Monthly Archives: August 2015

Warp

Warp1

Sneak, snoop, and murder your way out of an underwater science facility.

PC Release: February 15, 2012

By Ian Coppock

Puzzle games are not a great choice when you’re feeling impatient. Warp is an ideal choice for this situation, because it contains enough puzzles and brain teasers to satisfy the thinking man, but enough gore and blood to sate primal instincts piqued by hours of playing Counter-Strike. We find ourselves in a precarious situation with Warp. Charming yet dark, varied yet shallow, indie yet EA. How can a puzzle game take all of these contradictions and pull off an enjoyable experience?

____________________

Warp is a top-down puzzle game that follows a little alien’s escape attempt from human captivity. Our hero, Zero, was incarcerated and experimented upon after his spacecraft crashed on earth, and now you have to guide him to freedom. There are waves of armed guards and about two miles worth of ocean depth separating you from your goal. Along the way you’ll encounter a gaggle of cowardly scientists and a sadistic military commander voiced by J.K. Simmons’ twin brother.

Right off the bat, Warp sounds like a pretty typical indie puzzler, with a simple premise and a cute little creature who could pose in a lineup with the Limbo boy, or perhaps Ilo and Milo. Developer Trapdoor throws this assumption out the window by introducing lots of gore. Zero’s primary power is teleportation, which he can use to get to and from different areas, but also to get inside of objects. Spinning the mouse or joystick will cause whatever he’s hiding in to explode, be that doors, power generators or people. It’s a mechanic that has practical applications for getting around safely, but let’s be honest, it’s also quite entertaining in its own right.

HOLY SHIT

HOLY SHIT!!!

As time goes on, Zero amplifies his warping powers with other abilities. You can shoot the objects you’re hiding in from one place to another, or even swap them out with other objects nearby. Ostensibly, this ability is to be used to solve Warp‘s many puzzles, but they also factor into the game’s added stealth mechanics. Never before have I really played a stealth puzzler, and these mechanics are equally important to both elements. Zero is quite fragile and will go down in a splat of jello if he gets shot, so you really have no choice but to be smart about moving around.

The presence of stealth mechanics also means that most puzzles here revolve around an environmental hazard, rather than logic or physics. Timing is critical for avoiding security guards, laser beams, turrets and other obstacles. Warping into an object will keep you hidden from any danger, but making said object behave suspiciously is sure to draw attention. So yes, Warp is a puzzle game, but it’s not the type of logical labyrinth that most puzzle gamers like to obnoxiously pride themselves upon. The skillset is there but the time-gates, the gore and the hazards deviate away from the indie logician blueprint so common these days. I relished the challenge.

Warp's puzzles rely on clear danger rather than math or logic. Get in, avoid the obstacle, get out.

Warp’s puzzles rely on clear danger rather than math or logic. Get in, avoid the obstacle, get out.

Though outwardly linear, Warp‘s game world involves a lot of backtracking and activating new puzzles that were previously inaccessible. You basically have to travel to different far-flung corners of the facility and gain powers necessary for an ultimate escape. You’ll cross back into the same areas that, despite looking samey for the entire 3-4 hour production, pack enough variety to hold your interest.

Visuals in Warp are pretty-cut and dry, and I found them to be surprisingly rough around the edges for a 2012 indie game. Character model design is shaky at best. No, the real star in this game’s visual gallery is the environments, with lots of object detail and pretty underwater scenery. The voice-acting and sound effects accompanying the visuals are pretty bland, but serviceable. For a small indie game that somehow caught EA’s attention, it could be a lot worse.

Warp's plot isn't much to speak of, but its successful marriage of stealth and puzzles makes it a hit.

Warp’s plot isn’t much to speak of, but its successful marriage of stealth and puzzles makes it a hit.

Developer Trapdoor took some time to develop Zero as a character, giving him cute little sound effects and a nonthreatening aesthetic. It’s a good thing too, because otherwise it might be a bit difficult to become attached to a creature that kills people by warping inside them and causing them to explode. It’s like how Hotline Miami stylized its violence to give it some novelty, and it’s happened with Warp as well. I don’t know exactly how many gallons of blood I spilled all over that lab, but it was a lot.

Then I went home and played Warp!

I just wanna be your fwend!!

I just wanna be your fwend!!

