Last year Telltale Games took the gaming industry by storm captivating everyone with their episodic downloadable spinoff of the acclaimed Walking Dead franchise. The game was showered with countless Game of the Year awards and is considered to be another pioneering offering in a medium that is continuously and rapidly maturing. While following its lore mostly from the comics rather than AMC’s smashingly successful TV adaptation, the game was actually considered to be more sharply written and gripping than the aforementioned show. Telltale Games ended the game on a cliffhanger but soon after would announce a Season 2. 400 Days isn’t the beginning of that season but rather a means of bridging Season 1 to 2.
400 Days differs greatly from its previous episodic entries in quite a few ways. For starters it is broken up into seven episodes with each focusing on a different group of survivors and a different time period after the outbreak, hence the name 400 Days. What really separates itself apart though is the fact that you choose which mini-story to play next from a lost and found bulletin board. Some stories are more engrossing than others but most importantly there isn’t one bad egg in the bunch. Despite that, they are all relatively short and don’t really allow you to connect with characters yet.
New characters range from inmates to drug addicts to hippies and more. I can’t say I didn’t like any of the new characters but nothing also really impressed me. There’s nothing similar to the Lee/Clementine chemistry here. It is understandable though as this is not an official starting point for Season 2. Telltale is giving you a look at upcoming characters and nothing more. We don’t see Clementine in this DLC either which is again ok as this bonus episode is not about past characters. There is an easter egg though relating to a Season 1 character that is intelligently placed.
Nothing has changed with the gameplay. It is still a point at click game at heart with the meat of its gameplay boiling down to QTE’s or dialogue choices. I would actually argue it’s more basic and dialogue driven than any other previous episode. Choices are still an important factor and you will once again find yourself acting on instinct under pressure. A standout moment is when you are forced to kill one of two fellow inmates to free yourself from shackles. What I found impressive though is that some of these choices are drastically different causing wheels spinning in my head trying to figure out where Telltale is actually going to go with it. The pessimist in me is saying it’s all a bunch of red herrings though.
After completing all seven episodes within the episode (episode-ception?) a final epilogue scenario plays out which is what I assume where Season 2 will officially begin. 400 Days lasts around 1 hour and 45 minutes which is perfectly acceptable for $5 but there is something I found odd. There is a clear imbalance with episodic length. Some episodes last 15 minutes while another might last 30 minutes. Some episodes will contain one scene and another might last three. Maybe Telltale is trying to give more focus to the characters that will inevitably be more centric to the core plot surrounding Clementine. I can’t say for sure but it did mean less playing time as Shaggy’s long lost hippie brother so there’s that. The most promising new characters are arguably a mother and daughter faced with harsh moral decisions.
Verdict: 400 Days may not deliver the riveting drama we are adjusted too from prior installments in the episodic series but at the same time it probably isn’t supposed too. Barring some unequally distributed playing time to each of the 7 new characters, the game is well done. If when Season 2 officially begins and we find ourselves still struggling to connect with the plight of our new protagonists then we will start waving a red flag. Clementine still MIA doesn’t help although that’s again done intentionally. It is also welcome that the technical performance is drastically improving. The Walking Dead: 400 Days is definitely worth grabbing at the measly $5 price point if you’ve invested this much into the episodic series already.
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This article was first posted on July 9, 2013