So here it is, my review for the 400 Days, the DLC for The Walking Dead by Telltale Games. You remember The Walking Dead from when I I was raving about last week, right? It’s that tense, emotionally fraught and poignant game that’s received over 80 Game of the Year awards, among others. The one that… yeah, ok, I’m pretty sure you remember, since I was talking about it just last week. If you didn’t read it, just hop on over to the homepage to check it out! Considering how incredible, albeit flawed this game was, you’d think that any DLC to come out for it, especially DLC that bridges the gap between season 1 and the yet to be released season 2 could only be a good thing. How could they possibly mess it up? Sadly, while there were some great ideas in play and being introduced to some characters that we’ll meet again in Season 2 (at least this has been suggested without being confirmed) and making choices that will affect Season 2 was pretty neat, its execution wasn’t all that impressive. While I appreciate the effort that was put into it and I’m glad it was made, since we could gain insight into the back story of the new characters, I thought it did tend to fall short of the high standard of storytelling and character development than I’ve come to expect from The Walking Dead series.
Unlike the main game, 400 Days follows 5 new characters and what happened to them in the 400 days after the outbreak. There are 5 vignettes that each follow one of the new characters, with a bit at the end to tie everything together. Each person’s story took about 15 minutes to play through and they interlink in surprising ways. The events all center around a highway pit stop and diner.
There were definitely some redeeming features. The back stories of the new character and insight we gained into who they were was interesting. It was a nice change of pace, to step outside of Lee’s perspective, whose eyes we’d viewed the whole outbreak through and see what others were experiencing. The dialogue and story were in general, well written as always. The characters were believable and far from being two-dimensional, although with the short amount of time we had to be introduced to all of them, some of the supporting characters in particular weren’t nearly as developed than those in the main game were. The voice acting was generally pretty solid and helped flesh out the new characters. All in all, I was definitely intrigued by each of them and wanted to learn more about them by the end. And of course, the moral ambiguity and tough, timed choices that were so familiar from the original game were back with a vengeance.
Now, on to the things that I didn’t like so much about 400 Days. The most important thing was that I felt the story was just too short for any real depth and to build that suspense that’s so great about the original game. There were definitely some extremely tense moments, but they tended to peak quickly rather than build slowly, which I think took away from the overall atmosphere. In the main game, there were moments like that too, but as I said, it was really the way the story took time to build up before making a big reveal that really set it apart. It was that slow build up of horror and suspense that had an emotional impact for me, so while 400 Days did have it’s ‘oh my god’ moments, it didn’t leave that bitter aftertaste that left you mulling over all your choices long after you’d made them in the way that the main game did. I don’t think this was the fault of the writing at all, but more the way that Telltale decided to structure the mini-episode. I think if they were going to go for multi-character perspectives, they really needed to go full in and give each story a little more time to be fleshed out.
As I mentioned before, insufficient character development was another part of the DLC that let it down somewhat. Again, I think this was a result of the DLC simply being too short. By the end of 400 Days, I didn’t really feel like I cared about the characters at the end or what happened to them. Each story was a brief flash of their trials and tribulations, but it was a bit like being introduced to a drunk stranger who spills their their tragic life story to you. You’re sympathetic, but are you choked up and ready to drop everything and try to help? Probably not. You do get brief glimpse you get into the relationships the 5 characters formed with other survivors, but again, it wasn’t enough to really feel invested in them. There were some genuinely heart-rending moments, but not at the same deep and personal level of the main game.
Another complaint I had about 400 Days, was that it was even less interactive than the main game was, believe it or not. The player has minimal input, other than a couple of quick time events and some clicking here and there. There were of course a fair few dialogue choices. However, because of the nature of DLC and its aim to delve into the back story of the characters, the choices you got often felt pointless and in fact, after a few quick google searches, often were. The lack of choice made it feel like you had very little impact on the game. It was really just like watching a movie. Obviously, choices are kind of the point of the series, so without its main draw, the whole thing turned out to be kind of uninteresting. I realise there was only so much they could do with it since we’re talking about fairly defined back stories and I think part of the point was to make you feel powerless, like sometimes you just have to live with what happens and there’s not much you can to do change it no matter how much you try. However, this lack of choice felt at odds with the main game, which had its fair share of pre-determined events, but it also had a buttload of choices that led to different events happening. Also, it felt like even if you couldn’t really affect the outcome, you could always choose how to conduct yourself and like I said last week, that’s what really matters. In 400 Days you didn’t even really get that. The dialogue options you could choose from often didn’t feel all that different from one another.
As something to tide us over until Season 2 comes out , it certainly fulfills its role and it isn’t terrible. In fact, as DLCs go, it was somewhat fun and has many of the elements of what I liked so much about the main game, but in the short space of time they allotted for themselves there was really only so much they could do. Personally, I felt that it was much too rushed and because of its brevity, lack of interactivity and not being able to experience the impact of any of your choices, it fell short of what I’d expect from Telltale Games. As a little filler, it was ok, but it didn’t particularly make me any more excited about Season 2, which I’m assuming was its main goal. So while it wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t that good. It’s probably something you’ll want to play if you’re a huge fan of The Walking Dead game, because it certainly was enjoyable, but I’d say it’s miss-able if you’re not all that eager to part with any more of your cash.