If the challenges in the main game aren’t enough to sate the bloodthirsty puzzle-seeker, there are bonus maps hidden throughout the game. You can also collect little pink slug-looking things to gain more power, giving you greater freedom in how you navigate the world and solve puzzles. It’s possible to finish Warp without being violent, but the game does jack shit to encourage that road. It’s like trying to finish Postal 2 without killing anybody, and at that point you might as well start telling people that you’re the embodiment of Christ.

Warp’s primary contribution to the puzzle genre is its combination of stealth mechanics and puzzles. Zero’s teleportation powers are essential for both, and it was fun to play a game where a central set of mechanics are used for two very different functions. That plus the ridiculous gore and a subtle, acidic humor therein give the game a lot of novelty. It’s not for people who prefer only the physics or logic-based puzzle games out there, but it provides a great challenge for gamers who enjoy timed challenges and navigating increasingly ridiculous mazes of environmental obstacles.

Match made in heaven.

Match made in heaven.

There is one point of bullshit with this game that bears pointing out, though it has nothing to do with the game itself and everything to do with EA, its publisher. Console gamers are good to go with Warp, but Steam users need to agree to third-party DRM with EA Origin, which is a sack of stir-fried baloney if ever I’ve seen it.

My recommendation of the game’s PC version is contingent upon your comfort level with additional layers of DRM, but if you don’t mind taking up an Origin account just to play this, go for it. Whether the game is worth that extra time, based on what you’ve read so far, is up to you. I can say that that Warp is an enjoyable, if imperfect, little game that puzzle fans should try if they’re looking for something different.

____________________

You can buy Warp here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

Old

Storm a Nazi fortress in search of an old nemesis.

PC Release: May 5, 2015

By Ian Coppock

As of today, the Art as Games project has been a thing for TWO YEARS!! Hard to believe. Granted, there have been many a hiatus during that time, but we’re back to regularly scheduled content, and today’s edition will focus on a quality expandalone released for Wolfenstein: The New Order. If the Wolfenstein games’ penchant for shooting, stabbing, burning, bleeding and incinerating Nazis is anything you’ve found enjoyable over the years, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood encapsulates all of that for fans both new and old.

____________________

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a dark preamble to the events of The New Order. The New Order followed series protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz in a world where the Nazis won World War II, a journey that I praised for its atmosphere but criticized for its underwhelming additions to the shooter formula. The mechanics behind the original game are little-changed in The Old Blood, but the developers experimented with some new story and level design material that gives it an independent feel.

The Old Blood is set in the last days of an alternate World War II. The Nazis are on the verge of victory on all fronts, and special agent B.J. Blazkowicz has been assigned to stop them. Your mission is to infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein, a dark fortress in the mountains, and “persuade” its commanding officer to give you the location of Deathshead, the German scientist building the Nazis’ futuristic war machines. Castle Wolfenstein is infamous for containing dark secrets, and no one has escaped its walls and lived to tell the tale.

Nothing to see here, just another Nazi like you guys. Yep...

Nothing to see here, just another Nazi like you guys. Yep… I am not at all in disguise.

After dressing up like an SS officer, B.J. and his English counterpart break into the castle to find commanding officer Helga von Schabbs. Despite some admirable stealth action and a vicious gunfight, things go to shit pretty quickly, and now you, alone, must navigate the dark halls of the castle. Ambling precursors to The New Order‘s worst nightmares stalk the corridors, and you never know who, or what, will come lurching out of the dungeon. The second half of the game shifts things over to a dark little village in the Bavarian countryside, where your continuing search for answers will see B.J. delve into some survival horror.

Any old-school fans reading this might think this game sounds strikingly similar to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and there’s a reason for that. The Old Blood loosely follows the stories of both that game and the Wolfenstein console game of 2009, the idea being to ease new players of the series into its striking mythos without forcing them to tromp through an older game. I thought Return was quite excellent, so I was both happy to see a veneration of the old game and also sad that it apparently needed a soft reboot. Just like every other piece of goddamn media this days, holy cow…

Old1

There were a lot of flaws in The New Order that Machinegames sought to correct in The Old Blood. One of the issues I had with The New Order was that some levels were strictly divided into stealth and gun sections. Sometimes, your preferred play style would run counter to what the game mandated. In The Old Blood, levels and enemy encounters are designed for players to be able to pick fighting or stealthing at any time. Those nooks and crannies work just as well for hiding as shooting. I appreciated this much more fluid approach; sure, it made the level design more samey, but the constant flexibility in being able to pick my approach was nice.

