The Walking Dead (Telltale) - Overrated GOTY Contender, or Pure Storytelling Brilliance? *SPOILERS*

To break up a bit of my recent Mass Effect Trilogy monotony, I finally buckled down to get through The Walking Dead. I played the first 15 minutes or so long ago, but never got around to playing it in earnest. (On a side note, I'm still probably only a quarter of the way through ME3, but what a big lot of wasted potential that series feels like right now...)

Anyhow, back to zombies and seriously bad situations. The Walking Dead was in many of the conversations around Game of the Year in 2012. Telltale has had major hits like Sam & Max and Monkey Island, but also some huge misses like Jurassic Park. They are trying very hard to keep the Adventure game alive, and I for one am glad for it. My first compelling PC gaming experience came in the form of Quest for Glory (the beautiful, at the time, VGA remake), so I have a soft spot in my heart for that style of game.

In some ways Quest for Glory is quite similar to The Walking Dead. A game based on the point and click adventure, but with some added action-y bits to keep players engaged. You spend the majority of your time interacting with the environment, and trying to piece things together to move on in the story, but you also have to do some good old-fashioned Zombie killing. And who doesn't like that, right?

But you know all this, and that's not what I'm here for. Is The Walking Dead truly GOTY material, or is it a bit of trickery, inviting emotional involvement that leads to an overrated gaming experience?

The story is as engaging as a video game story gets. It manages to coax out emotional responses to levels rarely seen in gaming. Sure, people will rant and rave about the death of Aeris, but it did not have the emotional resonance of the fate of Duck and his mother. The Walking Dead just has a mix of great voice acting, engaging visuals, and storylines that hit home. If there ever WERE a zombie apocalypse, you could see these very events taking place.

However, The Walking Dead falls short of pure brilliance for one reason - Episode 5. (Fair warning, if you ignored the SPOILERS declaration, here they come!) The story up to this point had wound around in interesting ways. The journey to the motel. The cannibal family. The train. The doctor. All the episodes, up to this point, had a balanced blend of tragedy and hope. There were horrible things that happened in every episode, horrible decisions that had to be made. Save Carley or save Doug? Shoot Duck yourself or make Kenny do it? But in the final episode, it seemed to devolve into basically punching me in the groin repeatedly. The hope was gone, and despondency was all that was left. By the end, I realized I just spent many hours playing a game where basically every character I liked died horribly.

In the words of Josh Baskin, "what's fun about that?"

Let's compare it to A Game of Thrones, for instance (I'm sure there are many fans of that show here.) Let's say, for the sake of argument, they kill off Arya, Tyrion, Sansa, Jon Snow, Daenerys, Bronn, Samwell and Bran. Would you want to keep watching?

I sure as hell wouldn't. And in the end, that's kinda how I feel about The Walking Dead. Cruel because it has to be, but it just takes it all too far. It's a game that was excellent for about 80% of the run, but got too wrapped up in its own cruelty to be truly great.

19 Comments
19 Comments
Edited by Sooty

It's an enjoyable ride but the gameplay hinders it after a while (I found myself getting tired of it, but pressed on for the story) and I feel that people are being OTT when talking about the subject matter, it's nowhere near as gruesome as some are making it out to be. Especially the Bombcast. Think it reached its peak in episodes 2 & 3, 4 & 5 were pretty poor in comparison.

Now, Game of Thrones, that shit is COLD. Red Wedding, that is all.

Edited by JasonR86

It's neither one of those things.

Edited by Irishdoom

@sooty: I can't wait for the Red Wedding to see my wife's reaction. :)

Posted by MariachiMacabre

@jasonr86 said:

It's neither one of those things.

This. It's a fantastic game. But it's not the God-King of video game storytelling. It's also not overrated GOTY material. It was my personal GOTY because no other game got me and my friends talking about it as much as TWD.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

Good story, bad gameplay. Was never a complete package for game of the year, and really undetermined the key factor that makes games great, the gameplay.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@sooty said:

It's an enjoyable ride but the gameplay hinders it after a while (I found myself getting tired of it, but pressed on for the story) and I feel that people are being OTT when talking about the subject matter, it's nowhere near as gruesome as some are making it out to be. Especially the Bombcast. Think it reached its peak in episodes 2 & 3, 4 & 5 were pretty poor in comparison.

