The Walking Dead 400 Days Review
Being such an overused setting, it’s hard for me to imagine looking forward to a game set in a zombie apocalypse. While the Last of Us still awaits my critique, the Walking Dead game hit an unprecedented level of quality with the first five episodes. With Season Two still months away, Telltale Games has released a single piece of downloadable content that bridges the gap between Seasons One and Two. The Walking Dead 400 Days is composed of five short stories starring different characters passing through an abandoned truck stop over the course of 400 Days. The entire episode will last between one and two hours with each individual story lasting approximately fifteen minutes. The impact of each segment isn’t as strong as any of the episodes from Season One but there are plenty of hard-hitting decisions sprinkled throughout. Each story is different from the last and keeping with the themes of Lee and Clementine’s tale, the narrative says a lot more about people in a zombie apocalypse than the zombies themselves. It paints a grim picture of else is happening during the end of the world.
The gameplay of 400 days is identical to its predecessor. Like Season One, it’s an adventure game with action set-pieces thrown in every once in a while. Each segment has varying levels of action but the adventure-game cliché of finding and combining items is thankfully absent. Despite the variety of each segment the entire episode feels properly paced. There are no tutorials and no exposition, the narrative drops the player in and out of different characters’ lives giving them snapshots of what the world is turning into. Out of the five segments not one comes across as a weak link although Shell’s story definitely features the most difficult decisions. The writing meets the same high standard set by Season One. As for the decisions, while each episode features at least one tough choice, and every one of them is balanced out, the weight of a choice’s consequence is made weaker by the fact that not a lot of time is spent with these characters. The decisions made in 400 Days affect how it ends but the impact of the consequences won’t be fully realized until Season Two and I think that may disappoint some people.
400 Days is much more of a footnote in a bigger story than a memorable story itself. While it is well-executed and well-written it is ultimately inferior to any of the five episodes from Season One. A lot of the issues and moral debates this episode intends to create are the essentially the same issues and moral debates that Season One did, only Season One did it better. The main flaw is in the structure of the episode and not the quality of the episode itself; it’s a what-if scenario, snapshots of how people are (or aren’t) coping with the end of the world. But what made Season One so special was how it evoked emotion and developed it’s characters over an extended period but in 400 days there simply isn’t time for either. Once a character’s segment ends, the player never sees them again until the end of the episode. Despite its flaws 400 Days still an excellent piece of content, it just feels a bit unnecessary in comparison to Seasons One and Two. If you’re a fan of the Walking Dead: Season One than this DLC will probably be right up your alley but it’s harder for me to recommend to this to someone on the fence. It may be better written than a lot of “other’ games out there and it’s not a waste of $5 by any means, but it’s $5 that could be better spent on something else.