In line with that samey design came some surprising linearity. With a few exceptions, most of The New Order‘s levels were fairly open and allowed for lots of exploration. The Old Blood, by contrast, is a single set of twisting corridors and tunnels, very much Point A-to-Point B. As always, I find this type of level design to be monotonous.

While beautiful, The Old Blood's environments are obvious in their linear setup.

While beautiful, The Old Blood’s environments are obvious in their linear setup.

The gameplay mechanics in The Old Blood are virtually identical to the base game, as is to be expected. You do get a few handy tools added to your arsenal; B.J. picks up a piece of pipe that can be used for anything from stabbing to climbing. We also get a few new guns, including a handy dandy hand cannon that shoots mini-rockets, and a carbine complete with a scope. The New Order‘s unique tiered health regeneration system, in which health is regained to the nearest multiple of 20, returns as well.

Whatever your playstyle, The Old Blood gives a simple, clean environment to progress in as a ghost or as a wrecking crew, and plenty of tools to accomplish either with style. Despite its linearity, it’s a smooth gameplay experience that I rather enjoyed. The Old Blood introduces precious few new enemy types, such as the sniper marksman, but they round out an acceptable challenge backed up by New Order foes that have been re-skinned for World War II.

Whether your weapon of choice is a knife or a minigun, The Old Blood has a fun experience available.

Whether your weapon of choice is a knife or a minigun, The Old Blood has a fun experience available.

Speaking of level design, let’s deviate briefly to chat about the visuals and atmosphere. The Old Blood‘s spooky castles and lakeside towns are a far cry from the concrete factories and high-tech military installations seen in The New Order, but they contain subtle arrangements of items and textures that hint at what’s to come down the line. Both the corridors of Castle Wolfenstein and the streets of Wulfburg are engulfed in an eerie gloom. Machinegames applied their excellent fog and lighting effects to great, well, effect, in this game. They work the atmospheric effects in such a way as to cast the player with a subtle sense of terror throughout the course of the game. Little background noises like distant screams amplify this design facet.

The musical score was inspired by B-movies of the 1900s, particularly the crappy-but-good spy genre of the 70s. Slightly out-of-tune pianos, grim strings, and dramatic blaring of horns are the three pillars of this game’s soundtrack. They fit both the grim atmosphere of a lost World War II and a new type of camp that the developers decided to go for. I was pleasantly surprised when they decided to expand upon B.J.’s jarhead sensibilities as an underlying element of comedy. B.J. is cast not just as a grim soldier, but as the star of an action movie, with hilarious one-liners akin to something from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.

"I've got a plan. Break in, kill every Nazi in the surrounding ten miles, break back out."

“I’ve got a plan. Break in, kill every Nazi, break back out.”

I’m glad that the developers decided to poke fun at their own game, because the plot of The Old Blood is really not much to speak of. Your goal is to find a folder being carried around by a sadistic archeologist, but that folder is really just a slim excuse to drag the player through a few environments that would otherwise be completely disconnected. It’s a game that’s entirely plot-driven rather than character-driven. Need to get that folder? Sneak through the castle, sneak through the village, sneak into the underground fortress, all of these have nothing in common save getting to a folder. A folder is not a compelling goal. It’s a folder.

Not to say that the journey this folder drags you through isn’t fun, but I think you can see why such a premise doesn’t exactly carry much weight.

FOR THE FOLDER!!!!

FOR THE FOLDER!!!!

There’s a cast of brand-new characters introduced to flesh out the main goal of the game, almost all of whom are not seen in The New Order. B.J. doesn’t really evolve as a character, and the game has some fun with that by ironically pointing out his simple, straightforward approach to fighting Nazis. But, where B.J. fails to be a really interesting character to watch, a grim British intelligence officer, a sadistic Nazi dog trainer, and a young Jew searching for her sister round out the cast and dialogue nicely.

The Old Blood contains a few surprises that break far away from The New Order‘s futurism and throw back to the original games’ obsession with the supernatural. Some of these are as surprising as a punch to the gut, but old-school fans who’ve played these games for a while will be less shocked than I was. The Old Blood also throws in Easter eggs pointing toward the older games. Just remember; when the shit hits the fan, be ready for anything.

OH MY GOD!!!!

OH MY GOD!!!!

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a pretty decent shooter and a worthwhile addition to the franchise. It dumbs down gameplay in ways that we’ve come to expect of DLC, but contains enough content to be a standalone game. The Old Blood‘s creepy atmosphere is augmented by the knowledge that everything you do will ultimately accomplish little; the Nazis have already won, and you’re just struggling in the shadows of that victory. Kinda like Halo: Reach, but infinitely less grindy.

