Telltale’s adventure game based on Robert Kirkman’s wildly popular IP, The Walking Dead, was met with high critical acclaim for each part of its five episode first season when it released last year. It explored the possibilities of what many considered to be a stagnant, even dying, style of adventure – the point and click game. By emphasizing an incredibly engaging, branching storyline and character development only rivaled by The Last Of Us, Telltale was able to breathe new life into the genre. Instead of using the standard, frustrating point and click gameplay, they decided to focus on the dialogue system, which should be familiar to anyone who has played Mass Effect. Now, as gamers await the impending release of Season 2, Telltale have released a special DLC episode meant to bridge the gap between the seasons. But can a single episode really achieve the same emotional attachment gamers felt to the characters in the first season?
400 Days is, at the very least, a very interesting experiment in what the future could hold for both Season 2 (and beyond) as well as storytelling in games as a whole. Perspective shifting is a literary technique that has been used in books and movies for ages, but it is still a relatively new concept when it comes to storytelling in games. 400 Days explores this in quite some depth, with the player taking control of 5 different characters for about 20 minutes or so each. It may be that this is just Telltale’s way of setting the scene for Season 2, but there is also a pretty strong possibility that Telltale is testing out the response to this technique, and they may be planning to make use of it during Season 2.
Season 1′s strongest aspect was its ability to force players to make extremely tough decisions very quickly via the unique dialog system, which gives players a limited amount of time to make choices in conversation. 400 Days manages to retain this sense of emergency, and I was mostly happy about the variety of choices available.
The gameplay of 400 Days remains pretty much unchanged from season one, relying on a mixture of point and click gameplay and quick time events for the minor exploration and action aspects of the game. I did notice that the action parts of the game seemed to have been ramped up substantially compared to Season 1. This was probably a result of it being a much more compact take on the formula , with the game lasting only about an hour and a half in total.
The visuals are heavily stylized, making the game look more like a interactive graphic novel than anything else. I am a huge fan of this approach, as I love The Walking Dead as a comic series first and foremost, but I know there are many who dislike this approach and who would’ve preferred something a little more realistic.
Season 1 had a brilliant OST which helped to build tension during the climaxes of the game, as well as to lull players into a false sense of security during the relatively peaceful stages. There was much less use of music in 400 Days, which was disappointing in a way, but I understand that they couldn’t design a whole new soundtrack just for a DLC episode. The other sound effects were great, especially the zombie noises, which I thought were done extremely well.
400 Days adds a ton of replay value, as not only do your decisions from Season 1 affect the background of what happens in 400 Days, but also your decisions in 400 Days will impact what happens in Season 2. It actually gives players a reason to go back and play through Season 1 again, just so they can see all the different consequences of their possible choices.
In the end, 400 Days is a solid addition to the series, and a must buy for anyone who played and enjoyed Season 1. I would highly recommend it to pretty much anyone, as it really is at the forefront of storytelling in games. As an appetizer for Season 2, it certainly satisfied my appetite for the one and a half hours that it lasted, but I’m left even hungrier for more. If you haven’t played Season 1 yet, you owe it to yourself to at least try the first episode. In all likelihood, you will end up finishing the rest in a matter of days.
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 9/10
Gameplay/Design – 8.5/10
Visuals – 8/10
Sound – 8/10
Lasting Appeal – 8.5/10
Overall – 9/10
(Not an average)
Platform: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games