SPOILERS ALERT: The decisions and outcomes of both the Walking Dead: Season 1 and the 400 Days DLC are touched upon in this article. You have been warned!
I was one of the many who bought the 400 Days DLC for Telltales epic The Walking Dead series and lapped it up in about an hour and a half. Whilst consistently thinking about how mind-blowing it was, life caught up with me and a review seemed further and further away. Then the realisation kicked in; the adventures of Lee and Clementine still pull on the heart strings and are as vivid as if I played it yesterday whilst I simply couldn’t tell you or name any of the characters that were involved with the 400 days.
As I mentioned in the title, Telltale games seemed to think that the disjointed narrative would work in their favor. It certainly showed the escalation of the zombie apocalypse, and how everything had gone completely to hell. But, particularly gamers, know that life with zombies lurching around isn’t going to be a bed of roses; we only follow the adventure to see how the characters within that environment interact and react to an ever changing landscape that is completely unsafe. The bouncing around of characters made the whole experience feel a bit artificial, as if the developers were attempting to throw as much blood and gore at me to see if they could play my heart like a violin (again)
This in particular is what left such a bad taste in the mouth regarding the DLC. We had legs being blown off, heads being caved in by accident, an old couple shot for doing nothing more than staying alive and the chance to allow a pre teen shoot a friend for stealing and trying to get away. Yet the decision on whether to allow Ben to live in the main game, despite the fact he was one of the most unlikable characters in the whole series, and the fact that a good amount of people died due to his sheer incompetence weighed far more heavily on me than anything any of the characters in 400 days did.
It is more than possible to promote a connection with a character and to make their actions produce an emotion from the player; Telltale Games had us doing this before we really understood how close knit the connection between Clementine and Lee would actually be. I didn’t care what happened to Vince after his escape and Wyatts story felt like it had been taken out of an unwanted script for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
First and foremost, I’m not being unduly unfair on DLC as a whole and how there length is almost always paltry compared to the actual game. Length doesn’t matter, its what you do with it (ahem). The Dawnguard DLC for Skyrim turned a age old nightmare into a fun reality. Hell even the relatively rubbish Tyranny of King Washington still sticks in my head for the way it developed a storyline that linked straight back to the games lead.
400 days felt like an unnecessary taster, something that no one really needed as the fan base was already rabid for the next season without any new content coming out in between. What feels like a missed opportunity is the complete lack of reference to the last season. If all of these stories happened in the span of 400 days, wouldn’t some kind of link up with the main characters in the first season create a more cohesive narrative? It would give a lot more service to fans if we saw Kenny and Duck actually interact with Shel and the gang at the gas station before he met Lee, rather than seeing a fleeting image of them both at the beginning of an episode.
And the ending seemed stretched even by normal standards; as if putting pictures of yourselves on a notice board on the off chance that someone will pick them up, work out who you are and find you whilst trying not to be eaten in the middle of flipping no where.
Is 400 Days still a good game? Yes. Will I still get Season 2 when it comes out? A bit of a stupid question. But, after the glow of jumping back into that world again, the lack of any sufficient characters, and character development that borders on parody (high hippy, college dropout, misunderstood man arrested for crime that he regrets) is infuriating. Focusing on the one character would have allowed us to get a hook back into the setting and give a better link to the player i.e I want to know how such and such survives, rather than a group of characters which I have no attachment too.
Yet after all this, its a testament to Telltale that they can get people, including myself, riled up about character development. Guess that must mean they are doing something very right!