You might remember when Dylan Episode One of The Walking Dead serial game from Telltale Games. The unique proposition here is that each episode is only five bucks and the episodes are released periodically, rather than having a "full" retail game released right off the blood-stained bat. There are a total of five episodes in the first "season" of this Walking Dead game, so I thought I'd chime in with my thoughts on Episode Three: Long Road Ahead, as experienced on the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade.
The Undead Adventure Continues
As can be expected, the core mechanic with Episode Three is much the same as what you may have already experienced with the first two episodes. This is a "side story" that is separate from the TV show and graphic novel, but it exists in the same universe. You continue your adventures as Lee Everett, a convicted felon who was on his way to prison when the police cruiser crashed and he was left abandoned on the side of the road.
In some ways, this game plays like the point-and-click adventures that you might elsewhere. There are certain portions where you're able to take Lee to walk around in an environment, using the right analog stick to highlight regions on the screen. These can bring up to four options (by way of the A, B, X and Y buttons) for interaction.
The art style almost feels like it was pulled straight out of a comic book, which makes for a very interesting aesthetic. I did find that the animations could be choppy at times, though, and the detail didn't really come through as well as it could have. Even so, the game really does grab you and draw you into its narrative.
Character Building and Interactions
Now, you've developed some relationships with other survivors in this zombie-infested world. What's fascinating is that many of the decisions you made in the first two episodes impact some of the action in this third episode. If a character has built a certain level of distrust with you, you can get a sense of that when it comes to the dialogue you may have. Your decisions matter.
In this sense, not unlike the television show, the story here is less about zombies and more about the interactions you have with the other (living) characters. Who do you confide in? How do you choose to interact with Clementine? What do you do to diffuse a tense situation?
Choose Your Own Adventure
It's more like you're "playing" an interactive movie or TV show and you are "playing" a conventional video game. Yes, you walk around and yes, there are some puzzles to solve, but at its core, you are playing simply to advance the story. There are choices to be made, but you can tell that the narrative is being guided in a specific direction.
For instance, there's one segment in Episode Three where you are back at the motel with your group. In order to move the narrative forward, you have to "discover" certain clues and talk to everyone. I found myself stuck at one point when no one had anything new to tell me, because I had not yet "discovered" one of the clues to push the story forward.
More of the Uneven Stumbling
One of the gripes that Dylan had about Episode One was the uneven pace. There are some seriously slow portions where you can take a very relaxed approach, casually walking around the motel grounds to talk to the other characters. It feels very calm and safe, but it also feels strained because you really do end up going though nearly every conversation option.
And then, all of a sudden, the action can pick up very quickly and you could end up dying over and over again. You suddenly arrive at a life-threatening situation, not only trying to survive yourself, but also trying to protect your companions. It's almost like you're a zombie on the side of the road, completely dormant for days and then you miraculously wake up with the nearby smell of blood.
MEGATechie Zombie Survivor or MEGATechie Slow and Painful Death?
This is one of those things where you'll feel like you have a vested interest. If you've already played the first two episodes, you really will be curious to see what happens to Lee, Clementine, Duck, and the rest of the characters in this undead drama. In that sense, you'll feel more compelled to spend another five dollars on another episode.
Yes, I found that the narrative certainly had more depth than some other XBLA games and the voice-acting is top-notch. At the same time, the novelty that I experienced during the first episode has since worn off and some of the slower sequences simply feel laboured. I want to fight more zombies. I want to feel more of that mortal danger.
Telltale Games has already said that after this initial five-episode run is over, they're going to develop a "second season" for this Walking Dead game. While I did have fun and I really enjoyed the story, the level of innovation has started to wear thin and I hope that Telltale team can bring something new to captivate me even more.