TWD Tears and Flails

I finished The Walking Dead game last night and went through an emotional jag over fictional characters, the likes of which has not been witnessed since Joker was forced to abandon Shepard, Uncle Iroh’s perfection, Artax refusing to fight and, before all that, Bambi’s mom. I still have the 400 Days DLC to deal with, but I’m going to need to take an hiatus of feels before I get started on it.

Not that I didn’t know what I was walking into. My friends who had already played this game and learned that I was doing so, prefaced their praise with variations on what kind of sobbing mess it reduced them to. It’s deceptive, this game, using the rather simplistic, two dimensional artwork to lure you into a false sense of security. They could have gone the high definition route that would allow for more gruesome zombifaction, but I assume the stylistic choice was a throwback to The Walking Dead’s comic roots. In the first issue, creator Robert Kirkman stressed that he was not writing a horror story. Of  course there are zombies and the subsequent gore and I did have several jump out of my pants moments when they popped out from behind doors and stuff, but what Kirkman has created is actually a “survivalist adventure.” With the original story, you’re meant to follow the character, Rick Grimes, and see how he deals with the unimaginable. The television show has taken this one step further by granting more focus to a lot more characters. The key theme that pops out at you and is far scarier than the zombies, is that living, breathing human beings are scary motherfuckers and when we’re dropped down to the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Why yes, yes I have been taking the TWD Canvas Network course. Why do you ask?), there’s very little many of us are not capable of in the name of survival.

Clementine remembering that thing you did…

With all that in mind, you hop into this game as Lee, a former history teacher, now a convicted murdered. Through dialogue choices, you can decide just what type of personality Lee has and how he deals with the situations and people. Initially, it’s not such a difficult thing to do, but when the shit hits the fan and you’ve got a timer on your decisions, the pressure is on. There is an option to see what the other characters think about your decisions, but I opted out of this as I didn’t want it to influence me and frankly, didn’t think it was necessary to know that so and so “will remember that.” The characters react appropriately enough to your words and actions, and you ought to be able to tell what decisions will and will not affect them in the future. For example, if you side against Lilly when it comes to her father, whom she loves dearly, of course she’s going to remember that and she’s probably going to remember it when she’s got a gun in hand and is making decisions on your importance to the group.

Anyway, Lee survives a car crash that conveniently frees him from custody, while simultaneously introducing him to the end of the world. He makes his way into town where he meets an eight year old survivor named Clementine. Together, they set out to, well, survive.

Technically speaking, controls are a little wonky, though I really only had issue with panic situation moments where I had milliseconds to target things with my mouse. Not frustrating enough to tableflip though.

I better just tuck those back in and try that again.

There are the typical puzzle moments where you have to find this to achieve that. A lot of them are a lot more off the wall than they probably intended, like the electronic collar on the dead dog, but whatevs. Gets the job done. The important thing here is the decision making and how you deal with everyone. In life or death situations, who dies? Who lives? In leadership struggles, do you stand up? Take sides? Or just sit on the fence? And most important of all is little Clem, who just wants to get to Savannah to find her parents.

4.5 star review part of this post done, I will now move on to the flail.

[SPOILERS BEYOND!] 

The flail started the first time Doug yelled at me from across the zombie infested street. That’s why you died, Doug, even though you did good things with technology. There was flail all over the annoying episode 2, where many stupid decisions were made that you couldn’t control, mostly involving a family at a farmhouse and the not so shocking secrets they were keeping, as well as a suddenly there new character who, unsurprisingly got red shirted. While a few important things happened in this episode, like the bricking of Larry’s head, I wasn’t impressed with the soylent greens are people plot that could be seen a mile away. Fortunately, things improved in episode 3.

I played Lee as a straight shooter (similar to just under 50% of all players) who killed only when he had to and always with Clem as his top priority. He always talked to her and took care of her and all his decisions and indecisions were because of her. He also did his best to cling to some level of humanity, even if it meant risking himself or the crew. He couldn’t just abandon people in the group, even though some of them deserved it.

(LOOKING AT YOU BEN AND KENNY)

These two were the source of a lot of flail. I wanted to kill Kenny early on, and when Ben admitted to being the one to blame for the death of Duck and Katja (you forgot Carley, asshole!) and later ditched Clem to zombies, resulting in Chuck’s sacrifice, and then removed the hatchet, resulting in Brie’s death…. Let’s just say that personally, I had no issues with math when it came to how many people could fit on the escape boat. But, I was roleplaying here, so I had to stay true to Lee, which meant I did not drop Ben down the bell tower and as a result, he and Kenny ended up having a pretty emotional bromance moment. Well, I’m sure they didn’t see it as that, what with the zombies eating their intestines and all, but I appreciated the way the story ran with Kenny and Ben’s end together, offering a gruesome kind of reconciliation and redemption for both of them.

An Ode to my Hatchet….

Moving on to a thing that made me yell at the game even more than Kenny and Ben’s fuckery: My goddamn axe/hatchet. This is a zombie apocalypse, goddammit! Stop taking away my weapons! Every time I got my hands on a useful weapon, Lee lost it, or gave it away, or locked a door with it. USE THE DAMN THING TO BASH IN ZOMBIE HEADS! You do not give away axes and hatchets! You do what Molly did: You give that thing a name and you never let it go!
Finally, Lee gets bitten on his way to find the kidnapped Clementine. At this point on, you’re playing with the full knowledge that this is not going to be a happy ending, if ever you thought it would be. The offers of hope are limited, but never unrealistic. Lee is, plain and simple, dying, and if he does make it to Clementine, she’s going to have some heavy shit to deal with.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the “final boss,” whose purpose seemed just to throw your decisions in your face. It pulled me out of the game a bit, but after that, it was all about Clem and Lee, finally together again… for a little while. I was pretty much on the edge of tears for the entire last part. It’s a good thing I had so many distractions available to me after that, otherwise, it would have been a tear-stained pillow and heartache kinda night.

Well played, Telltale Games. Well played.
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