Comic books have always been a large part of my life growing up, but somewhere along the way I stopped reading them as often due to a variety of reasons. A few years ago however, I went over to my friend’s house and saw the first trade of The Walking Dead sitting on his coffee table. Intrigued I sat there and read through the entire book that day and bought all the trades that were out at the time which re-launched my interest in comics, and I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead ever since.
Today the comic series is still going strong, and AMC has picked up the series for a live action adaptation which has been doing amazing in its own right. Now Telltale has taken the series and are giving it the episodic treatment with five episodes set to launch on a monthly basis, and the first one has already launched on all platforms. Needless to say the game has a lot to live up to.
The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day is the first of the release of the game series which takes place in the same universe as the comics but takes a drastic departure from the stories we’re all familiar with by focusing on a new protagonist, Lee Everett. Lee is an entirely new character to the series with no ties to either the comic or the TV show, and although his story is completely fresh, it takes place alongside the story being told in the comic book and his path will certainly intersect with characters we’re all familiar with.
As the first episode opens up we’re thrust into the story in-media-res with Lee in the back seat of a cop car with no background information as to why he’s there. Pretty quickly the cop driving the car starts up a conversation with you, and one of the main mechanics you’ll be using in the game will take the center stage in the form of a conversation ‘wheel’.
At first glance this will be familiar if you’ve played any recent RPGs with a series of responses appearing on-screen and one responding to each of the face buttons on your controller. This comes with a pretty interesting twist, however, in that your responses are timed in most instances with the game defaulting to Lee not saying anything most of the time if you don’t pick fast enough.
The timer drains pretty fast and you might actually find yourself panicking and accidentally picking something you didn’t quite mean to, which only adds to the tense atmosphere of the game.
The Walking Dead isn’t all about conversation, though, like the comics it’s based on, it does take up a large portion of the game. However, this is a game with zombies in it, and sometimes zombies need their faces smashed in, so you’ll certainly be doing some of that. One of the earliest examples has Lee being chased by a zombie after having tripped and crawling away backwards, pausing occasionally to kick the nasty in the head to slow it down.
Eventually he reaches a hammer which must be manually picked up by moving the cursor over it and pressing the appropriate button, then moving the cursor over to the zombie and pushing another button to smash its face in.
The game is an interesting combination of point & click adventure game both during combat and while walking around exploring areas, and you’re given full control over Lee’s movement during these sections like any third person game using the left analog stick.
While the exploration and combat are both done exceptionally well and very nice in their own rights, the true strength of the game is in the writing. Lee is accompanied by a little girl named Clementine who serves as a moral compass for him in the game but is also one of the most well written child characters I’ve seen in any medium. Every conversation with her feels authentic and real, and I actually found myself concerned with her well being and curious as to her thoughts in every situation.
Every character you encounter has their own motivations and feel like real people in every situation you find yourself in. While their current goal may be the same as yours, at a given moment you can tell each of these people have their own concerns going on and their world doesn’t revolve around Lee which makes them all feel that much more authentic.
In true form to the comic series the other characters you encounter can be more vicious than the flesh-eating monsters, and lets just say that things are sure to get interesting in the coming episodes.
The Walking Dead is a game about making choices and dealing with the consequences of what you’ve done, and while the simplest of these come in the form of how you approach the conversation and deal with those around you, there are a few that are literally life or death, and these make permanent changes to the world around you and how others react to Lee.
After many of your responses, as you talk to the other characters, you’ll often see a little notice pop up informing you that somebody noticed how you defended them (or failed to) or that they’ll take note of key things you said. In one conversation I told somebody that I was in the car by myself at the start of the game, and then I slipped up later and said “we” while talking about the event and he called me out on it.
While there were a fair share of these type of situations in this first episode, I’m sure there will be some more long-term consequences for your actions in future releases, and seeing how this one has already got me itching to replay it multiple times to see all the different outcomes, I can’t wait to see how drastically things can change in the full release.
While the game tells a new story fresh to the franchise, a few familiar faces have already appeared in the first episode making appearances that are a little before when they first show up in the comic series, and they were all handled very well, feeling very much like their ink and paper counterparts.
As for all of the new characters, you’ll certainly have a list of favorites and those you hate, and though we’re not given the largest amount of time to get to know them each one of them, will certainly make some kind of impact on you very fast, however, Lee and Clementine take the spotlight being the protagonists. Needless to say, I’m very excited to learn more about their story and see how it unfolds in the world around them.
The Walking Dead is a treasure in the comic book world and is gaining a massive surge in popularity thanks to the very well received TV series on AMC, so to say Telltale have their hands full with this release is putting it lightly. As a fan of the series for nearly eight years now I can safely say they seem to have hit a home run with this release, and I eagerly anticipate the release of the next episode to see how things play out.