The Walking Dead is a cultural phenomenon. That’s no secret; it’s bigger than the Olympics, and the comic book is the best-selling book, both in single issues and in collections, among nerds and casual fans alike. But the truth is that the best take on the world built by Robert Kirkman comes from Telltale Games. Here’s why.
Just a note, there will be a few spoilers.
A Tighter Focus
The Walking Dead, in other media, tends to suffer from a problem in that as the scope of the story widens, the story itself begins to slip, a little bit. Even from the get-go, you had Rick in Atlanta and Merle on the roof, and the problem has arguably gotten worse from there. Not so with Telltale; while there’s been side story DLC, each of the main games has focused directly on one character. True, there are plenty of characters, but the story focuses on just one.
The Decisions Are Harder… And Your Own
Probably one of the best tools is the fact that while the Walking Dead games are story-driven, how that story works out depends heavily on what you say and what you do. It’s clever in that while the games are rarely difficult in terms of puzzles, they can be damn hard as you struggle to find the right thing to say to a man who’s just seen something horrific, or when you’re dealing with a grade-A screwup who’s somehow survived to make your life worse.
The Characters Are Jerks
Another nice touch is that the games don’t bother to make anybody sympathetic. True, some are better than others, but patience runs out fast and self-interest comes to the fore quickly. It’s not just that it’s perhaps a more realistic look at what would happen if we were really put that far back as a species, but also because when you try to be nice to somebody, and they throw it back in your face, it makes you that much angrier… and that much harder to try and not be a bastard yourself.
They’ve Got The Hardest Edge In Video Games
One can argue that the hardest-core game, in terms of content, is straight from Telltale. In the first episode of season two, you had to decide whether to mercy-kill a dog that was just trying to survive and then force a little girl to stitch her own wound closed with no anesthesia, while hearing her scream with pain every step of the way. It’s rare a game can get to me, but after seeing Clementine grow up in season one, that was incredibly hard to do.
It’s rare that a game can play on your emotions so effectively, but Telltale pulls it off. Of course, this also raises the question of how much worse it can get for Clementine; we’ll find out next week.