Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on June 10, 2014

twdThe Walking Dead is Telltale Games’ PC game based on the Robert Kirkman comic (on which the TV show is based, but the game is not based on the show). It actually tells a pretty damn compelling story, and gives you interesting and difficult story choices to make. However, the elements that make it a game are frustrating and generally lousy.

You play Lee, a UGA professor on his way to prison for murdering his wife’s lover, when the zombie outbreak happens. The cop driving you hits a walker and you escape. You soon run across a kid, Clementine, hiding by herself, and you end up taking care of her for the rest of the game. Much of the game is sort of in a LucasArtrs/Sierra adventure game style. You walk around and certain things are clickable, to look at something, pick it up, use it, use something on it, or talk to someone. There are little puzzles to solve. The puzzles basically suck. In adventure games I’ve played, the puzzles are clever and you get a sense of accomplishment when you solve them. In this game, they’re tedious as hell.

The best example, you and your group find a train where the roads are blocked, and find out it’s still working. You need to start it up, but someone ripped off the top page of the notepad that had the startup instructions on it. Easy enough, right? Do the TV PI thing where you rub a pencil on the second page, and you’ll see the impression of what was written on top. Now you just have to wander around for 5 minutes looking for a pencil. Then once you have the pencil you’re all set, right? Nope. You now have this list of instructions, and you have to click on a board of panels, click on panel 6, then click on switches 3, 4, 5, and 7 to raise them. Each raised switch comes with an animation if your hand reaching out and flipping the switch. Then you have to click on panel 5 and rotate one of the dials. Then panel 9… is elsewhere in the train, so you have to go outside the cabin, walk halfway down the car, open a door, click on panel 9, turn the dial left, then turn the dial right. None of this is fun, none of this gave me a sense of accomplishment. It was just really, really tedious.

Another problem is the sudden bursts of action. It’s a relaxed game 95% of the time. Make dialog choices, wander around and click on what you can click on. Nothing time sensitive at all. But then a zombie bursts in and you have to react quickly or be bitten.

And related to the sudden bursts of action, the controls are not configurable (as far as I can tell). This mostly presents a problem when I alt-tab out to type something, then alt-tab back and my fingers are on the wrong keys, Because ESDF is better than WASD, but the game forces you to WASD. And there are maybe 4 or 5 sequences in the game where you switch to a first person shooter view, and I am an inverted mouse person. With no option to invert it, I struggled mightily with these things.

I figured out in the first (of five) chapters that the gameplay was terrible, but the story really was good, and fitting with The Walking Dead. People died like crazy, you had difficult choices to make, there were consequences to your choices, the people in your group are constantly in conflict, and you get the sense that there’s no way this will turn out well. Glenn and Herschel from the comics make brief appearances as well. At the end of chapters, they show you stats of what players made what decisions (“you and 73% of players chose to save the kid instead of the other guy”), which is kinda cool. About the only story complaint I have is that Clementine was a terrible name for the girl.

The story ends nicely. There is a “second season” with chapters being released now, which apparently continues with characters from the first, but I’m not willing to put up with crappy gameplay to get invested all over again.

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