There is a void at E3. A space between the convention halls. A shadowy pit so dark, so desolate, that mere mortals fear to tread there. Though the journey was lined with abyssmal eastern MMOs, me-too mobile apps, and Facebook scam artists, I made the trek. The journey was long, and many journalists were lost along the way. The few that made it through were greeted to the welcoming arms of Telltale Games.
Upon our glorious arrival, we were treated a feast fit for the brave adventurers that we were. Once our appetites were sated by turkey legs dressed like mangled flesh, and our spirits were regained, we stepped into a theater to recieve a demonstration of Episode 2 of their ongoing The Walking Dead series.
For those unfamiliar, Telltale makes primarily the modern evolution of point and click adventure games. Though they may be 3d, and you have a bit more direct control over the character, it’s clear where the inspiration from the gameplay comes from.
One point they were keen to make was that this is set in the world of the comics and graphic novels, not the world of the TV series. The game follows the story of Lee Everet, also known as not Rick Grimes to fans of the series.
While their game is set in same world as the comics, it is not a retelling of the same story. Given the nature of the world the game is set in, this meant that Telltale was much more open in terms of what they were able to do with their characters, and just how much the choices you make can change the game.
This episode is set 3 months after the end of episode 1. The world has completely entered full zombie apocalypse mode, and the survivors are beginning to run low on food. As the opening scene played out, it was mentioned that they are tracking absolutely everything that the players do, and they are very keen on having subtle choices have a big impact later on.
The graphical style of the game felt true to the comics, and some of the scenes were gruesome enough to make me flinch and turn away. The action picked up quickly, as Lee and Kenny found two high school students standing next to their teacher whos leg was caught in a bear trap.
“This is an example of a time where we want you to have to make major decisions under pressure. Things are moving franticly, and I only have a few seconds to make my decisions or we’ll be overwhelmed by walkers.” After a gruesome sequence involving an axe, a leg, and one journalist’s lunch, the group returned to camp, and we were shown a sequence involving a bit more of the character’s dialogue.
“One of the things that people like about The Walking Dead is that it’s about the characters and their interactions. It just happens to be set in the zombie apocalypse. We stayed very true to that design here.” As the remaining cast was reintroduced, we were given a bit of background on each of their personalities. Of course, the characters you meet may be different that what we were shown depending on how Episode 1 played out for you.
Food supplies were low, and the dialogue sequence led to the player having to distribute the rations for the day. “This is an example of one of the more thoughtful types of choices we give the player. Here I only have 4 pieces of food, and I have to decide which of these 9 people to feed.”
While we watched the dialog play out, with many callbacks to outcomes from part one, an important mention was made: “While we’re showing you a few of the events which will very obviously affect you down the road, there’s a lot of places where we don’t make it quite so blatant. Everything you do could have consequences, and you don’t always know what those are.”
The demo ended with one of the casualties turning, and a major revelation from the comics. “Wait, you guys don’t know? It’s not the bite that does it. If you don’t destroy the brain, you come back no matter how you die. It’s going to happen to every single one of us.”
If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, a fan of Telltale, or a fan of this style of adventure games (which in today’s market is another way of saying you’re a fan of Telltale), you’ve probably already picked this up. For the rest of you, Telltale definitely seems to have done a great job with their story telling, and other than a few unfortunate quick time sequences, the game looked to be consistently solid. Keep in mind that the gameplay is more interactive book than action game before you shell out your cash, however.
“We’re about to submit Episode 2 for certification for Xbox and Playstation, and we’re targeting a release on those platforms about 30 days from now.” The PC version will likely be coming before that. We were also given a chance to try the iOS version of the game, which is coming soon™. Episode 1 is available on XBLA for 400 Microsoft Points, and on PSN for $5. The PC version is available on Steam as a Season Pass for $25. It is pretty likely they’ll follow their previous pattern of releasing individual episodes after that.