I lifted my husk from my chair that I had slowly sunken into over the last two hours. I lumbered down from the third floor into the living room, step-by-step, inch-by-inch. I didn’t know where I was going, I just didn’t want to be alone. I found my girlfriend binging on SVU so I sat down next to her not saying anything. “Are you okay?” she asked. I said yeah, but a lot of weird stuff just happened. A lot of weird stuff. I had just wrapped up the final episode of The Walking Dead, something I’ve been hesitant to do for a few weeks. Instead I opted to spend my time in the wonders of Nintendo Land far away from the dystopian Walking Dead fiction. But I’m glad I finished because a game of this caliber only comes along once in a long shambling while.
The Walking Dead can hardly be considered a game. It’s a smart hybrid of point-and-click, choose your own adventures, and television. It’s a type of interactive television that you would read about in the eighties in a magazine that deals only with the future. “You’ll control the actors!” It’d say in large gothic print. Making the decision that effect the entire outcome of episodes sounds unwieldily and unorthodox, but it’s something that Tell Tale has perfected after their other adventure game outings.
But I think I’m getting ahead of myself. The Walking Dead puts you in the role of Lee, a man who has a lot to deal with. There are zombies, obviously, and well, that’s kind of it. There’s no way of knowing what’s going on outside of Lee’s adventure and that isolated feeling of being the last people on earth let’s you experience the best and worst of humanity in five episodic adventures. It’s not that you’re fighting zombies, zombies are hardly the focal point of the game. They’re but a mere framing device. The meat of this series are the decision you make, the relationships you build with NPCs, and how you survive. Writing “NPCs” right there just felt wrong. These characters, your comrades, buddies, pals, teammates, and friends, are more than just NPCs. When you make a choice you’re often making a choice for everyone in your party, good or bad. And those choices are made up of a million different shades of grey. “Good” and “evil” have never been more relative terms.
The choices, my lord. While the game is placed in a world full of zombies, the choices never feel unrealistic. Simple things like who’s side to pick in an argument or who to give a candy bar to have the weight of a thousand anvils. And decisions carry over from one episode to another. Meaning if you pick the wrong side, well, you’ll get some guff for it down the long dark road. And having that continuity and suspense and uncertainty is what makes the Walking Dead such an amazing experience. There’s hardly a right answer. No, there’s never a right answer. During decisions a meter ticks down. Faster and faster it would drain, forcing me to choose something I would otherwise want to mull over with a bottle of whiskey.
Every download of this game should come with a voucher for a free bottle of booze or a six-pack of a beer. It’s the kind of dark that light can’t penetrate and it makes you question what the hell kind of person you are. Just when you think a situation can’t get more dire it does. When you think the game won’t possibly force your hand into making a terrible decision, you end up in a dark place. The events seem to always escalate with no plateau in sight. It’s emotionally taxing because there’s never that pause or relief, which is why the episodic formula works so well. It was great to have a breather between the episodes since it gives you a chance to recalibrate and seek therapy. I made the mistake of playing episode 4 and 5 back to back, and well, that was a lot to take in at once. The Walking Dead will shake you to the core.
The Walking Dead experience is a must. It’s not just for gamers, but enthusiasts of story telling, adventure, movies, humans, and psychology. Enthusiasts of life, really. If you love life, you’ll love the walking dead. It’s a unique trip that delivers a number of experiences that you won’t forget any time soon. You’ll want to forget them, of course, but the game just won’t let you.