A Celebratory Collection Of Classics
Say what you will about The Walking Dead, when Telltale dropped the first episode of its illustrious opening season back in 2012, it changed the landscape of narrative choice-driven games forever. With simple but effective controls and an easy-to-digest length, The Walking Dead went on to span several sequels and spin-offs, essentially launching Telltale into the household name it became before the studio met an unfortunate end at the hands of questionable management decisions.
With the dust now settling on Telltale’s time in the game industry (before the name has subsequently been snatched up ready for a revamp), The Telltale Definitive Series is a celebration of the hard work put in by the numerous people employed by the company who created these games. Featuring all four original titles, the 400 Days DLC pack and The Walking Dead: Michonne, for the first time all these games plus a slew of special features come together to make for one impressive collection, especially given the asking price.
Having said all this, if you’ve played the games before, the only real surprise is likely to come from the graphics, which have been upscaled and improved in older titles to match that of the more recent Walking Dead game. To me, the first one will always be the strongest thanks to its sharp storytelling and poignant ending but all four have their own quirks and stand-outs. At the heart of this four season journey is Clementine, a young girl who grows from a scared, weak victim to a seasoned undead slayer across the games. It’s quite the progressive journey too, with each of the titles doing well to add more challenges and characters to the fold which grow and evolve her personality.
The first game, for example, shapes her into the woman she becomes thanks to the influence of Lee Everett, a man whom you control for almost the entirety of the game. The ripple effects of this are felt in the second chapter where Clementine goes it alone before stumbling upon a new settlement, housing a familiar face and some new enemies to try and tackle. A desperately difficult and morally challenging ending paves way for the third game, New Frontiers, to follow. This sees you journey to Richmond and face new challenges before the final season which acts as a lovely throwback to the past, whilst rounding out Clementine’s story in the best possible way.
Experiencing all these games back to back really puts into perspective Clementine’s character arc and when it comes to the writing, this is certainly one of the high points with this game. Of course, gameplay-wise if you intend to blitz through these and haven’t played a Telltale title before, the controls can feel a little repetitive after a while.
In essence, the game itself plays almost identical to its counterparts from 7 years ago and as you progress through the various chapters, the limitations and distinct lack of upgrades with the game engine does become apparent. For those unaware, The Walking Dead plays out as a point and click adventure. Cut-scenes pave way for different playable segments that may involve solving puzzles, talking to different characters or exploring the environment for a certain item. In doing this, it regularly triggers another cut-scene, sometimes including QTEs or dialogue choices that will shape your journey from here on out.
The game cleverly reminds you of this at regular intervals too, offering constant feedback in the form of characters “remembering” your actions and playing into heavier options that could mean the difference between life and death. The first time through these games, each choice feels monumental and I guess that’s partly the reason these games are regarded so highly. Multiple playthroughs do reveal the relatively straight forward and surprisingly rigid system at work here though, where choices you make don’t wholly affect the world until the final act of the game, where big choices can result in big fluctuations to the ending. It’s this illusion of choice that keeps people coming back for more though and it’s certainly a winning formula that’s done so well in the past, especially given how the original game catapulted the studio to super-stardom.
The special features are a great touch too, albeit a little bittersweet given what we know of the studio’s demise now. From behind the scenes featurettes to an art gallery of rotating models through to a built-in music player, The Walking Dead delivers a definitive edition that’s sure to please fans whilst enticing newcomers into the fold to give these games a go. The graphical up-scaling is relatively good too, with sharp lines and more vibrand colours, with a dynamic lighting system that helps early scenes stand out. Of course, if you’ve played these games before the collection itself offers nothing new in terms of gameplay but the updated graphics are certainly a nice touch.
Still, if you’re a fan of Telltale games or have never experienced The Walking Dead before, this is most certainly worth checking out. With all Walking Dead titles together and an impressive array of extras to sink your teeth into, Telltale’s shining jewel dusts itself down and delivers a solid performance, albeit with a few minor technical hiccups along the way. Of course, if you already own any of the Walking Dead games, there’s not enough here to recommend re-buying this collection but seeing the wealth of content added to sweeten the deal does make this a tempting prospect.
Acting as a celebratory reminder of The Walking Dead and how monumental its influence was over the video game industry, what better way to celebrate that than with a massive collection showcasing the best this studio has to offer. Those looking for gameplay upgrades may well be disappointed and some of the limitations with the aging engine can be felt all these years later, despite the graphical upscaling used to smooth over these sharp edges. Still, The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series is a lovely collection, one that brings all things Telltale Walking Dead together into one package, perfect for fans and newcomers alike.
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Verdict - 8/10