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Season 1 Verdict: A Worthwhile Failure

posted by Textbook on - last edited - Viewed by 120 users

(Mistakenly posted to non-spoiler forum earlier, sorry, am noob.)

Episodes 1-3 of The Walking Dead were magnificent. Sure, the wheels started to come off in Ep3 when the game revealed its intent to nullify every decision you made-

Kenny: Lee do you think it's a good idea to travel by train?
Lee: Well this story is already on rails so I can't see how it would make a difference.

-but Ep3 is the only game that has ever made me cry. (Duck's death of course. Much more affecting than Lee's which I saw coming as soon as I realised he was black. Ha ha. Or is it? Gotta kill the black guy off, Hollywood tradition ;))
Bum notes became more frequent in Ep 4 and 5 (Chuck's death- a waste of an interesting character. Why have him in the game if you were just going to throw him under a bus. Vernon's betrayal. Just doesn't add up. Ben's general pointlessness. Keep him around and he'll... die a bit later on, having never done anything. The fifth episode being walking straight ahead while clicking on little dots now and then.)

But like Heavy Rain, which similarly started of brilliant only to falter at the finish line (for different reasons, specifically an insane plot twist that doesn't work at all- sure Campman is a bit of a twist and it's arguable whether it works, but it's far more palatable than what Heavy Rain tries) The Walking Dead is not a bad game. In fact it's well above average and should be played by anybody interested in progressive gaming. But it's still a stepping stone towards interactive fiction that really works, it's not the goal itself, because it has serious issues.

The crutch of these serious issues, what makes me call it a failure, is that it, lets not mince words here, completely gyps the player re: your-choices-matter. Not only does the game not tailor itself to your decisions, it does the *precise opposite*. It takes all your decisions and bends them back around to what has already been scripted. Heavy Rain, whatever you thought of, gives you wildly different conclusions depending on your actions. The Walking Dead is imo even more successful than Heavy Rain in terms of atmosphere and narrative, but gets this completely wrong.

Think about it. You can not determine a single death or survival in The Walking Dead, not one, and in the context of a zombie survival game that's the most intriguing idea. You can't do a single thing to alter these character's ultimate fates.

Remember people deciding back in Episode 1 that they were going to play Lee as a villain? How did that work out for you? I especially liked how I did not steal from the car, only to more or less break the story when Campman tracked me down to ruin my life because I, um, *wasn't* responsible for ruining his.

Telltale need to either
i) Drop the your-choices-matter angle
or ii) Give Season 2 genuinely divergent endings.

I think the real problem here is the (imo wrong) decision to have Season 2 continue the world of Season 1. If Season 2 were a completely fresh continuity, Season 1 could end any damn way it pleases. Lee could throw Clementine to a pack of zombies to save his own life, whatever. You can't tell us we control these character's destinies, and then reveal it's a pick a path book where every path leads to the same ending on pg 73, and then expect us to be satisfied.

Some might say this is not the problem with the game, but rather false advertising. For example, nobody ranted about Sam And Max having a pre-determined conclusion, but then it wasn't a central hook of that game that it didn't. Frankly, I feel the rigidness of TWD is a bit of a cheat given how the game was marketed, and I wonder how much Mass Effect 3 they were playing during development.

But lest I sound like a bitter crank, I thoroughly enjoyed TWD and will be on board for Season 2. But I am no longer thrilling to the idea that I can make my own story and am now expecting to follow a pre-written narrative, as I do in every other game, which is sad because it means my expectations are lowered and an opportunity to really take game design to new places has been missed. Hard to call that a success.

8 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • @Textbook said: Telltale need to either
    i) Drop the your-choices-matter angle
    or ii) Give Season 2 genuinely divergent endings.



    ...That's, saying that you'd want to watch a movie.

  • As everyone would say, you'll never know when and how any character will die as they can die at any moment in time, no matter how interesting or likeable they are. Although I must agree with the negativity of Chuck's death as it appears there is no way to deal with the zombies that are surrounding Clemintine and thus the fact that there is a pre scripted event coming up sticks out like a sore thumb.

  • All deaths are scripted, that's the point. You can make Ben live an episode longer, but he'll still die and that's that.

    (Exception is Chet who you can kill by going out at night, save by going out in the day. Who knows if we'll ever see him again though. It would be interesting to have a call back to season 1 in season 2 where Chet appears if he lived in ep1 and doesn't if he died.)

    Higgs Boson: I'm not saying I'd rather watch a movie. I'm saying Telltale shouldn't be pretending I can create my own adventure when I can't.

    A friend said to me, sure you can't change the plot/events of TWD, but you're missing the point. You can change the emotional tone of the game through what Lee does/doesn't do and that alters your experience. This is true, but I think when we signed up we were expecting to be able to impact on the story, not just affect fictional characters imaginary opinions of Lee.

  • I disagree - I think they've got a good thing going.

  • As do I. My point isn't that TWD is terrible and they should stop producing it. My point is that it didn't fulfill its potential and in no way is this the top of the mountain. Heavy Rain, which is years older, fulfilled the you-decisions-matter thing much better than TWD, which merely pretends they matter. Combine the two and we'll start to see something special.

  • TWD was about the feels, not the action.


    however i think TT missed the mark as a lot of the actions end up effecting how you feel anyway. For instance ben's death. Say you decided to drop him at the bell tower. You feel sorry for him and have pity because he really wants to die before he hurts anyone else. You feel even worse because despite being dropped all the way down tower, he still ends up dying to his worse fear-being eaten alive by the walkers. now fast forwards later on if you decided to pull him up instead. Now you have a ben dying in a tragic accident after the player is left to feel pity on him after he explodes on kenny and reveals that he's secretly suffering as he doens' tknow the fate of his family or friends. The only difference here is he dies before he can be eaten alive because kenny shoots him.


    So you have 2 paths that end in the same way-feeling bad for a character that up to that point you hated because he endangered the group most of the time due to his incompetence.

    difference choices, same feels.

  • @Textbook said: As do I. My point isn't that TWD is terrible and they should stop producing it. My point is that it didn't fulfill its potential and in no way is this the top of the mountain. Heavy Rain, which is years older, fulfilled the you-decisions-matter thing much better than TWD, which merely pretends they matter. Combine the two and we'll start to see something special.



    this 100%

    combine Heavy Rain's impacting choices with TWD's story telling and character development, and you've got GOTY material easily.

  • I understand your point, Textbook, and I agree with most of your sentiments. Still, Telltale needs to be a much, MUCH bigger studio to even contemplate releasing a true Heavy Rain-esque game.

    But who knows? Since Season 1 was such a cash cow, maybe TTG now has the funds and means to create a significantly bigger game?

    I really do like Season 1's ending though. As predictable as it was, the final scene was just great. Can't remember the last time I've obsessed over a piece of fiction like this. Can't exactly remember the last time I've felt so sad over an ending too (maybe back when I read and watched Of Mice and Men in 5th grade?).

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