be novel – it has always been possible for games to do this. Telltale are just one of the few to have bothered to do it. CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher games deserve praise for this too. Everyone else is too scared to have content that people won’t see. Of course the story is better when actions have consequences.
There’s also some brilliant direction and design going on in The Walking Dead. Scenes combine with thoughtful use of different camera angles and motion to great effect, even out of cutscenes. This is a far cry from the usual rigid views of other games.
Finally, there are some fantastic scenes where the game uses its interactivity to heighten the emotion or tension in the story. I don’t mean the infrequent QTEs*. At times, you are forced into a try/fail cycle under pressure. The game makes you physically take part in more or less of the action, depending on the feeling required by that point in the story. I keep fighting the urge to describe individual instances in tedious detail. I finally succeeded.
Before playing it, I had some worries that The Walking Dead would be a matter of clicking to initiate the next cutscene. There’s an element of truth to that: there aren’t any real puzzles of the usual Telltale style, there’s no way of getting stuck. You are on a constant, unrelenting path to the end of the story. But you’re almost always taking part, steering conversations and having arguments as things get worse and worse. I would recommend this to anyone who has the stomach for such a gruelling tale.
* ‘Quick Time Events’ for those not down with gaming lingo: bash a button or series of buttons (often repeatedly) very quickly, in order to do a thing.