The lights are on
It's been a long time coming, but I finally got around to
playing "The Walking Dead: 400 Days", the special DLC episode that is a bridge
between both the first and second seasons of the surprise hit of 2012. With how
long I've waited to play it, you could say that it's felt like it's been 400
days! And listen to all those crickets
In "400 Days", you're placed back into the hostile, corpse
filled zombie apocalypse, but now there's a bit of a twist to the dynamic.
Instead of placing you in the role of a singular character like Lee Everett,
you're now put into the role of five different characters, each with their own
stories to tell.
With five different characters, one might worry that the
stories would get too convoluted. "400 Days" attempts to solves this dilemma by
playing out a specific day of each character during a 400 day timeframe (hence
the title). Each character's story is almost entirely self-contained, with only
a few references from the other character's stories sprinkled in. This also
gives you the freedom to choose the order in which you play these episodes,
instead of having a story that is set in one particular order. Personally, I
went with looking up and playing the episodes in chronological order, because I'm
OCD and everything just has to be in order.
Another worry some might have had with this episode is the
number of characters that are focused on. Now look, if you were looking for richly
fleshed out characters with deep character development, you're going to be disappointed,
although it should be noted that's not really the point of this DLC anyway.
This is merely an introduction to the characters, with bits of character
development here and there. This is merely a bridging episode, after all, and the
chances are more than likely that we'll see these characters again in Season
Two, where we'll get to see these characters more fleshed out later on.
Each story is fairly short, as the time it took for me to
complete all five parts clocked in at less than two hours, essentially the run
time of a normal episode. Being that the episode is $5 ($2.50 if you're a
cheapskate like myself, and wait for deals on $5 content), it's definitely worth
the money in terms of content and how much there is of it, especially if you
plan on getting Season Two and want more story to add to the experience.
Gameplay is the same as it's always been, and more than
likely the same it will ever be. It's still a point and click game. It's still
focused on conversations between characters, and still has choices chock full
of consequence. If you have a problem with this, well, I don't understand why
you got this DLC in the first place. A purchasing decision like that would make
zero logical sense. Anyway, because of the linearity of the stories, there is a
notable focus on dialogue in this episode. The pacing is much faster due to
the short time frame, so the episode on the whole is basically cutscene after
cutscene. Typical "Walking Dead", sure, but it is noticeable, and those times where
you're just walking around were, for me, nice little breaks inbetween the
moments of (well done) misery. I know that an episode like this is a special
exception that couldn't afford to allocate its already sparse time towards
parts like that, but I still found myself missing it from time to time.
Finally, it's time to talk about choice and consequence, and
how "400 Days" goes about implementing it, which is what kind of brings this episode
down for me. As I mentioned in my review of Episode Five from Season One, even
though there are plenty of choices that do affect how the game turns out down
the line, most of those choices are mainly cosmetic. Story events will roughly
turn out the same, with mostly little to no deviation. Now I enjoyed the story
of Season One enough to excuse this, as the choices, while not as crucial in
the long run, were still emotionally effective, which kept the illusion of
choice interesting. Sadly, for a game like 400 Days, it can't have emotionally
effective scenes and choices like that of its predecessor, as the characters
themselves have little to no emotional weight to them. That's not to say they
aren't enjoyable, because they most definitely are, but because we only get a
mere glimpse into the moments of a day of a character instead of five full
length episodes with one character, it's hard have any sort of connection, or
feel really anything for these characters aside from what we feel in good
conscience as human beings (if you do indeed happen to be capable of that). And
being that a lot of the choices wind up having the same effect, just in a
different context, it makes the choices feel disillusioned and hollow.
Now with all that being said, I can't in good conscience say
that this is a "bad" episode. Did I enjoy it as much as the episodes from
Season One? No, but to expect so much from what is essentially a "mini" episode
is expecting far too much. The characters are still fairly interesting, and
will more than likely become more so as time goes on, making "400 Days" far more
important, especially to us hardcore fans (yes, I do still love this series). I
will say that with the style of game that Telltale goes for with The Walking
Dead, it's at its most effective when it has a strong narrative with characters
that we can connect to, whether we love or hate them. When those elements aren't
quite there, that's when the flaws become more apparent, and that's what
happened with "400 Days". It's a suitable appetizer to the entrée that we've
all been waiting to dig in to that is Season Two, and does its job of holding
you over until then.
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