DISCLAIMER: I’m going to attempt to convince anybody who hasn’t played Telltale’s The Walking Dead to stop what they are doing and buy both seasons… RIGHT NOW! The rest of you should know what I’m talking about. If you don’t agree, that’s fine but I don’t know why you’re here. Move on to another article or something. KUDOS!
I haven’t been a fan of point and click adventure games. When the style jumped over to consoles, I probably resisted it harder. I played a few. Myst was too smart for me at the time of its release but other games like The Journeyman Project and Angel Devoid did interest me. Of course, being a sexually curious teenager, the Leisure Suit Larry series provided hours of entertainment with its juvenile humor. Other than that, I just had very little interest in the genre.
Fast forward to nearly fifteen years later and Telltale is the prime developer keeping the genre breathing and full of life. I tried Sam & Max and didn’t really care for it. I can’t really say anything negative about any of the games but they weren’t my cup of tea. Neither was Back to the Future. I just could not get into them. But… then The Walking Dead became a thing. I love zombie games. I have yet to play a truly amazing zombie “experience” but as far as “zombie games” go, my money says Dead Island and State of Decay are among the top tier. They have their issues but they are simply my heaven.
About six months ago, I FINALLY caved and tried Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Without any exaggeration, I was absolutely gripped by the experience about five minutes into it. As soon as it started I felt as if the zombie apocalypse was happening around me but realistically. The warnings were very subtle. One character made mention of the traffic and for a split second I thought maybe I saw a zombie but the moment was fleeting. You see, the protagonist, Lee is under arrest for murder. But was he actually innocent? I didn’t know but the game prompted me for responses. I … I … I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know who I was, so I chose silence. I chose “…”! A real recognized response. The game took note of me saying nothing. The character took note of me saying nothing.
I couldn’t believe it. I was in a conversation that I had to participate in or my response would be “…” and maybe lead to undesired results. Also, the characters would remember what I said, what I did and who knows what else they would take note of? I had to not only think but think fast. I wanted to survive and I wanted to help other people survive. Quickly, the situation got a lot worse. The zombie apocalypse was upon me and I needed to think. We veered off the road. The cop was down. I was hurt but free. I saw somebody in the distance. My mind was racing. Before I could react to much of anything I had tripped or been tripped and a zombie was swiftly crawling towards me. Didn’t the cop have a shotgun? OH! There it is. I grab it. *CLICK* OH NO! I need to load it. I spot a shell on the ground. I reach for it and try to load it …. SHIT! I dropped it. I franticly swing the camera down to locate it and hover the cursor over the shell. I pick it up and load it into the shotgun, aim, shoot and BOOM! I got the zombie. My heart still racing slightly finally begins to slow down.
From this point onward I became paranoid. I didn’t know what would happen if I lost an encounter. Would I be infected for the rest of the game? Is there a cure? I didn’t know. Soon I wouldn’t even be worried about myself. I’d be worried about the well-being of a little girl. I’ll get to that in a second. Let me set it up for you.
I spotted a house. I entered it and looked around. There was an answering machine with some messages on it. I don’t know why I felt compelled to listen. Maybe I just wanted to make sense of everything so I hit the button. The first message was innocent enough. A mother calling home to check in on the babysitter and her child. The second message hinted at something going wrong but not wanting to alarm the babysitter too much. But, by the third message it was obvious the parent wasn’t calling to check in. She was calling to say goodbye. Damn. Then I met the little girl, Clementine.
She didn’t have anybody but she managed to survive by hiding in a treehouse. I coaxed her down and talked to her a little. Naturally she asked about her parents and… I couldn’t tell her what I thought I knew. I don’t know why I tried to give her hope. Maybe it was because I was hoping I could reunite them. All I knew was I needed to get out of there. I took her with me.
I don’t want to spoil anymore than I already have but I’m almost 900 words into writing this and I’m barely twenty minutes into the game and I’m already thinking about everything. I’m thinking about what I say, what I don’t say, what I search and how much time I take searching because I don’t know if danger could be right around the corner. Soon my motives are changing. I’m looking for food, not for me, but for Clementine whom Lee starts calling Clem. I try to treat everybody fairly but the first person that endangered Clem… I … I just went crazy which put a damper on my relationship with another character.
I really wanted to make amends for my reactions towards them but little did I know that the game would put me in a position where I would have to make a quick decision that would shatter loyalty with one character and strengthen it with another. The decision was easy to make because Clem’s safety was involved and strengthening my loyalty with the character in question was inadvertent. I made it to keep Clem safe, not show loyalty to anybody but her. Even still, I did not feel great about what I forced myself to do. Soon the character felt betrayed by my actions and they became unhinged and they reacted in quite a shocking way. I blamed myself. Maybe I should have chosen the other path. Maybe I could have saved everybody. I was doubting myself. I knew then and there I had to pick one friend and that friend was Kenny.
I immediately liked Kenny. He seemed like a good ol’ boy from Florida who only wanted to do right by everybody. Early on I made a choice to gain his trust and he was always friendly with me up until I made another choice later on to stop him from doing something I thought was a mistake. For a moment, there was tension between Lee and Kenny. For a moment I was worried that if he ever put Clem in danger… I might have to do the unthinkable. Luckily when all the chips were down I had made enough positive decisions to gain his trust and he followed me to the end.
I skipped a lot because I don’t want to spoil anything more than I have. But Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 1 would have been my 2013 GOTY had I played it when it was fresh. It is absolutely incredible. The finale… was hard for me to handle. There is a moment a character questions almost every major decision you made. And you need to respond how you see fit. You took food or maybe you didn’t. Why or why not? It makes you reflect on it. Some decisions I couldn’t justify. So I just said nothing. (…).
In the end, I saved Clem and hoped everything I taught her would continue to keep her safe if we ever got separated. I taught her the best I could because I knew at this point she would retain the knowledge for Season 2. This is where I’ll stop.
I hope I’ve convinced you to give the game a look. The first episode from each season was free on iOS and Android not too long ago. I suggest you take it upon yourself to Google/Bing it! You will not be disappointed.
Season 2 is less action packed but no less emotionally heavy and has a lot more subtle choices which might haunt you. Even some of your choices from the first season follow you. I suspect certain people treated Clem better because Lee was so loyal in Season 1.
Do yourself a favor. Pick up Telltale’s The Walking Dead on PC or your console of choice. It is absolutely fantastic from front to back.