The Walking Dead: 400 Days Review
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Telltale Games caught lighting in a bottle with their release of The Walking Dead, an episodic adventure game taking place in Robert Kirkman's zombie-infested comic book world. The game, like the source material, told a human story about living among monsters that was what the zombie horror sub-genre was built on. The game went on to win almost one hundred Game of the Year awards over the Triple A retail titles including Halo 4, Assassin's Creed 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
Whether or not it was part of the plan from the beginning, as the sales and accolades came in, Telltale began to make stronger and stronger mention that the five episodes of the game set for release would constitute “Season 1” of the series, with the implication that more was due for the hoards of the game's fans.
To that end comes the release of The Walking Dead: 400 Days, a downloadable expansion chapter available now on consoles and PC. Essentially a side story to the events of Season 1, 400 Days, tells five stories of five new characters (which means no Lee, Clementine or any member of their band) that are likely to figure as important as the franchise rolls on.
The titular 400 days is the period of time wherein the events of the expansion take place counting from the start of the zombie breakout. Each new character’s story takes place at varying points along that timeline in and around the events of the original game but are anchored by their interactions with a crumbling Georgia truck stop and not necessarily with each other. The stories can be tackled in any order, but only by playing them all can you see how they fit together and learn how they set the stage for Season 2.
Like a ravenous Walker, gamers are going to consume The Walking Dead: 400 Days but still be left hungry for more afterward. Each sub-story is short, sometimes surprisingly so, and it adds up to an overall experience that can last well under two hours. This is disappointing, not because that game length is any indicator of game quality, but because the expansion’s brevity robs the players of the opportunity to imbue the point of view character with any kind of personality.
Over five episodes, Season 1's Lee can be developed by your choices in dialogue and action as honest or deceptive, aggressive or passive, cold blooded or warmhearted. In 400 Days your time with each character is so short you barely have time to learn who they were before the outbreak (not to mention who the strangers are around you) before you have to make some of the rare and lasting choices that are a signature of the series.
Contributing to the shallowness of the experience is any kind of puzzle solving element. Though this kind of adventure game staple played only a small part in the series so far, the mental breaks it provided between the timed dialog and the zombie action are missed here. Players will also see that the developers didn't take too many chances by adding new elements to gameplay or interaction apart from being able to now manipulate elements in real time during QTEs (not uncommon for DLC, and likely why they made the distinction of calling this a DLC experience). Thankfully though, they have not strayed from the game's signature comic book look, or writing, as there are a couple of characters that you'll wish you could spend more time with.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days puts gamers in a tricky spot: the desire to return to a world that is not appealing to imagine yourself living in, though is at least compelling, as well as the need to stay 'in the loop' about events in the game's world before Season 2 versus the idea that they might be getting strung along.
Only when the next full season begins will anyone know if 400 Days was worth the modest investment, still it's a risky choice for too little of the same thing.