Have you taken a venture into Telltale’s The Walking Dead first “season?” If you haven’t had the experience — it’s a heavy one and it bridges the gap between the gamer who wants a story and the folks who aren’t intense gamers but love a good show. I’ve spoken on The Walking Dead before, which is an interesting thing because I never got into AMC’s television show heavily. The graphic novel held sway and that was enough for me, so when Telltale took on the heavy task of adapting it into what would become the Game of the Year, we were all listening.
That was mere months ago, keep in mind.
Keeping The ‘Walkers’ Interested in 400 Days
The hardest part for any gamer out there is anticipation and we knew in our hearts that season two of Telltale’s game was approaching. However, when its supplemental episode entitled 400 Days was announced, all of us were wide-eyed. Some of us weren’t sure if this was the beginning of the second season or what this really was, but all it took was getting our hands on it to truly understand what Telltale was doing.
Where 400 Days All Fits Together
400 Days bridges the gap between the time taken place in the first season, which tells the story of Lee and Clementine and the events that will take place in the second season. At the game’s start, you’re shown a bulletin board and you play (in whatever order you choose) the cataclysmic event that led to bringing the group together. Five people all litter the board and, while there is an actual chronological order you can choose, I’d suggest going at random like I did on my first play through. It makes the game far more interesting when you see how the lives intersect.
You get to choose from Bonnie, a recently cleaned-up addict who was grouped with a married couple — one of which, if you can imagine, has a wandering eye that doesn’t go unnoticed by the wife. There’s Vince, a criminal of unknown circumstance other than having killed someone for a vague purpose and he’s now chained inside of a transport bus alongside two other questionable characters. My favorite scenario has to have been Wyatt and his brother Eddie, making hardcore decisions with childhood odds games during a traumatic experience, was one of the most realistic and inspiring parts of the title. While Shel’s scenario showed the lengths and tragedy surrounding keeping a group together in a horrifying time, it also shows the kind of internal struggle you have to deal with when the proverbials get caught in a vice. The most harrowing that — if done right — links you back to the first season (no spoilers!) is Russell’s story. I won’t go into details, but if that part of the story doesn’t leave you with chills, I don’t know what will.
Once you complete all small bites of sub-stories, you get one more to see how it all ties in together. It’s the choices that you make in your time with each character that will dictate what will happen at the end of it all. It fascinated me to see that my choices, at first, were the cause of possible abandonment or post traumatic stress disorder. I had built people up to be flawed and broken because I wanted them strong and that, well, that’s the sign of a good game in this genre: remorse.
What Does 400 Days All Mean?
400 Days isn’t a long “episode” and, to be fair, I think that Telltale meant it as a teaser trailer or even as a supplemental feature to get you excited for what will happen in the next season. Knowing that these people will play a part in some way, shape, or form in the next season excites me. Really! Due to the short length of the game, I was able to go back multiple times and rework, reshape, and actually experience new pieces to the story that I hadn’t unlocked. Some people consider that to go against the concept, but when something is written that well, I want every bit of it.
Having the opportunity to play through, I actually finished the game six times within the span of a few hours. Each time, I found myself missing and wanting to go test out another thing. I wanted to know just how much control I had within this story and what it would all mean if I kept pushing myself to make the hard decisions instead of what came easy to my heart. I think it’s safe to say that the developers knew people like me would be there, waiting.
I also believe that Telltale used this as a tech demo for what we’d see next season. Showing things like playing games in order to make decisions, choosing one object over another as a means to a major, major decision, and the concept of high-intensity movement and action will fix any flaw that we felt the first game had. Sometimes, we were meandering around to find clues and hints and there were times that, alone, would drag the game down. If Telltale keeps this kind of high-speed pace up in the second season like it did here in 400 Days, the lot of us are going to be drawing breath every few moments just to keep up.
Whatever your preferences are in how you play games like this, Telltale has got you covered and it’s more than willing to let you explore the broken world it’s painted in digital ink.
Images courtesy of Telltale Games and the author’s in-game footage