Those were the days of our lives…
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead was one of the surprise titles of last year. Bringing the point & click adventure back kicking and screaming into the collective consciousness of gamers everywhere, the universally acclaimed episodic title eschewed traditional zombie-game fare of shooting everything in the face and asking questions later (leaving that to the more universally-reviled ‘The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct’) and focused less on the zombies and more on the survivors of the zombie apocalypse and the affect of the world around them and the choices they make. So, exactly like the comic book on which it is based then.
Due to the success of ‘The Walking Dead’, it is pencilled in to return for a second season (it still sounds strange referring to games as having seasons) somewhere around the third quarter of 2013. To plug the gap between Season One and Season Two, Telltale have given us ‘400 Days’. However, there are no appearances from any of the core characters from the first season… at least, no-one living. Instead, it give us a look into how the lives of other people are coping since all hell broke loose, and also I imagine as a way to introduce some (or all) of these characters into Season Two.
400 Days is split into five short chapters, each revolving around an individual character, and these all happen within various points within the first 400 days of the zombie apocalypse and after completing each chapter, it culminates in an epilogue that will vary slightly dependent on the choices you make in each of the individual character chapters.
The five characters you focus on are, in roughly chronological order, are:Vince:
a young man who commited a murder to help his brother, and is being transported to prison on a bus with a handful of other prisoners.Wyatt:
a man, along with his best friend Eddie, try to escape an unknown pursuer.Russell:
a young man trying to make his way to his grandmother’s to see if she is still alive. Bonnie:
A drug addicted woman that was rescued on the brink of death by a married couple, Leland and Dee.Shel:
a young woman that is part of a small survivor community located at a gas station, along with her younger sister, Becca.
All of these chapters crossed over and like the core episodes of Season One, it’s all excellently told and very well written and as with the main game, there are some tough, tough choices to make. You can play any chapter in any order, which gives a Pulp-Fiction-With-Zombies feel, and it does work well. However the main problem with this format is the length of the chapters, which only weigh in at around 15 - 20 minutes each.
The Walking Dead’s main strength was not in it’s story-telling, or even the choices that you had to make, but it was the emotions that you felt for each character that you encountered and the way they made you care for, or despise, each of them. But with 400 days, each chapter is so short that by the time you actually start to feel any sort of attachment or empathy towards the character, the chapter is over. This sort of diminishes the impact of each of the decisions you have to make, and while that’s not to say they’re still not difficult decisions, it is certainly less difficult and less impactful than any of the choices you had to make in the main game. The only real exception being Shel’s chapter which also happens to be the longest, where any choice you make will also affect Shel’s sister, Becca, who is an instantly effective character.
With that being said, Telltale still manage to cram in more personality and character traits into five characters in a couple of hours than many games do over the course of fifteen, and I think it’s a credit to characters that it’s disappointing we didn’t get to see more from them, instead of just with a feeling of dissatisfaction.
This all sounds more negative than it really is though. The simple fact is that if you enjoyed The Walking Dead then you will enjoy 400 Days. It’s a very good piece of bridging DLC that leaves you wanting more for the next season of the main game, and I look forward to seeing if and where these characters turn up in the main game, and what effect the decisions I made had on them. Just don’t expect to go into 400 Days and get the same scale of emotional rollercoaster that you got with the main season, and you’ll have a wonderful time.Positives
+ More ‘The Walking Dead’ is a good thing
+ Five different perspectives to experience
+ Looks just as good as the main game
+ The crossover of the chapters works very well
+ Leaves you wanting moreNegatives
- Each chapter is too short
- Not enough time to really empathise with the characters
- Multi-perspective format needs some workVerdict:
A worthy, if too short, addition to Telltale’s masterpiece.