I wouldn’t be surprised if by this point the amount of reviews of this game is in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. Even if I tried my best to stay original – I wouldn’t be able to. Well, this is not a review anyway, just a few thoughts I had while playing (or, mostly, watching) The Walking Dead on the Playstation Vita.
To leave the objectively bad stuff out of the way: yes, it doesn’t seem like Telltale even tried to optimize the loading screens and laggy scenes. While the game looks fantastic and for the most part plays fairly smooth – a five second lag before a quick time event is just unacceptable. Not to mention the game freezing on me and graphical glitches like missing houses (along with the ground they were on) and random white polygons. If the second season finds its way on the Vita at some point I hope I won’t have to suffer through that again.
That said, the game is great and a staple of western story-centric game development, likely for years to come. This is by all means a visual novel, something that’s been said more often than anyone could bear hearing about. And since I’m used to the usual anime-style visual novels watching this zombie apocalypse unfold was a rather unusual experience. This is not the game’s fault, but after having read the likes of Muv-Luv, Zero Escape and such (hell, even Type-Moon games probably count despite Nasu trying to be too edgy in most of them) I felt rather desensitized to the grim and mostly deadly events happening throughout TWD’s story.
Basically, I did not have enough time to learn more about the characters and build deeper relationships. This is where the game’s ultimate strength, its spectacular meaningful choice system, ended up making my perception of the cast rather shallow. The requirement to maintain a mostly linear plot despite all of the possible outcomes effectively made interactions with everyone safe and short to the point of a generic NPC encounter. What do I know about most of the cast? What have I went through with them? Most of them – not much, because they only joined me for a short while and even then I spent more time fixing things and messing things up even more than actually having any meaningful experiences.
The character I spent the most time with was an exception, but then the little girl didn’t exactly do much until Episode 4. Not that you can blame her, of course… And then there was the fisherman, who tagged along with you since the first episode as well – and only had one major development throughout the game which only really paid off in the very last episode when you were focused on something else either way. For the most part he was just there causing arguments so that the game could make you choose sides. The rest of the cast was simply kinda… around.
Muv-Luv, for instance, is an example of the opposite extreme. It spent so much time building character relationships that it made a lot of people, I believe, drop the game at the first part of the trilogy. Without the sequels Muv-Luv Extra was effectively a mediocre dating sim no better than most other ones. It wasn’t bad per se, but if you’re not into this kind of game, there’s nothing there that can capture your attention. Of course this paid off later big time, but you’d probably suffer through MLE only if you knew that in advance.
And once you did and stumbled upon certain plot developments in Unlimited and Alternative (granted, these are considered some of the best visual novels of all time), even when they mostly concern secondary characters… The Walking Dead just doesn’t cut it in that respect. It makes you struggle with some genuinely tough choices, but you don’t feel the fallback from those that much.
Even if Telltale padded the game out with unvoiced, barely animated slice-of-life-ish chatter, the hard decisions would leave a much bigger impact, if only for me. If you’re going to hit on emotions, to provoke the feels, you have to make it matter. Frankly the game was just too short for its own good. It was absolutely brilliant, the animation, the direction and the voice acting quality were all stellar, if not groundbreaking at times, the branching was very smart, the “shit has hit the fan” situations were top notch, an easy 9.5 out of 10. And I might very well be a spoiled brat. But just this once I really wish eastern storytelling could meet with western production, direction and game design.
If you haven’t played TWD or Muv-Luv yet, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do when you have a lot of free time on your hands.
I feel bad for posting my uneducated and childish opinions, but this is, for once, my personal blog… I might proofread and restructure this later, I egoistically think I might be onto something, but I’m sure I wasn’t able to properly express it. Back to coding for now.