The Walking Dead: The Winding Down

By Alec Meer on November 20th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

And they all lived happily ever after ahahahahahahahargh

There’s a still a certain resistance in myself I have to battle when mentioning The Walking Dead games. I’d allowed myself to become so prejudiced against Telltale’s games after their patchy resurrections of franchises that meant a great deal to me as a child, and it doesn’t help that the Walking Dead comics have often demonstrated attitudes I find to be highly unsavoury. But TT’s Walking Dead games are deftly done slices of tension and humanity, reimaginging adventure games’ abstract puzzles as gut-punch moral dilemmas. Tada! My prejudice is defeated.

I imagine a second series of these episodes is all but guaranteed at this point, but the final episode of the current one approaches fast. Will it resolve Lee and Clementine’s tale once and for all, or pull a Homeland and delay much-needed denouements and resolutions until a second series? All we can do for now is watch the finale trailer and comb it for clues.

It appears to be spoiler-free, though I suppose in the brutal realm of The Walking Dead even seeing a character means that character has not yet died and as such that might be too much information for some.

No Time Left is the title for this fifth and for-now final episode, and next week tomorrow is its release date. Prepare hankies and carefully-worded tweets, no doubt. There’s this official summary of what the episode offers, and which suggests some frightening outcomes based on our proclivities over four previous games:

• What have you done and said to get to this point? Who is your ally? Who is still alive? All these things and more will affect the outcome of your story.

• A race against time with overwhelming odds stacked against you

It’s amazing how many times I’ve faced down overwhelming odds in my gaming career, but I guess I won’t have any machineguns or rocketlaunchers this time.

A savegame bug wiped my progress about halfway through the second episode so I don’t know what three and four were like. My plan is to wait for the series to finish then start over from the top in a weekend binge of agonising choices, sudden death and sad-eyed surrogate father figure drama.

__________________

« | »

, .

51 Comments »

  1. IC says:

    Wait, next week? I thought it was out tomorrow!

    • Allenomura says:

      I’d be very surprised to learn it was not, given that Telltale tweeted the release date for all but those in America region on PS3. as being tomorrow, just last night.

      • AngoraFish says:

        Steam is downloading a 500MB patch for my game as we speak…

        edit: yep, episode 5 now says “installed”, although I won’t be playing it immediately as I’m only 90% of the way through episode 2.

    • jyggen says:

      Yes, it is tomorrow.

  2. WoundedBum says:

    “Walking Dead comics have often demonstrated attitudes I find to be highly unsavoury”

    I’d like to know more.

    • IC says:

      I’ve actually started reading the comics as a direct result of loving the game so much, and while I’m only 5 paperbacks into the overall arc (that makes 30 issues, I believe) I think I know what Alec’s getting at.

      Without spoiling too much, it basically comes down to what the survivors need to do to keep going – are things that would have been immoral or illegal before the disaster acceptable behaviour now? Sometimes, the comics seem to come down on the side of “yes – it’s essential for the survivors to perform this barbaric action, or to govern themselves in this way, in order to maintain their strong community and chances for survival.”

      To its credit, this is never handled lightly or without criticism. And the way the morality of the characters develops and compromises throughout is one of the most interesting parts of the series imho. The 5-episode structure of the the game doesn’t really give it that degree of scope – the comic covers a period of months and years.

      It’s great though. I’m not much of a comics reader and I’m now obsessed.

      • Everyone says:

        “yes – it’s essential for the survivors to perform this barbaric action, or to govern themselves in this way, in order to maintain their strong community and chances for survival.”

        Having read the entire series, my take on it is that it’s more of a “this is what happened and here are the consequences” rather than a “this is the right thing to do” situation. Given that in some situations would have gone a lot better for the survivors if they had been a lot more brutal and other situations would have gone better if they’d been a lot less brutal it’s hard for me to see that any particular moral stance is being taken by the series as a whole but that these situations are vehicles for storytelling and exploration of moral choices good and bad. Well, that’s how I read it anyway.

      • WoundedBum says:

        I’ve read almost every issue, I just thought Alec meant he didn’t like the series. But still, the theme you mentioned does get explored quite a lot and well, it’s interesting to read.

      • Wubble69 says:

        I read up to Issue 100 and that was enough for me.

        I got bored of the TV show during the stay on the farm and stopped watching.

        And I don’t really miss either.

        Bleak, violent, miserable, pointless, unlikeable, joyless

        I can do without that stuff.

        • Syra says:

          All the hipsters think the tv show and the game are second to the comics, but having read a few of them I honestly think they are quite dull (other than the nice art!). The TV show is okay too I’ve been watching them all as they launch but it’s a bit dry. The game is the best format this franchise has taken.

