Friday, 31 October 2014

The Walking Dead


I enjoy PC games that tell stories, and games where you get pulled in, to become an actor in that story, making decisions that can change things. We all love it when we read a book or film and think: "What would I do in that situation?" With a good game you can find out.

Since it's Halloween, I decided to replay the PC game The Walking Dead (Season 1). Forget the zombies, it's an emotional tale of a man redeeming himself and protecting a young girl. By the end of the fifth and final episode many gamers reported being upset and emotional in a way they had not experienced before in a game - something more familiar to book readers. To be upset you have to care about the characters. This is a game that is all about characters, and difficult (if sometimes artificial) decisions. I couldn't help but be impressed at how this story was told. And if you enjoy The Walking Dead comics, and Romero's first three zombie films (Night, Dawn, Day), this will certainly scratch your itch. Remember the paradox: the biggest danger, but also sometimes your best help, is other people.

As has been hinted at above, the game is treated like a TV series, with chapters called Episodes. I have no problem with that, apart from the one main annoyance: at the end of some "episodes" there is a "Coming soon!" trailer that gives away plot points from the next episode! I hate that in any medium. Not only does it act as spoilers, but it implies the creator doesn't have faith that they have made a product good enough to tempt you back. The easy workaround was to turn off my monitor and speakers and leave it for a few minutes, but I thought I'd better warn you about that if you want to avoid spoilers.

What does the game involve? Well, mostly you will make choices from dialogue which can have an effect on your relationships with other characters; you make decisions against time limits (which sometimes determine who lives or dies, and who travels with you); occasionally you do quick-time events; and you solve simple puzzles (such as finding an axe to break down a door). Usually nothing is too taxing, and your agency is often limited, but it still feels like you are a part of the story, and it works. It works because it reinforces the story, rather than distracting from it. The characters and story carry you through, and by the end you care. That's quite an achievement.

You can buy The Walking Dead (Season 1) for £4.74 on Steam until 3rd November 2014 - that's 75% off! If you're stuck for Halloween entertainment, that's my recommendation.
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2 comments:

Alyson said...

I can confirm it is very emotional and character driven. I only watched the last 10+ mins but was already beginning to get teary at the end...

Karl Drinkwater said...

And that's without experiencing what the characters had gone through up until that point! Really good voice acting.