The Walking Dead - Elevator Scene

Episode 5 of the Walking Dead is completed and I can now say with confidence that it’s a bad game. But wait, there’s more…

It’s a Good Story

I’m not saying decent anymore. The Walking Dead definitely tells a good, even great story. There’s plenty of twists, there’s drama, and there’s an emotional involvement for the player. It’s hard to write about it in detail without spoiling anything, so I won’t, but I’ll definitely say that it’s one of the better stories I’ve experienced in the past few years, at least when it comes to newer games.

The Walking Dead - Final Four

Your choices apparently determine the final group composition.

The game is worth buying and playing for the story alone. As for other stuff, well…

The Characters

I have to separate the characters from the story here, because evaluating these two elements as one would lower the grade. I’m sorry, but the characters are inconsistent and often make no sense. Throughout the game, I felt like the game was trying to make me feel one emotion for a character, but ended up having a completely different effect.

I’ll say it again, maybe it’s me – maybe I’m the weird one out. I don’t think I am, though.

Oh, and one more thing about the characters. I’ve seen plenty of people argue you don’t need good graphics to show emotion. It’s true, you don’t. You do need excellent voice acting to compensate in that case, though, and this game only has adequate voice acting, nothing more. Because of that, some of the scenes can be a bit unsettling or awkward.

The Walking Dead - Kenny

I really hated Kenny before this room. He got a bit better from here.

This might be controversial, but at this point, I’m honestly thinking that a lot of gamers want games to generally be as accepted as other art forms so badly, that they’ll ignore the bad elements as long as the good elements seem worth showing off.

Which brings us to the gameplay.

There’s nothing to Write About

All the while playing through the five episodes of the Walking Dead, I was enjoying the story to a degree, but there was something about the game that was just off-putting, that made it an unsatisfying experience. I couldn’t quite understand what it was, but it kept nagging at me, all the way to the end of the fifth episode.

Now that I’m here, writing about it, I finally understand what it was.

When I was playing Might and Magic Book One, I could write two pages of notes just from playing through a single dungeon. I could do that, and there’s almost no story in Might and Magic Book One.

The Walking Dead is all story, but there is absolutely nothing to write about. Why is that?

I’m not Doing Anything

I never did, actually. Sure, I push a button every now and then, and maybe those button pushing sections are made in a way to make the drama you’re watching a bit better, but most of the time, you’re just watching, and again, those button pushing sections are made to watch a better drama, not play it.

The Walking Dead - Rooftop View

Seeing how close some of the locations are makes the story of the final four episodes a bit more logical.

Some of you will say that this is completely acceptable, that it’s maybe even better that way. Fine, that’s your opinion and I respect it. I couldn’t agree more, though, especially when you want to nominate a game like that as game of the year. It has almost no gameplay to speak of and you want to nominate it for Game of the year? Really? How does that make sense?!

Hell, I’d nominate Offspring Fling as Game of the Year sooner than I would the Walking Dead.

I know I’m not Consistent

If I was playing an old Lucas Arts adventure right now, I’d probably feel about the same. Walking Dead is a much simpler game than any of the older Lucas Arts adventures, but I wouldn’t have much to write about Monkey Island 3 without revealing the story either.

The Walking Dead - Elevator Scene

The game certainly offers great screenshot opportunities. I have to give it that.

Still, those were games that felt like you were playing them. You had freedom and options. It was all an illusion and there was still only one way to go forward, but illusions are important in games, or at least they are to me.

At least, I would have been able to write about those illusions. I could put up a screenshot of a non-story related humorous part, or write about a completely over the top and illogical, but fun puzzle.

At least with those games, you felt like you were beating them, which is what I expect games to offer me, first and foremost. With the Walking Dead, the game is just unfolding in front of me – I’m not the one doing anything. It’s more like the game is playing me.

It’s an Empty Gaming Experience

Again, it’s a good story, but the Walking Dead simply does not give me what I want from games – a game. A system of rules I can work with in order to master them, figure them out and beat them. I’m not against a great story. I love a great story in games. I don’t want just a great story. I want all of the above to.

It makes me Feel Detached

The more that I think about the Walking Dead and modern AAA games, the more I think that most of these games are going in the same direction. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an AAA title that gave me what I want in the past few years.

