Telltale's The Walking Dead Season 1 was dropped on us out of nowhere. Every single person who played it fell in love with it, including me. Then came Season 2. These games became my two favorite games of all time as soon as I played them. They are story driven, emotionally charged masterpieces that manage to keep you on edge to a point where waits between episodes were more than likely insufferable. Luckily for me, I binge-played them.
They don't have amazing gameplay. Some may argue that they don't have any gameplay at all, and they would not be wrong. After all, they are point-and-click games. There is still zombie-killing action every now and then, but the games are not focused on that. In that way they are very simple; they are not obsessed with triple combos, special takedowns and stuff like that. That is not where these games excel. Where they excel is through the stratosphere, and that is in the characters and story development.
The games take place in the same universe as The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman. The premise is very simple: You play as Lee, a convicted criminal who makes it out alive from a car crash, and then later comes across a little girl named Clementine. Her parents are out of town and presumed missing, so in an attempt to get her to them, the two embark on a journey of survival.
As you go along your journey and venture through standard zombie apocalypse scenarios, you meet some of the most brilliantly and well-written characters ever. Since making choices is a key element in the games, when conflict happens between characters and you are forced to take sides, it is really difficult because the characters are so gripping.
Then there are the asshole characters who piss you off so much that when opportunities arise where you could get rid of them, unbelievably you are still torn. Because each decision you make will have consequences. Dialogue and certain actions you choose can make or break relationships.
It's incredibly enthralling to watch the characters grow and change, especially Kenny. He is a standout character whose entire arc, depending on which choices you make, is very heartbreaking. It had me in tears.
Lee and Clementine's relationship will make its way into everyone's hearts. Surprisingly, for a kid she is not annoying and her relationship with Lee is quite humorous at times. With certain decisions made, a little notice pops up in the top corner saying Clementine will remember this, and you want to set a good example for her. So sometimes you will find yourself redoing past decisions you made.
You feel a certain sense of responsibility for her and it is really cool that a virtual character is making you feel this way. As the game progresses you start teaching Clementine how to survive. You teach her how to shoot a gun. You tell her to keep her hair short so walkers won't grab it. In Season 2 you actually control Clementine. She is older, more mature and you see her become more independent.
It is essentially, at its core, a coming-of-age story, but set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse, which is a very interesting spin on the whole genre.
The games are very emotional. They made me cry and will without a doubt have the same affect on you, unless you are an emotionless sociopath who drowns kittens at Christmas. Telltale is also not manipulative about how it executes the game's emotional depth. A lot of games, movies and TV shows have long, drawn-out sections of crying set to sad music. It feels unnatural and forced. Here, all the parts work perfectly together to create very impactful moments.
Some people who have not played the games might see it and think that the art style feels cheap and crappy, but in the grand scheme of the game, it's really not. It feels like a comic book and that aesthetic is right for the story it tells. If the games had ultra-realistic PC- and console-melting graphics, I believe it would not have had the same impact that it had.
The games are also interesting to play if you are not familiar with the world of The Walking Dead, other than the TV show, because they expand the universe. You see new places in the world, what other people are doing and the captivating measures that they go to in a bid to survive. Episode 2 of Season 1 is a particular highlight.
If you like video games, then go and play these. If you like The Walking Dead — good, then go and play these. If you like compelling emotional stories, then go and play these. You will not regret it. With so many mediocre, overblown and disappointing games nowadays a dime a dozen, the really impactful ones like The Walking Dead certainly stand out. This is art and if you have any kind of appreciation for art, you will not regret playing this.
Trust me, all those Game of the Year awards and 10/10 reviews are not lying. The Walking Dead will take you on an unforgettable journey that you will want to go back and play again, making different choices but keeping in mind those choices will carry over to the next game.
You will fall in love with Clementine and not in a weird, creepy way. She is one of the best characters in gaming history. After you have finished Season 2 you will be very much looking forward to Season 2. So do yourself a favor and go on this journey.