PC Review — The Walking Dead: 400 Days

The Walking Dead: 400 days is DLC for Telltale Games’ Season 1.  However, it ends up being more of a prequel of Season 2.  Told in five short segments, it’s setting up for the second season, which is coming later this year. In each segment, you control one of five survivors through a defining moment in their life after the zombie apocalypse, ranging from “as it’s happening” to “over a year later.”  One of the strongest assets of the first season is the fact you spent so much time with all those characters that you were strongly attached to them.  How does this carry over to a much-shorter session?

There certainly isn’t anything quite as heart rending or moving as Season 1, but for being incredibly brief they still had quite the impact. There was more than one time during the segments that I flinched alongside the characters, or I was completely shocked by the turn of events.  Despite being short, the segments are masterfully well done—I blew through the hour and a half of content in a single sitting, but mostly because I wanted to experience more.  They are were well-paced and interesting. As well, they were also extremely varied; no two stories were alike, but they were all varied and interesting.  At the end of it, I got the sense it was not so much about the stories they were telling, but more about setting up established character prologues for the next game. Also very important—the decisions you make in this batch of DLC will carry over to Season 2! This means we’re having some choice into how the characters are going into the sequel.  Ramifications from decisions in 1 weren’t massive in terms of game play, but they changed up the way characters reacted in a way that was brilliant and organic; characters became more bitter or taken with you in a gradual way that felt very human.

“But I have zombie fatigue!” you might (understandably) say. And that’s fair! Zombies have been done to undeath, but that’s not what I’m recommending this for. Its stories are amazing; characters are developed on par with some AAA blockbusters in any media.  In 20 minutes, I formed an attachment to several of these characters that I’m looking forward to seeing how Tell Tale is going to develop these in the future. The zombies just happen to be a hazard; there’s no thought to the ‘origin’ of them, or where they came from.

The Walking Dead is an adventure game, though there’s not a whole lot of adventuring seen in these short vignettes.  The controls remain the same; you point and click on things in the background to interact with them, and movement is done with WASD. It’s a responsive, if simple, control scheme. My only annoyance comes when there’s a camera and control angle disconnect. For example, when you’re walking down a road that veers off to the left a little, and you hold W to go forward, you’ll go straight forward, and not along the curvature of the road.  Considering it otherwise nails so many small atmospheric and story cues, when it happens, it’s fairly noticeable.  Technically, it’s fairly solid.  The graphics aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re stylistic and very efficient; I didn’t experience a hiccup on the PC version. They do their job well, without any sort of flash or fanfare.  The music and voice acting are top notch, though—nearly every reaction is believable, both graphically and voice-wise. The score highlights the scene in the game; while there are no catchy tracks, it serves its purpose as ambient or scene-setting sounds in a way that only helps accent the events going on.

So do yourself a favor, if you find yourself craving a well-crafted, moving narrative packaged as a game, pick up Season 1 and 400 Days. Or, if you’ve already worked through Season 1, pick up this DLC to whet your appetite until the second season is out.  Also, there’s nothing as heart-wrenching in this one, so you don’t have to worry about shedding tears openly while your manly friends are in the room.

I mean, I would never cry during a game. Open weeping? Definitely off the table.

Note: Details are pretty sparse in this post. As it’s a new release, I wanted to hold off on discussing too much of the characters and events until some time has passed. Same reason why there’s no pictures.