Of all the incredible titles on display at E3 2013, I have a soft spot in my heart for Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: 400 Days. Absolutely one of the best arcade titles to come out of the current generation, the episodic adventure game forced players to make brutal, life-or-death decisions that equally impacted both the narrative and your emotions. With 400 Days, Telltale is creating a bridge between Seasons 1 and 2 that will tide fans over, while delivering a standalone adventure worthy of the series.
While 400 Days technically serves as episode 6 of Season 1, as I said the experience is entirely standalone. Being referred to as Episode 6 is relevant for two reasons: 1) Choices made during Season 1 will play a role during specific plot points throughout the adventure, and 2) 400 Days counts as DLC to The Walking Dead, so in order to access the content you will have to have downloaded at lease the first episode of Season 1. That being said, Game Designer Harrison Pink of Telltale Games stated that the experience does NOT require players to have completed, or even played, any of the previous episodes.
While 400 Days is similar in terms of content and tone, there are some notable differences that set it apart from the rest of Season 1. It was announced this morning that the game will include 5 brand new, separate protagonists; each played across a new chapter. These five new chapters can be played in any order, a first for the series, with each one focusing on a particular character’s attempt at survival through the first 400 days of the zombie outbreak. 400 Days will also not serve as an epilogue to Clementine’s story from the previous episodes; the team feels that her story tied itself up nicely and saw no reason to mess with the natural conclusion already in place.
Even though the chapters can be experienced in any order, choices made in previously-finished chapters will still effect specific plot points and twists set up throughout the episode, encouraging replayability and experimentation across chapters. Building off this idea of experimentation is the fact that each chapter in 400 Days will only take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete, with the total time to complete the standalone adventure roughly equivalent to the time it took to finish the average episode of Season 1. (Which makes sense, considering 400 Days is only one episode.)
The gameplay on display out on the E3 show floor features one of the new protagonists, named Vince. Chronologically, his adventure begins first, as his first exposure to the nightmarish horrors takes place on just Day 2 of the outbreak. Vince’s story begins on a prison bus, during which time he’s being transferred after successfully convicted of a crime. Through various Telltale-esque circumstances, the bus is rendered inoperable and Vince must venture out into the city of Macon while chained to other prisoners. Obviously, tensions arise when it comes time to make decisions as to where to head next. Those who’ve played Season 1 will notice some very obvious parallels between Vince and Lee, but while their circumstances are similar, their personalities are entirely different. Being a 15-20 minute chapter at most, the action moves at a brisk pace, and players can expect the same volume of high-stress, split-second decision making they’ve come to expect from the series.
Harrison mentioned that the focus of 400 Days builds on the ideas that make up the developer as a whole: A goal of “really trying to push what an adventure game can be.” With a concise, focused narrative, player-driven choices that effect pivotal plot moments, and the inclusion of just a few familiar faces from previous content, it’s clear Telltale plans to deliver a solid experience that is capable of doing just that.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days is scheduled for release next month, in July, for Xbox 360, PS3, Mac, PC and iOS, and costs the same as any other individually-purchased episode. (i.e. $5) It was also announced that a PS Vita version will also release as part of a bundled package with the portable console sometime in August.
There’s not much else to say about 400 Days. Folks who’ve played the series up to this point will not be disappointed with the content, and for those few newcomers who still haven’t given the first story a try, this can serve as a perfect jumping on point. While it’s recommended, and encouraged, that players experience all the previous content before diving into 400 Days, it bears repeating that the episode stands on its own and can be played without any prior save data. But, if you’re interested in The Walking Dead enough to try out Telltale’s adventure series, why not start at the beginning anyway?
Are you folks looking forward to downloading 400 Days next month? What would you like to see from Season 2 of The Walking Dead game? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. If you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.