There’s no doubt that Telltale’s The Walking Dead was a smash hit last year. It sold in the millions and ended up being the studio’s biggest release ever. It wasn’t just the sales that Telltale had to be happy with, since the game was given waves of critical praise by the media.The Walking Dead won so many Game of the Year awards (also my own personal GOTY) that I remember losing count when trying to tally all the honours coming in from various websites and magazines. A plan for a second season was known soon after, but unlike the popular TV show, we don’t have to wait a year to get a sample of more The Walking Dead. A nice little surprise from Telltale in the name of The Walking Dead: 400 Days has arrived as downloadable content to bridge the gap between season one and season two, and give fans a little teaser of what to expect in the upcoming season.
It seems weird that I’m talking about a follow-up to a game as a season, rather than a sequel, but for The Walking Dead, it just seems natural to speak about it that way. If I was to speculate, it is safe to say that the following season will feature the same graphics and gameplay that we experienced in the first season, and if400 Days is anything to go by, then I’m right on the money. 400 Days isn’t the place to start with the series. It’s content for fans that are eagerly waiting for Telltale’s continuation of the The Walking Dead. 400 Days is what we would call a filler episode in the world of television, and I don’t mean that as to criticize the quality of the content – it’s great, but for different reasons to Clementine and Lee’s journey through the horrors of Savannah.
400 Days takes place over the span of 400 days. The emphasis of this add-on is the focus on five new short stories that happen at various points during that time span, eventually coming together as one in what seems to be a setup for the beginning of the new season. This isn’t a huge investment, coming in around one hour and 20 minutes to get through, but what it does is open up more of the world of The Walking Dead and allow fans to see how other people are dealing with the situation, some in worse positions than others.
I don’t want to spoil what happens in 400 Days, but I’ll set up the scenarios so you can get an idea of what to expect. Any of the characters can be played in any order, which are selected by a bulletin board that has pictures of the survivors and a name tagged under them. I personally played them from left to right, since I like going in a nice orderly fashion. As you are probably expecting, these plots don’t just revolve around the zombies, but other humans and the brutish nature the world has been transformed into. Vince is a convicted criminal locked up in a prison bus with other inmates during the early days of the outbreak; Wyatt and his stoner buddy are trying to escape from some unknown attackers; Shel is stuck in the central truck stop (a place that is a key focus of 400 Days) and must settle with a hard decision; Russell is having a walk down a specific road (you’ll know what it is when you see a certain something); and Bonnie is a junkie who wants to stay off the drugs after meeting with her new friend and his wife.
What’s great about having these small scenes is that each one is aimed at covering a different theme and makes for some very varied scenarios. All of them are well-paced, interesting, and don’t waste time with getting the player in a position to know the character. Instead, you’ll know them from their actions; although, because you hardly spend time with the characters, it can be hard to get a sense for or care for them as much as the five-episode trip you spent with Lee and the wonderfully adorable Clementine. I’m not saying you won’t like them or feel a sense of attachment, because some of the characters do come off as likeable, even if they are “evil.” The game is once again throwing hard decisions at the player without enough time to reason with, but since your investment with the characters is limited, your heart won’t be in the same place when making these decisions as it was in season one.
Relating to season one, there are some minor cameos and dialogue included that anyone with an eagle eye will be able to spot. It’s nothing to get in a frenzy over, but it’s nice to know Telltale are showing that this is a continuous world based around the player’s selections, and that makes us feel important when it comes to building our own outcomes for a game about moral choices. It’s the same for the final piece of 400 Days, where depending how you played each section determines something that happens at the end, which would seemingly lead to affecting something in season two. Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it, but some people might want to replay 400 Days to get the best outcome, unless you really don’t like any of these characters. I don’t know what is planned for them, but Telltale has done a good job at smartly introducing a new cast of survivors with no relation to anyone from the previous game.
Mechanically, nothing new is introduced in 400 Days. This is the same gameplay from season one, and I feel this will carry on with the upcoming second season – it’s the reason why calling it a season sounds more appropriate than naming it a sequel. If you liked the gameplay of The Walking Dead, then 400 Days will surely delight you with more of the same. Similar is said for the presentation. The graphics still retain that comic book vibe, and even though these aren’t the best animations, they convey personality and emotion well.
For a fantastic price of £3.99, fans should not hesitate picking up The Walking Dead: 400 Days. It might move at lightning speed, and we might not get the most out of these new characters, but the sense of drama coming from these short stories makes for a tantalising time. What it really rests on is how 400 Days is used in the second season, which will ultimately determine how great of a bridge between seasons this downloadable content ends up being.