Telltale is a studio of many colors; despite spanning a breadth of genres and video game fictions over the past few years, they have never failed to emulate and capture the essence that drives that particular narrative forward. Over the course of five intense episodes, The Walking Dead is perhaps their finest and most polished video game series to date, leading little question as to whether or not there would be sequel. While not the official beginning of season 2, The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a stellar bridging point between seasons that continues the harsh–and most often graphic–tales of survival in a post-apocalyptic country.
Those looking for resolution regarding season 1’s open-ending might be disappointed to find themselves introduced to new characters, but such feelings quickly fade when you pick up any one of the five stories. Occurring at various times in the 400 days since the outbreak, we are given a small vignette of each person’s struggle to survive in a world where showing humanity means weakness.
It is impressive to see how Telltale deviates from their proven formula in the previous season and go in new narrative directions, yet still succeed at making us care about these new faces so quickly. Jesse, a convict en route to jail when the outbreak hits, is perhaps the least original story of the bunch, but it is no less adrenaline pumping when walkers storm the bus and Jesse must take grave measures to save himself. The choice system is still the cornerstone of TWD and every character invariably faces an impossible choice that seeks to challenge everything they are as humans and survivors. Shel desperately wants to protect her sister from the evils brought by their new life, but when is it more important to be a good survivor, instead of a caring human? Underlining the point that no choice is right or wrong, Telltale continues to highlight great storytelling by emphasizing consequence with every choice you make, and it succeeds at crafting emotionally jarring stories in relatively no time at all.
Each arc is condensed and abrupt, with the entire episode lasting no more than 90 minutes. While that may seem like an insufficient amount of time to create a bond to so many new faces, Telltale finds a proper balance between the formula that worked before and experimenting with new things. Graphically, 400 Days is identical to the animated/cel-shaded look of Season 1 and the voice-acting very spot on.
The ending is a culmination of the choices you made leading to that point, leading to a potentially interesting start of Season 2. With such a strong emphasis on player choice, coupled with how Telltale will take your previous game into account, future Walking Dead episodes may become quite varied and nuanced journeys for each and every player, which I gather has been Telltale’s point all along.
See you in the next level,