The Walking Dead - From Above

Again, some great screenshots in this game.

I can think of plenty of retro games that did, and I can list a bunch of indie titles that did it, but not AAA games. Am I really that detached from the mainstream industry? Is it really just me that has this problem? I can’t be the only one, right?

I’m not Mad, Though

So the AAA gaming industry doesn’t really interest me anymore. Somehow, it doesn’t upset me. The thing is, I recently realized there are so many great games out there I haven’t played yet, it’s really difficult to be upset when you realize a tiny subset of games isn’t made for you anymore.

I guess I’ll just stick with retro and indie games for now. Trends change, so I might play a high budget game with deep mechanics again. Torment seems like it might be fun. The new Shadowrun already looks fun. We’ll see.

For now, I’m thinking I should move on to Might and Magic Book Two.

The Walking Dead - Kid Zombie

Did it The Walking Dead get any better? No! Yes. Maybe…

The thing is, I’m not really sure if it did get better. I mean, I enjoyed the story in the first two episodes and I’m continuing to enjoy it. I did it in spite of the gameplay in the first two episodes and I’m still doing it in spite of the gameplay. I does seem like I enjoy it a bit more, though.

The Story still isn’t perfect

On the one hand, the characters and the story of the Walking Dead did sort of grow on me. On the other hand, I’m noticing some new annoyances. At times, and this is relatively often, the writing can get lazy. Maybe it’s because of all the branching options and budgetary issues, but suddenly, characters seem to completely shift their personality, just to provide a plot point.

The Walking Dead - A Random Photo

It’s difficult to pick screenshots that don’t spoil too much of the story, so here’s a random photo.

It reminds me of the TV show Glee, where each and every character has a personality that fits their role in the episode and absolutely nothing is consistent.

At first, some random guy is all nice and helpful. Then the story slows down and we need some conflict, so suddenly he’s a cowardly, spineless moron. A few moments later he’s all nice again and then he’s suddenly a traitor.

The Walking Dead - Clementine Learning to Shoot

Clementine learns how to shoot.

It doesn’t just happen with a single character, it happens with most of them, except maybe Clementine and the couple you meet towards the end of episode 3 and even there, the woman can show these symptoms at times.

The Gameplay continues to annoy

I’ve gotten used to the lack of it by now, but it’s still annoying to go through an intense part, only for everyone to suddenly slow down, without any sense of urgency left and “give you a chance to talk to them”. It’s obvious that this is what the Walking Dead is doing. The developers decided you don’t bind with the characters enough through storytelling, so they make you talk to them and force you to bind that way.

The Walking Dead - Kid Zombie

There are zombie kids to.

To me, this, again, looks like lazy writing – instead of figuring out how to do it right, the game just gives you a round of talking every half an hour or so. It might not be obligatory – I haven’t checked, but it sure feels that way. I mean, at one point, I start at the front of a train, and on every screen, there’s a character waiting to talk.

Now, this could be OK, if it only didn’t happen so often. As it is, the Walking Dead feels extremely formulaic which, to me, ruins the immersion.

I was actually surprised at one point

OK. Honestly, the game isn’t as bad as I’m making it seem. I’m just focusing on the bad parts. The truth is, I’m enjoying the story about as much as I enjoyed the story of the TV show. After getting used to the bad gameplay, I’m doing a better job at getting it over with quickly, so it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. The fact that I enabled the option to better indicated interactive spots on the screen also helps – I figured since I’m not playing it for the sake of playing it, I might as well make the playing part as easy and quick as possible.

And as I said, the story did surprise me a few times. I was starting to get used to the basic formula, so at one moment, I thought to myself “oh great, and now this one dies to”, only to have the game pull a Mass Effect 3 Grunt dies and then he doesn’t move. Of course, the game did it somewhere between a few extremely predictable events, so let’s not give it too much credit.

Bugs are starting to show

So we’re back to talking trash about the Walking Dead. I started to encounter bugs, especially in episode 3. It’s mostly limited to graphical glitches, but sometimes, it also affects gameplay. Objects at the edge of the screen disappear from before they’re completely gone from the camera’s view, or sometimes even if they’re right down smack in the middle of the screen.

