Last year, someone at Sony developer, Naughty Dog, mentioned that storytelling needs to be better implemented. They are basically saying storytelling in gaming pretty much sucks, and I happen to agree with what they said. Most of the time, it seems like storytelling gets pushed into the backseat when a game is being developed, or is just not there at all. I really do enjoy the story to a game, and if the story sucks, I do deduct points from the overall score I give the game. Sure, some games like Fallout and Skyrim spread their story thin over the game because they want you to be immersed in that game’s world, but when stories are spread thin, I always lose interest unless the world I am playing in is interesting to me. We have had many companies show that they can make good stories, characters, and set pieces within said story. We have companies like Naughty Dog, Bioware, Rockstar, Double Fine Productions, and Sony Santa Monica Studios, who are willing to sit down and show what goes into making a good story, characters, and setting. Now then, let us talk about TellTale Games. This little developer is all about taking licensed properties and turning them into adventure games that are story driven. Most of the time they do a really good job at being loyal to said license and making an entertaining adventure game out of it. They really got big when they made an adventure game a year or more ago based off Back to the Future. In 2011 however, they did hit a bit of a bump in the road in their ride to fame and glory with the Jurassic Park game that got mixed reviews and wasn’t as well-loved as the Back to the Future game they made, or the Monkey Island game made before that one. I bring this company up because with a genre like the adventure game, you need to make the story and characters center stage or else you are going to be playing just a boring game with interesting puzzles. Their recent game based off of the Walking Dead however brings adventure gaming and storytelling to a whole other level of amazingness. I mean it also, I am not the only one saying this. The Walking Dead game based off of the popular comic got critical acclaim and won many Game of the Year awards, to many people’s surprise. While I don’t think it was Game of the Year for 2012, it is one of my favorite games of all time. It is a well-made game with just some slight bumps within the overall game design that keep it from being one of the top 5 best games of 2012 for me. However, this game is in my top 10 of 2012.
The story starts out in Georgia with a 36-year-old African American man named Lee Everett, voiced by Dave Fennoy, who is in the back of a police car leaving Atlanta. As the police officer is escorting Lee out of the city, they hit a walker, and the police car falls off the road and tumbles down the side of the road. Lee then wakes up and gets out of the police car that is now upside down. He notices the cop that was driving was outside and apparently dead on the ground. As he gets out of his cuffs and kills the newly walker-fied police officer, he finds refuge at a home and looks around for something to help him get out of the area safely. At the home, he meets a young girl named Clementine, voiced by Melissa Hutchison. After they escape her house after yet another walker attack, they journey out of Atlanta on their way to find Clementine’s parents, and meet many other survivors, and try to survive against the zombie apocalypse. I don’t want to spoil anything else for the few of you that have not played this game yet, but know this about the game’s story. The game’s story is one of the most well-developed, thought-provoking, depressing, dark, and well-told stories I have ever seen in a video game. The characters are fleshed out, and the relationship between Lee and Clementine is fantastic. You will love the story from beginning to end. I mean, yeah, there are some slow areas, and yes, there are some things that are way too convenient, but the overall story is one of the best that gaming has to offer.
The gameplay is basically a 3D point-and-click adventure game where you go around different areas solving puzzles, going through some simple action sequences, and going through some rather serious moral choices. Just like Witcher 2 and Mass Effect, you will go through the game making choices on what you do, say, and what will happen within the game, unlike games like X-Men Destiny where any choices you make in that mediocre mess of a game, results in nothing. In this game, the choices DO matter, and will make the entire game different each time you play through it. I mean, that is only if you want to make it different each time. The combat sections are simple in execution, where you are in a first-person mode and shoot zombies, or you are pressing a button for a quick-time event. They aren’t the main focus, so most of the time you will be, like I said, solving puzzles, finding items, and picking what to do or say in order to progress the story. This is a nice change of pace since there is no multiplayer to distract you from the main game. The main single-player mode is actually quite lengthy, taking up about 10 or more hours. I’d recommend playing one episode at a time and not do a whole run-through of the story in one day due to the length of the later episodes.
The graphics are very well done. I like that they took the comic book version of the licensed property for the art direction. I just feel like the graphics in other Telltale games look a bit last gen at times, but The Walking Dead definitely has the best graphics of any of their games so far. The world around you is in great detail, and there are huge amounts of color used within the environments. The animations, while at times a little clunky, are fairly smooth. The atmosphere is just perfect. I like that there is either no music or just a small melody playing in the background. It really does match the tone of the show in the sense that something could happen, but you don’t know when. The voice acting is also perfect. They got some really good voice actors to portray the characters, and whoever was in charge of the actors deserves a gold medal for their portrayal of the flawed, but memorable characters. I think what really made me care about the whole story was, of course, the relationship between Lee and Clementine. In the end, you really do get an extremely close father-daughter relationship. I am surprised how much I cared about Clementine since, like in Ni No Kuni, they could have easily messed up the child character and made them either annoying or just not interesting. You really feel for her and the rest of the humans in the game, but thank goodness they didn’t mess up her character!
So, what don’t I like about this game? To be honest, I have very few problems with this game. I do have, however, some minor complaints that build up over time. The first problem is the frame rate during one moment in Episode 3 really chugs and slows down, and it becomes a little nauseating when the frame rate speeds back up and then slows down. I feel like the game engine that TellTale always uses has these little technical issues. I say this because another issue I have is a timing bug that happens when a character is talking. The subtitles and the voices can be heard, but the screen freezes and then shows the person who was talking, but all you see are their lips moving. It kind of breaks the immersion factor since you want to be pulled into this game’s great story, but when this bug happens, it just pulls you out. I also feel like Episode 3 and 4 were drawn out by some unneeded moments. It’s a shame since most of the game’s pacing is great. It just slows down when you hit the middle area of the story. I also feel like some emotional moments are not as powerful as they could have been. For example, in Episode 3, you either have the choice of shooting a woman who is being surrounded by walkers, or let her get eaten so you and another character can have time to get more supplies. The choice doesn’t come off as intense or have any moral value to it because the only reason you would want to shoot the woman is to shut up her annoying screaming. It is VERY annoying.
Even with these technical and pacing issues, this is one of the best games of last year. Is it Game of the Year material? No, but I can see why some sites named it Game of the Year of 2012. If you have a PS3 and 360, I would highly recommend either downloading the episodes or getting the full retail copy for 30 dollars. I am happy to hear that Telltales are going to make a sequel to this game, and I hope they do as good of a job with the sequel as they did with this game. If you want an amazing example of video game storytelling, look no further than The Walking Dead.
This game gets a 9 out of 10.