          • jackass00 says:

            Someone likes something different than you? HIPSTERS!!

          • Kadayi says:

            Colour me hipster I guess. Read the comics all the way through to the Governer stuff, but I kind of felt it jumped the shark when a certain something happened to Rick, and stretched the credibility of his continued survival. There’s only so long you can hide the obvious between the comic frames.

            I thought the TV series started off well under Darabont and his introduction of characters like Daryl and the use of crossbows was great, as was going to the CDC which was in Atlanta, something Kirkman apparently wasn’t even aware of (yay for writers who do no research…I’m looking at you also Damon Lindelof). Unfortunately since Darbont’s ‘abrupt’ departure Kirkman’s taken over and his comic book excesses are coming to the fore. For instance Katana’s are not magically ever sharp swords that will cut effortlessly through flesh and bone forever. I wouldn’t say the TV series is terribad, but it’s certainly not OMG must see TV unlike say Breaking bad or Homeland.

            The game however I really been enjoying. I think the focus on the smaller group as well as the relationship between Lee & Clementine has been brilliantly handled and I’m really looking forward to seeing how episode 5 plays out and also whether a second season is on the cards.

        • deadly.by.design says:

          Yeah, I’m starting to wonder if it can ever go anywhere satisfactory. Every victory is short-lived, and every tragedy pales in the face of the next.

        • brotherthree says:

          These things are what makes the show worth watching. you can get happy feelings and laughs from all the other dime a dozen shows.

          Im not sure how people can find it boring, compared to virtually any cable show out there it its not even a competition.

          I guess some people just are suited for the “Big bang theories” and “Grey Anatomys”.

  3. mckertis says:

    “Walking Dead games”

    Right, games.

    • Spoon Of Doom says:

      At some point we really need to come up with a better term than “game” for this interactive medium, as it’s branching (or has already branched) in many, vastly different directions. If only to shut up all the “omg [insert title here] is not a real GAME lol durrhurr” comments and let everyone enjoy the things they want without being talked down for it.

      Edit: I accidentally a word.

      • Smuckers says:

        I actually disagree with that. Game is a fine word for what we play. It’s not like “movies” or “novels” were considered particularly respectable names for entertainment when they first hit the scene. Those words gained gravitas as their respective mediums got better over time. Tackling difficult themes, exploring the human condition, and basically improving plot cohesion is what allowed those mediums to become respected entertainment Maybe games will too. (Not that I give a toss one way or the other whether someone else considers what I do in my free time is respectable, of course.)

      • gritz says:

        We don’t need a new word for it, we can just start writing off people who complain about it.

    • GameCat says:

      Why choosing between killing guy with pistol or rifle is a gameplay and choosing different dialog lines with different outcome for each isn’t?

      • Kadayi says:

        Whether you shoot a man or stab him still results in the same thing. If you chose to let him live however, that’s an entirely different thing.

        • GameCat says:

          Great. Now think – how many games goes beyond that simple knife vs. pistol thing? Very few. I just realised it after playing Dear Esther. You walk and look here, nothing more. But if you add a gun and some soldiers to kill – does it make a game more interactive? On basic level – yes.
          But it still have binary state of “choices”. You can only die or do things that are NECESSARY to push story forward. It’s still just illusion of making choices.

          In TWD you also have this. But choices you’ve made – they have more impact on whole thing (even if this is a small change) than simple, nonsignificant choice between shooting or stabbing a random enemy.

          Oh and one thing (SOME TWD EP2 SPOILERS HERE) – some choices I’ve made like pulling pitchfork in that guy’s chest doesn’t change story too much, but they have impact on me, player. I was feeling so bad after killing that guy, especially when Clem saw whole thng. Damn it!

    • Eddy9000 says:

      The Walking dead games for me fall firmly into the realm of ‘interactive fiction’. There are some nods to ‘gameplay’ in the shooting sections and ‘puzzle solving’ in the use of items but the role of these is primarily to build engagement with the narrative through the interaction of the player rather than leaning skills and rules to reach an end goal or testing logic to any great degree. Playing on the iPad I felt that the really groundbreaking thing WD did is to use interaction to draw its audience into the narrative, for example with the famous (MILD SPOILER) leg chopping scene furiously tapping on the tree and the chain as the walkers got nearer made me directly experience the desperation and urgency of the narrative, whereas with a book or film this would be communicated to the viewer in the WD series the viewer is made to be an actor in the events. The biggest complaint I’ve heard has been that the much vaunted ‘choices’ the reader makes are false insomuch as they do not cause a real impact on the plot, but my experience was that the use of choice was a mechanism to allow the reader to experience the moral dilemma of the characters as part of the narrative rather than being an RPG style ‘create your own story’ mechanic (although to be fair Telltale shot themselves in the foot with all their ‘the decisions you make have an impact’ malarky, although this might be a neccessary illusion for the conceit of interaction to work).
      By far my favourite parts have been when interactivity is used as a kind of ‘red herring’ to throw the readers understanding of the narrative askew, for example (SPOLIER) when a message appears saying “so and so will remember that” suggesting they will be in the game for the next episode only for them to die unavoidably soon afterwards, creating the shock of the characters in the reader, or (SPOILER) when Lee wakes up to find Clementine as a zombie and is offered the same mechanic used with other zombies to fight her off, building the idea that she actually has turned.

