Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why Telltale's The Walking Dead Matters

Telltale Games' The Walking Dead came out as a downloadable game about six months ago. Even so, I just finished it, and it's been in the news as of late; might as well put it up for discussion. As the great modern philosopher Egoraptor once said, "Everything is happens for reason." Not to mention, after the mess that was the previous post, I thought I'd give you something that wasn't complete garbage.

For those of you who don't know, The Walking Dead is an episodic, downloadable game developed by Telltale Games, and it plays very much like the point-and-click adventure games of old (think Secret of Monkey Island). It follows a dude named Lee Everett as he protects Clementine, a girl he...just kinda found, in a zombie-infested Georgia. If you've read the comics or seen the show, you get the picture. The first episode dropped last summer, and the other four arrived throughout the remainder of the year. Unfortunately, the game flew under the radar until it started nabbing Game of the Year awards, with the most notable being from the abysmal Spike TV VGAs. Naturally, some people were upset, wondering how this assumed cash-in on the success of the television series triumphed over titles like Journey, Dishonored, and Mass Effect 3. I left out Assassin's Creed 3 from that list, because I was more surprised that it was nominated than that it lost.

You're looking at the pinnacle of interactive storytelling.
What I can say is that The Walking Dead is much more than deserving of this accolade. Above all else, it's one of the most new and unusual games released last year. The first thing anyone who has played it will tell you is that the gameplay is not The Walking Dead's true focus. Much of your time involves slowly moving around an area, talking to people, finding items, and performing various tasks. The pace is very slow, but it isn't always a bad thing; it only leads to the tense segments feeling much more active. When you get to the action, you'll quickly find that it involves quick-time events or pointing the cursor as fast as your reflexes allow. Not convinced? Don't write it off just yet. These portions are still fueled with as much adrenaline and emotion as the rest of the experience. Still not convinced? Hold on a second.

The main attraction here, and the reason for this game's importance, is The Walking Dead's story. The idea is that the game tailors the plot to the conversations you have and the actions you take. And it means it. Back someone up in a conversation? The other guy's going to be real pissed. Take too much time to assess a crisis? Your friend who was in trouble is gone. If you want to make it in this wasteland, you'll have to be fast and smart. Otherwise, you'll be travelling with a really small group. Usually, the issue people have with choose-your-own-adventure-type games is that one path is obviously more enjoyable than the other. Here, you'll be satisfied no matter how you play. And gosh darn, are the twists great. Anyone who's played will tell you how great the entirety of Episode 2 is, and the twist at the end of Episode 4 that drives Episode 5 throws a brilliant wrench into the protector/protected dynamic of Lee and Clem.

Characters in The Walking Dead have received no shortage of development. Each has his or her backstory, and each has his or her own motivations. Lee is an enigma atoning for his past, Kenny is the headstrong family man who only wants safety, Clem represents the remaining innocence in the wasteland, the list goes on. My friends and I were constantly forming and dissolving alliances with people, and, most commonly, uttering the phrase, "As soon as you get the chance, you gotta kill them."

This guy.
So it's a great game. What's the deal? The deal is, The Walking Dead just might set the standard for storytelling in games. In the future, these tactics might be met with some better gameplay, but I'm not complaining right now. The Walking Dead will most likely be counted among the great interactive story experiences this generation, such as Red Dead Redemption and the Mass Effect series. If you haven't understood anything I've said today, you're in luck. The Walking Dead is available on everything from PC to Xbox to the iPhone. So buy it, play it, love it.

This post was brought to you by Telltale Games.

No comments:

Post a Comment