The Old Blood packs about 6-8 hours of content, and for 20 bucks, that’s not a terrible deal. The game’s available on all major platforms and I recommend giving it a shot. Obviously, play The New Order, a fuller game, first, but move on to this once you’ve gleaned an understanding of what B.J. will go through after this war.

C'mon you dirty bastards, let's do this!

C’mon you dirty bastards, let’s do this!

And as always, shoot and stab those Nazis.

____________________

You can buy Wolfenstein: The Old Blood here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

The Walking Dead: Season Two

Two1

Avoid the dead and outwit the living on a long journey to safety.

PC Release: December 17, 2013

By Ian Coppock

I think, more than anything, The Walking Dead is a study in how people cope with disaster. That concept has proven to be fertile ground for the popular TV series, and the graphic novels precipitating the show. Telltale Games added to the mythos with their own adventure game of the same name, one of the greatest story-driven video games of all time. Critics acclaimed everything that makes video games great: a compelling narrative, believable characters and choice-based gameplay that would pan out across five episodes. That saga, with those qualities, continues in Season Two of the series.

____________________

Season Two of the Walking Dead is, like its predecessor, a story-driven adventure game divvied up into five episodes, which were released every month or so after the season debut.

In the previous game, player character Lee had to make tough choices for a group of zombie apocalypse survivors, all while looking out for a little girl named Clementine. From zombie-infested motels to cannibalistic dairy farmers, Lee and Clementine brave many dangers together, in a game that I found to be both beautiful and harrowing. Its ending brought me to tears.

As Lee, it was your job to protect Clementine and survive the end of the world.

As Lee, it was your job to protect Clementine and survive the end of the world.

Season Two begins 16 months after the conclusion of the previous game, and features Clementine as the playable protagonist. Two years of zombie apocalypse have aged Clementine far beyond her 11 or so years, and though she’s been separated from the group she once traveled with, her resourcefulness will prove to be her greatest weapon against the zombies. Season Two imports story choices made in The Walking Dead a la Mass Effect, but these deal almost exclusively with past events and character relations rather than changes in the actual world.

Clementine is now the player character, having been a companion to protagonist Lee in the previous game.

Clementine is now the player character, having been a companion to protagonist Lee in the previous game.

After encountering some red-hooded mercenaries and a pack of feral dogs, Clementine stumbles upon a ragtag band of fugitives on the run from a brutal warlord. She quickly joins the group for their exodus up north, and they steal into the mountains to avoid their pursuers. The survivors they encounter along the way have heard rumor of a sanctuary in Ohio, and the team resolves to head there, reasoning that a fortress is better than mountains full of meat-eaters.

While the story here is certainly compelling stuff, I had to roll my eyes at the “survivor sanctuary” trope. C’mon, Telltale, the Promised Land is one of the oldest tropes in the book! I was surprised to see them resort to an idea so unoriginal, but we’ll focus on the forest instead of the tree. So to speak.

This is the real reason why the hotel tells you to deadbolt your door.

This is the real reason why the hotel tells you to deadbolt your door.

Season Two also gives us the chance to explore Lee and Clementine’s relationship from the other point of view. That annoyed-looking fellow in the screenshot, Luke, becomes Clementine’s sort-of-new-protector, and now we the player get to experience the gameplay of a guardian-child relationship from the “protectee”‘s perspective. The game features more action sequences than the previous installment, with terrifying new situations against zombie and human foes.

Of course, Season Two also brings back the first season’s choice-based narrative, bigger and better than ever. Most of the gameplay is driven by the choices you make in relationships, and Clementine’s dialogue shapes those relationships. They also shape her very character. Players can use these dialogue options to craft a kinder Clementine who holds out hope for the world, or a more callous child who went cynical way, way too early.

Your dialogue choices will shape your relationship with the group, bringing some people closer to you while alienating others.

Your dialogue choices will shape your relationship with the group, bringing some people closer to you while alienating others.

Season Two also brings along some brilliant gameplay to reflect the new series protagonist. Lee’s primary strength against the zombies was what he could smash and rend with his bare hands, but as a little girl, such an approach is hardly sane. Season Two gives us gameplay reflective of Clementine’s more resourceful approach toward the zombies. You can make use of the environment around you, take a stealthy approach, and use sophisticated maneuvers to elude the zombies. Sure, you don’t get to crack as many heads, but you’re alive, and how many head-crackers can say that for very long? The Walking Dead had gameplay like this too, of course, but Lee’s burly figure meant that zombie confrontations were much more straightforward.

