Comparing Games Pt.1: The Walking Dead

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With my mind still empty of ideas, even after a quarter bag of sour cream & bacon chips and a cup of coffee, I’ve decided to try writing a video game review. For 3 games, actually, since I’m not very good at judging things on their own. But I’m good at comparing.

Of those 3 games, I bought 2 during boxing day sales online. My older sister bought my younger sister The Walking Dead on disc for Christmas and I bought Far Cry 3 and Dishonored for myself with my Christmas money (because I’m poor and too lazy to find a job). The first game I played out of the three was The Walking Dead.

I don’t play very many video games. By that, I mean I don’t own much of a variety of games. Being the poor, lazy kid that I am, I usually just buy one big game a year (most often Call of Duty) and play it for hours. It may be because of this that I really enjoyed TWD for its story. Never before had I played a game that forced me to make so many story-changing decisions in so little time. It felt like every decision I made would affect the outcome greatly, even when all I was choosing was how to say hello. I also felt anchored to the characters, like my relationships with them really mattered.

The Walking Dead isn’t actually the first game to make me feel connected to other characters. The better of my few examples would be Far Cry 2, where you met the other playable characters and they would come to your rescue when you died, as long as you came to theirs at random times during the game. They also suggested different ways to complete missions, so knowing people actually changed how the game played out. In this way, who you knew actually affected how you played. I haven’t played very many games like that.

One of the most annoying things to happpen to me (in the context of a video game) was when I had friends over who didn’t know how to play, left the room, and came back to one of my best in-game buddies dead, and the game file saved over. But I wasn’t just angry because a lot of possibilities in the game were taken away from me. I was also mad because there was one less familiar face in that world to see after blacking out in a firefight somewhere.

Other games that made me feel connected to other characters were Dark Souls and Pokémon. Dark Souls, because there aren’t very many people to talk to, so the people I do meet, I try to talk to a lot. Also because that world is just so lonely, not just empty for you but seemingly empty for everyone else as well. And sometimes, it’s your fault.

I think Pokémon might not count because I only kept cute pokémons in my party. But beating the Elite 4 with pokémon you remember catching in a bush was nice. I have a feeling that it might have something to do with this:

Says the guy with a lv.50 cyndaquil. (THAT THING IS CUTE AS FU-).

Back to The Walking Dead though. What I didn’t like about the game was how stressful it was to have to make those constant decisions. As I played the game, I really thought my decisions through. I tried to make my decisions as close to what I think I’d do in real life. I think the developers might’ve read my mind though.

Here’s a story straight from the game, and how I thought through it. Spoilers, obviously. I think this is Episode 3, after settling down at the motel. We’re invited to stay at a dairy farm and the owners are happy to feed us. But everyone else is uneasy. I decide that it’s better for us to be fed and uncomfortable than hungry and… still uncomfortable. At the first sign of trouble though, we leave. Due to an accident involving bandits and getting caught on the wrong side of an electric fence with them, one of my friends are injured. He’s recovering in a room upstairs, in the house of the dairy farmers. Dinner’s almost served that day, but this guy gets my attention. He used to be a bro but he’s been causing trouble lately. He wants me to break into a locked room with him but I’d really rather not. Whatever the farmers were hiding, I didn’t think it important enough to trade knowing for being fed. But the game didn’t give me the choice to ignore him, se we break into that room. There are bonesaws, a bloody shower, and it finally hits me: this is a dairy, not a ranch. Hilarity ensues. The night ends with 2 of them dead and 2 of us dead, one from having his legs chopped up and cooked, another from a heart attack that we tried to save him from until the guy who insisted we open the locked door drops a saltblock on his head.

A game like this new to me. It was a great experience, it being so fresh, but I think it lacked something very important to the formula of catharsis: being able to walk away. An obvious argument against this is that I can actually walk away at any time, since it’s just a game. But because I haven’t reached the conclusion of the story yet (because of a bug that has me stuck 10 minutes into an episode with nothing to do), it feels like nothing’s over, even though I’ve stopped playing already.

I could solve this problem by finishing the game but I think that a few changes in the middle of the game would help too. Something like the addition of minigames based on the things real survivors might do in the middle of a zombie apocalypse to keep from getting bored. Or happy, hopeful digressions from the main story. Just having a character tell a joke now and then would help too. But that’s just my opinion.

I didn’t think that talking about one game would take this long. At least I’ve got the foundation down for the next few articles.

’til next time. o/

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