      I’d personally love to see interactive fiction like the Walking Dead progress from here, and I’m really interested in seeing what creative ways interaction can be used to make readers experience the narrative like Telltale have done.

    • soldant says:

      I’d argue it’s closer to a game than something like The Path or Dear Esther, because it has a clear fail-state where you can lose the game, along with a clear goal where you can “win” (or maybe complete) the game, along with a ruleset that you must adhere to. It’s not as interactive or freeform as something like SHOOTER MAN 2059: HONOUR BLOODMEDAL but it’s a lot more interactive and closer to a game than the “interactive art games”.

    • OrangeJews says:

      You’re right, it’s a game, not games.

  4. Stromko says:

    I feel Alec’s pain on losing one’s saves. It’s happened to me after finishing episode 2, and again on a new playthrough right as I was going to play episode 3.

    I didn’t feel like playing through everything once again, or having a bunch of choices I wouldn’t make randomly made for me by starting midway through, so I haven’t even played Episode 4. Watched Hannah on the Yogscast play through it instead.

    That’s only part of the reason. Episode 3 had been so brutal that I didn’t even want responsibility for what fresh traumas Clementine might go through, I was more comfortable watching someone else play. I think it was just as fun if not better, since playing through it a few times has made it pretty obvious that the choices I make don’t even matter anyway, unless said choice results in immediate death.

    I hope that Episode 5 is the end of the story for this cast of characters, just so we can finally have some decisions that radically alter the outcome.

    • S Jay says:

      I am not sure your choices are really meaningful. The only choice I really thought could impact something was at the end of episode 4 – but we still have to see how this will be handled by episode 5 (they might pull the ol’ bs move of [censored due to spoilers] to funnel all players to the same state).

    • Bigmouth Strikes Again says:

      I had the same problem and came to the same decision as Alec: wait until it’s over and hope it works then.

    • OrangeJews says:

      Or you could just, you know, google the solution. Then you’d know that it takes about 3 minutes of your time to fix the saves and keep on playing the game from where you left off.

  5. Optimaximal says:

    Oh Alec, if only you knew…

    Also, just because the trailer shows people there doesn’t mean they will be – the end of Episode 4 essentially set up who was going to be there and only one of those shown was ‘fixed’.

  6. jonfitt says:

    I think Lee won’t make it to the end of this season and Clem will be the star of season 2.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I hope you’re right. A final episode plot revolving around Lee’s death being inevitable but his choices influencing Clementine in a way made meaningful by their influencing her as the protagonist of the next series would just perfectly encapsulate the themes of ethical dilemma and fatalism which have run through the series. Be a shame to ruin it with a Hollywood ‘happy ending’.

  7. Harlander says:

    I’m only up to the second one, and it’s actually pretty great, but I’m getting the impression that the game’s not quite remembering my choices properly in every case

    • Syra says:

      It’s only the illusion of choice – me and a friend played through making mostly polar opposite choices and ending up in the exact same situations. It’s a bloody good illusion but don’t expect too much from it under scrutiny.

      • S Jay says:

        At the end of ep4 there is something that SHOULD be quite different.

        We will see if they pull more bs moves to level the playing field again.

      • Harlander says:

        @Syra

        I wouldn’t be too surprised if most choices turned out to be illusory – that’d be fine.

        But taking action A, only to have a character later go “I’m really annoyed with you for taking action B!” seems like a bug, given the character was standing pretty much right next to me at the time.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      There is a choice in episode one that notoriously does not cause the influence you think it might. In fact after treating Kenny how I thought was fairly all the way through the game he still goes on about how I never support him. It worked quite well though, I just ended up reading Kenny as a bull-headed individualist who didn’t remember what someone had done for him in the past when it came to getting his own way again.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        It’s amazing how much smart writing can do to sell the player on “choice” — even when there effectively is none. Planescape: Torment was also really good at this.

        And for the record, I don’t see that as a bad thing at all. If it works, it works.