The game also brings in an environmental palette swap. The Walking Dead‘s suburban and inner city environments are switched out for a bleakly beautiful wilderness of autumn trees, winter winds and decaying farmsteads. The only thing worse than a zombie apocalypse is a zombie apocalypse in winter weather, and this situation pushes some of the group to their breaking points.

Zombies lurching around in foggy snowdrifts. That is just so fan...tastic.

Zombies lurching around in foggy snowdrifts. That is just so fan…tastic.

And speaking of breaking points, let’s talk about the characters themselves, the meat of this story-driven game. Clementine has come a long way since the first season, and continues to do so when pressed for her survival in this game. Her resourcefulness, sparked by Lee’s mentorship and situations in the first season, deepens her character and darkens her mood as the game progresses. It’s an extraordinary portrayal of an adult in a child’s body, someone who is both wise and bitter far beyond her years. The situations she’s flung into, the choices she has to make, would be difficult for an adult, let alone a child, and this deepens the sense of psychological impact the world’s end would have on human beings.

The other characters in Clementine’s new group are pretty worse for wear as well. We have a portly programmer who wants to do good for the group by being a serial liar; we have a heavily pregnant woman who could go into labor at any minute; we have a despondent tractor mechanic who’s taken up moonshine after being forced to shoot his mom. We have a girl about Clementine’s age who has been locked in her room since day one of the apocalypse and has no clue how bad it is out there. And we have a figure from Clementine’s past who can only loose a little bit more before he goes insane.

And these are just your allies.

Season Two's insidious antagonists take the worst of humanity and twist them up even more.

Season Two’s insidious antagonists take the worst of humanity and twist it up even more.

A recurring theme that I’ve found in The Walking Dead is that the living are far more dangerous than the dead, and that’s no less the case here. That warlord I mentioned earlier in the review is hot on Clementine’s trail. To put it lightly, he’s a deranged psychopath who wants to build a communist utopia up and away from the zombies, and the group you’re with are none too keen on returning to his “care”. In addition to the standard retinue of masked bandits and forest thieves, Clementine also gets a brush with post-zombie apocalypse organized crime. Even in a state of lawlessness, such a thing is very real.

But, as always, the horde of zombies takes center-stage when it comes to immediate, large-scale danger. Telltale ups the gore and creep factors with the zombies you encounter in Season Two. Crawlers, sitters, biters, slappers, all sorts of shit awaits you in those shadows (not sarcastic on the slappers). The game is quite violent, as to be expected from a horror story, but Season Two is also effective at drumming up some good old survival horror. Venturing down dark stairways, peering into the woods at night, and ascending foggy slopes are only a few situations in which the tension can be cut with a knife. For a game whose focus is not on survival horror, Season Two succeeds at bringing in that apprehension anyway.

Oh God...

Oh God…

The Walking Dead: Season Two takes what made the first game great and expands upon it significantly. The game’s end goal is a trope, but aside from this I didn’t really find anything else worth grilling about this game. It has a dark, intoxicating narrative and fun adventure gameplay drenched in a horror atmosphere. The character of Clementine is also an excellent study in female characters (and child characters) done right.

I highly recommend that anyone who approves of quality games to go buy Season Two immediately. Buy the first season as well, if you haven’t played that yet. The Walking Dead and Season Two both rank in my top 10 for video game storytelling, and as regular readers will know, that’s the quality of gaming that I espouse the most.

Spooky business.

Spooky business.

Okay, time for you to stop reading and go buy The Walking Dead: Season Two. Right now. Scat! VAMANOS!!!

____________________

You can buy The Walking Dead: Season Two here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

The Walking Dead: 400 Days

400

Survive the zombie apocalypse through the eyes of five strangers.

PC Release: July 2, 2013

By Ian Coppock

Every so often I like to review a video game that deviates from literary paths that I’m familiar with. My latest experiment in this regard was Kentucky Route Zero, a video game that delved into the genre of magical realism. With giant eagles and underground highways considered as mundane as truck stops, it was a new experience for people who’ve never read Rushdie or Antrim. Today we’re going to take a look at a video game that explores the short story medium, following several disparate tales with a single, recurring theme. That game, or DLC, is a bonus chapter for the critically acclaimed Walking Dead episodic adventure from Telltale, titled The Walking Dead: 400 Days.