The Walking Dead - Molly

Molly is one of the new arrivals to.

The worst, and the funniest, was when one of the characters (I don’t want to spoil too much) was holding their child in their arms – the kid completely disappeared, making the woman basically hold an air baby. It really ruined the scene, which was supposed to be sad.

The Rules serve the Story

This is another example of lazy writing. The characters talk about how they lack ammo, but two minutes later, you get to shoot zombies to infinity, though it could have been written in a way to make the whole ordeal avoidable.

In Episode 2, everyone was hungry, but in episode 3 and 4 the lack of food, which is apparent, is barely even mentioned.

There’s one thing that also concerns the TV show, and probably the graphical novel series. The gist of it is that everyone is infected. It doesn’t matter how you die – if the brain lives, you get back up. The reason why you die due to zombie bites is because they infect you with various germs and stuff, so that random infection kills you.

Well, that’s fine, but I don’t understand two things:

  1. How is it possible that each and every little bite, no matter how tiny, always kills you, unless you cut off the limb or something?
  2. If the above is possible, how is it possible that you get to walk around with an open wound, with zombies crawling all over you, but you’re safe, as long as they don’t bite you?

Did anything that would explain these two things ever happen in the novel, TV show or the game? I honestly can’t remember, and it makes no sense to me.

I mean, they’re walking, feeding dead people, so I guess some suspense of disbelief is needed, but if the rule was invented for the sake of realism, then it should be consistent, or at least sort of logical.

Saving moment

As I said, though, it’s not all bad. At one point, the game at least considered the idea of zombies starving to death. I don’t want to describe the moment completely, but there was a zombie that died of hunger and then rose, continuing to not have any food until the game’s characters find it. It wasn’t able to stand straight, so I guess that the corpses do eventually stop moving and there is some sort of metabolism involved in the whole hunger thing.

Some of the Characters are extremely annoying

I won’t say which characters, because again, the story is the only thing the Walking Dead is worth playing for, so I don’t want to spoil it, but several characters exist in the game that I just wished would die at the start. They’re inconsistent, annoying and the game is trying to show them as people important to Lee, which makes no sense to me, because all they ever did was to demand too much from Lee and bee completely unreasonable.

The Walking Dead - The Couple

The married (?) couple are the most consistent characters in the game.

There’s one character that’s especially like this, and it should soon become obvious to anyone playing the game.

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the one whose brain doesn’t work right, so it just seems off to me. Feel free to insult me in the comments if you disagree.

It’s Mass Effect 3, throughout

That’s honestly how it feels. Mass Effect had a great overarching story. I absolutely loved most of it. However, each game had branching parts and they all needed to somehow end. Even from one game to another, it was getting obvious the writers were trapping themselves, creating too many branches and making it too difficult to end it all properly and tie up the loose ends.

Tying up the three games with each other was difficult enough, and it showed between the sequels. Ending it all completely was basically impossible, which is why the ending of Mass Effect 3 was received so badly.

With the Walking Dead, it seems like the writers had this problem constantly, since there are so many branching moments throughout the game. At points, the only viable choice was to simply merge two branches badly, because leaving them separate would create an impossible situation.

From what I see other people saying, this is exactly what’s happening. The game’s story adapts and changes depending on your choices, but there are so many choices that most of them just don’t matter. A character fills a role taken by another character, or the game doesn’t put that character in the spotlight any more, or it simply kills them off soon enough.

Sadly, I think it would have been better if some of these choices simply didn’t exist. At least then, the writing would have probably been better.

It’s the exact same thing I said in my previous posting – the fact that they wanted a game; the gameplay, is working against the story.

It’s a Good Story

I keep repeating this, because I have to. It isn’t A Song of Ice and Fire, but the Walking Dead provides an interesting story, which I want to follow to completion.

I’m looking forward to playing the last episode of the Walking Dead. In one small part, it’s because I just want to finally get it over with, but a much larger part of it is because I want to see how it ends.

The Walking Dead - Zombies on Spikes

Zombies on spikes! It had to happen at some point.

The Walking Dead isn’t a good game, but it’s a good story and a good experience. It could have been better, but as it is, it’s more than likely worth your time. If you can spend the time to watch the TV show, you certainly can spend the time to play this game.