The Walking Dead series is the best-known franchise from Telltale Games. It mirrors the popular comic book and television series, allowing players to enter the zombie apocalypse world of The Walking Dead, as they fight zombies and make decisions that affect the game’s storyline.
Telltale Games is known for popularizing story-based episodic gameplay, giving players a more cinematic experience in their games. Their games use a mechanic similar to the “butterfly effect,” which allows the player to make choices that can alter the outcome of the story. This, in turn, gives the player a sense of responsibility for their actions. Although they have acquired the rights to create games based on successful franchises like Game of Thrones and Batman, the series that led to their breakthrough success is The Walking Dead.
With its fourth season announced for 2018, now is as good as a time as any to look back at what makes this series so memorable.
Season one of Telltale’s The Walking Dead follows the story of Lee Everett at the start of the apocalypse. He’s an ex-prisoner who is now given a second chance at life as he tries to survive in the post-apocalyptic world with his group and a little girl he rescued named Clementine.
This is the first game in the series and it leaves a deep impression on the players because of the likability of the characters, and because of the choices the player is forced to make. Some of these decisions are truly soul-tearing, since just one button can determine whether a character survives or not. These decisions are even more trying once the characters start forming genuine relationships with each other, such as the strong familial bond between Lee and Clementine.
Season two continues the story through the eyes of Clementine, now slightly older and wiser. She is brought in by another group after being abandoned, and is soon forced to contend with a murderer hunting the group.
While the gameplay is quite similar to the first season, the story takes a much darker tone by putting Clementine and her group through many grim situations. Players rarely have a calm moment. While the side characters aren’t as memorable, the game is a lot more intense and the player gets a sense of pride as they watch Clementine grow and become stronger.
Season three of The Walking Dead changes its focus to a character named Javier Garcia who has been on the move to avoid Walkers and to protect his family, until they are separated and have to deal with a cult-like group known as the New Frontier.
Unlike the first two seasons, this game does not follow a linear narrative. The player gets to see Javier’s life before and during the apocalypse through a series of flashbacks and they play a role as to how Javier reacts to certain scenarios in the present. While Clementine is a side character in this season, the player still gets to watch Javier and Clementine’s friendship grow as they slowly become the adults they have to be.
A lot of the plot is left ambiguous to avoid spoilers, but the journey is truly best experienced. All the games have an underlying ray of hope amidst the decay and chaos, and that’s what makes The Walking Dead so memorable. Nothing lasts forever, neither the bad nor the good. The video games are filled with morally grey areas and we are sometimes left to wonder how much we are ready to risk before we lose our humanity.