  8. phenom_x8 says:

    The Walking Dead, ah.. how I love this game very much. I dont know how appropriate this game to be called point & click adventure game, but I feel the same excitement with this game as much as with Beneath the Steel Sky or Monkey Island. There’s trully something unique in this game, while I oftenly feel quite bored when playing Beneath or Monkey in mid game, this game make me bothered to replay it’s first three episodes without a rushed feelings.
    Sometimes I was thinking, didn’t this is actually a modern point and click adventures game should have been?? Short, but packed with enough content (and story branch) to played it over and over again and enjoy the different results.

    • S Jay says:

      I would prefer Monkey Island with better graphics and that is it.

      But Walking Dead is seriously good – not MI good, but, hey, it is great.

  9. Spoon Of Doom says:

    Savegames seem to be a widespread issue with this game. When I tried to start Episode 4, it sent me to the opening of Episode 1 – at first I thought it was meant to be a flashback of some sort, but when I realised that I was actually playing Episode 1, I quit, looked at the savegame which read “Episode 1 something something” and started cursing like a drunken sailor in a cursing competition.

    About 10 minutes later, replaying from E1 still wasn’t an option for me, but the rage died down enough that I tried out starting E4 again. This time it actually started Episode 4, and judging by who is still alive and the “what happened before” recap in the beginning, it also seems to have remembered my decisions, so all is well in the end. But the few minutes in between were infuriating, because I was so invested in the characters and their story; and I felt repeating everything while knowing which decisions might carry weight later would water down the story, the characters and my relation to them.

  10. Vraptor117 says:

    “My plan is to wait for the series to finish then start over from the top…” Wow, this is a terrible idea. every episode after the first one was left me feeling completely drained. I can’t imagine trying to play through all of them at once.

    • CptSqweky says:

      I agree with Vraptor completely. In fact, episode 3 drained me so much I purposely waited several days after episode 4 was released to play it because I was just that afraid.

      • Kadayi says:

        Yeah I don’t advise anyone try marathoning the season over a weekend. That’s just going to put you on a huge downer. You definitely need a few days between sessions, even though you’re kind of ‘what happens next?’ at the end of everyone.

  11. melnificent says:

    I read about the save game bug and took appropriate precautions by copying the walking dead save directory to a USB before loading.
    Yes it shouldn’t be necessary, but we’re not console gamers we have the ability to easily copy files. :)

  12. Ernesto25 says:

    I really like this game but whenever i say that or type it i feel dirty for calling it a game. No matter what the telltale forums say the choices simply don’t matter and its more of a movie than game as the adventure mechanics are very easy. Looking forward to it and still may buy season 2 if this episode is good which all (bar some of 3 ) have been.

  13. melnificent says:

    Well that was a disappointing episode.

    Spoiler free.

    Lots of choices come back to bite you (metaphorically).
    A couple of twists, as usual.
    And lots of not being able to do anything other than literally move forward, no side movements, no going back…. nothing works but the forward key. At one point I played with inching forwards vs walking just for some variation.
    These are point and click adventures. Generally fantastic ones so far, with gamers really feeling for the characters (THAT scene in particular) and so many tears shed for characters lost that it becomes a personal game too.
    But this episode about half has been given over to on-rails QTE. With no decisions to make other than when you press the forward key it loses it’s key feature, the grief felt by almost every single player.

    The inner workings that have been fairly well hidden are placed in the clear too. Natural breaks in the party that, happened in previous episodes, have been removed. To be replaced with parts so obvious that it becomes an exercise in patience through boredom (yes really). We are not stupid, we know that it’s an illusion of choice. But it’s one we were happy to go along with, by showing how it’s done makes the hard decisions seem forced, and throws out the naturalness of it all.

    The story is good, but the frustrations of battling the control systems and limitations placed upon you in this episode mean that its impact is far less than what it should be. I can’t help thinking that if they hadn’t rushed the disc version for release in early December then it would have been so much better. It just goes to show that the frustrating delays of previous episodes were for the right reasons.

    A brilliant series ruined by a rushed final act.

  14. OrangeJews says:

    So, what was the point of the article? Was there any?

  15. grenadeh says:

    I’ve lost my save file betweenthe release of every single episode. It was only my fault this time as I forgot to back it up before reformatting – because of a bullshit I/O error which kept me from installing steam in the first place. The ending was wodnerful, if too sopranos.

    So, where is the petition i sign immediately for telltale to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make another walking dead game, different story, same engine, maybe less bugs, maybe more episodes. Did I mention please?

  16. Saul says:

    I wrote a blog with some thoughts about how the decisions work in Walking Dead – main point being that it’s a way of exploring emotional space, rather than plot possibilities:

    http://digitalspiritguide.com/how-telltales-the-walking-dead-tricks-us-into-feeling/

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>