Now, Game of Thrones, that shit is COLD. Red Wedding, that is all.

I knew you were a asshole before, but spoiling GOT on other forums is a dick move.

Posted by RollingZeppelin

@sooty said:

It's an enjoyable ride but the gameplay hinders it after a while (I found myself getting tired of it, but pressed on for the story) and I feel that people are being OTT when talking about the subject matter, it's nowhere near as gruesome as some are making it out to be. Especially the Bombcast. Think it reached its peak in episodes 2 & 3, 4 & 5 were pretty poor in comparison.

Now, Game of Thrones, that shit is COLD. Red Wedding, that is all.

I knew you were a asshole before, but spoiling GOT on other forums is a dick move.

While I usually refer to it as the RW, saying Red Wedding doesn't really mean anything without context...

Edited by Irishdoom

Do you think they should have just ditched the action stuff and stuck with the point and click with a story? Or do you think they should have tried to make the action stuff a whole lot better?

Posted by Kidavenger

huge misses like Jurassic Park.

I liked The Walking Dead so much I decided to go back and actually play Jurassic Park and I think most people probably never played it because they use it as an example of a bad game when it was actually pretty good, not Walking Dead good, but well worth playing if for no other reason than the death scenes are abundant and awesome; that and the fact that it was an actual game where as TWD was more of an interactive visual novel.

Edited by Jay_Ray

Heavy Rain and LA Noire are far superior.

Edited by Winternet

I never ended up finishing TWD. It kinda broke for me by the end of episode 3 and then I never played anymore of it. And I'm not sure that I would ever go back.

Edited by Mrsignerman44

I think that the confrontation with the stranger, the choice regarding your arm and the ending were enough, for me anyway, to make it a worthwhile episode in the series, and the game as a whole deserved GOTY for me since it came out of left field. Also, I hope to high heaven that all of the GOT deaths that you just said aren't real, it's fine if some of them are and I'm allowed to guess but if not then that's a real dick thing to do.

Edited by TheSouthernDandy

Hmm interesting viewpoint. I'm kinda with you with regards to not being into things that are awful for the sake of being awful but I didn't feel that way about Walking Dead. I feel like they earned that ending. Part of it may be the fact that it was spoiled before hand so I'd gotten used to it but as gut wrenching as that ending was, and as much as I hated not knowing Clementines ultimate fate (she'd better be alright Telltale or I'll burn your studio to the ground) I loved how it ended. It didn't feel like misery for misery's sake.

Also it's kinda funny you mention Game of Thrones. I'm not gonna go further for people who haven't read the books but...yeah.

...Yeah.

(also I didn't spoiler tag anything cause it's already mentioned in the title of the thread)

Edited by phantomzxro

I think it earns all the praise and GOTY contender spots because it did story better then most that year. The game play was not its strong suit but it was playable and even showed improvement by episode 5. I know far less games being put up for game of the year so why not walking dead. I also give props for games tying to be different and not falling into norms like turning everything into a third or first person shooter hybrid because you can throw in multiplayer and more people will buy it.

Posted by Irishdoom

I did not actually spoil anything about GoT. That was a total hypothetical. The characters I listed may or may not die, but I certainly did not give a spoiler-y list there. :)

Posted by Nightriff

Journey was better

Edited by Irishdoom

The whole stranger bit just plain irritated me. It seemed too "pulled out of someone's ass" for my liking.

Edited by audioBusting

@irishdoom said:

Let's compare it to A Game of Thrones, for instance (I'm sure there are many fans of that show here.) Let's say, for the sake of argument, they kill off Arya, Tyrion, Sansa, Jon Snow, Daenerys, Bronn, Samwell and Bran. Would you want to keep watching?

What if it's the final episode of the show? Like in, you know, The Walking Dead? (I don't watch Game of Thrones so I'm not really sure what that means.)

edit: If I recall correctly, Telltale wasn't planning on a second season, so why not kill everyone.

Edited by probablytuna

I think that the confrontation with the stranger, the choice regarding your arm and the ending were enough, for me anyway, to make it a worthwhile episode in the series, and the game as a whole deserved GOTY for me since it came out of left field.

Agreed. I also think that the epilogue alone provides the glimmer of hope for the final episode, leaving the overall series on a somewhat bittersweet note.