____________________

The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a bonus chapter released for the first season of The Walking Dead as a standalone narrative. Each of the episode’s five short stories revolve around an old gas station on a Georgia highway, one that our five heroes will interact with in one way or another. The title 400 Days refers to the span of time over which these stories occur; the first story begins on day one of the zombie apocalypse, the last on day 400.

I was intrigued by the approach of focusing on a common location instead of a common character, with each stop at the gas station an echo of the one taken by a forebear, so I decided to jump into the game and take a look at what Telltale had cooked up to tide us over for The Walking Dead: Season Two.

Oh goody, we're starting things off on our way to jail. That's fantastic.

Oh goody, we’re starting things off on our way to jail. That’s fantastic.

400 Days follows a riotous assortment of five people, ranging from a convicted murderer to an overbearing sister. None of them actually interact with each other, and each sub-episode features its own cast of supporting characters. 400 Days features Telltale’s story-strong gameplay, with players having a limited amount of time to choose between different dialogue options. Each option sets the tone of the next conversation and the next choice to be made. It’s what made The Walking Dead so compelling and it returns to do the same here.

As with The Walking Dead, the decisions you make extend far beyond conversation options. You’ll also have to make much more painful choices, like which supplies to make use of, or which friends to abandon to the zombies.

You're never quite best friends when the zombies are out to get you.

You’re never quite best friends when the zombies are out to get you.

Telltale brought back the comic book-style visuals used in the main game for this episode. Characters feature cartoonish animations and the thick outline drawings common to graphic novels. It’s a cool style; it’s not so garish that you feel like you’re in a fantasy world and it’s just realistic enough to make you care.

The voice-acting in this game is also rock-solid, which is by no means a guarantee with DLC content. The voice actors for each character, even the supporting ones, were great at inflecting their tones with the fear and the dread that comes with a situation like this. The quality of the voice acting amplified the impact of the story choices, adding more weight to the praises of friends and the distrust of fellow survivors.

Yes, good, keep that scared mug on.

Yes, good, keep that scared mug on.

400 Days is a higher quality DLC than most you see these days, but it was not without some serious shortcomings. I do want to qualify that assertion by saying that these shortcomings had less to do with game design flaws and more to do with problems endemic to the short-story format.

My biggest gripe with short stories is that they very rarely feature character development. Not because they’re bad stories, but simply because there’s no time. Most of the chapters within this DLC are only 10-15 minutes long, which doesn’t exactly leave a lot of time for you, the player, to become attached to these characters or witness them grow. For me, that’s a demerit.

You have no time to watch the characters evolve or even get to know them that well with how short these stories are.

You have no time to watch the characters evolve or even get to know them that well with how short these stories are.

Another strike against this DLC is the inconsistency in story lengths. You’re probably gawking at the idea that every story is 10-15 minutes long, but that’s only true for three out of the five. One of them is about 3o-45 minutes long and another is, I’d say 20-25. I was glad to see that not every tale was so short, but also confused as to why Telltale put the same effort into one survivor story as they did three others. I know, inconsistency is the spice of life and all that, but when one story pulls much more gravity than the others, it’s highly noticeable.

Finally, despite what the marketing tells us, the payoff that this episode brings for The Walking Dead: Season Two is almost nonexistent. You’ll get told that the choices you make in this game play into Season Two of the main series, but that’s bullshit. One of the five characters in this story goes on to join the main cast in Season Two, but everyone else makes background cameos that are literally five seconds long. And that’s assuming you can get them to agree to travel to that location at the end of the episode.

One character in 400 days becomes a main cast member in Season Two, but that happens with or without 400 Days.

One character in 400 days becomes a main cast member in Season Two, but that happens with or without 400 Days.

To reiterate, my gripes with this DLC have more to do with the drawbacks of the short story format than Telltale’s design choices, save their increased focus on one or two stories over all of them. The problem with 400 Days is that The Walking Dead‘s main mechanic is not just its choice-based gameplay, but how those choices will play out over time. Combining a long-term game mechanic with a short-term game length is not a winning formula, but the stories themselves are interesting and hardcore fans of the first season will enjoy them. But, by that same token, you’re not missing out on any crucial content if you want to skip ahead to Season Two.

And speaking of skipping ahead to Season Two, I didn’t review this DLC without any sort of follow-up. Stay tuned for more zombies on Art as Games.

____________________

You can buy The Walking Dead: 400 Days here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.