400 Days is an unexpected gift from Telltale Games really, although they’d promised us a little something something to tide us over until episode 2 the format of 400 days is fairly unique and well done. Really capturing the comic book essence of The Walking Dead (I mean, it is one after all), it’s almost like a series of spin off one shots that are comprised solely as a means to embellish and enhance the surrounding world. Whilst it’s not mechanically the best DLC and could be considered rather shallow, in traditional fashion, Telltale manages to sell it solely on story alone.
Opening with a small gas station in the burrows we look through the eyes of an unnamed person, as they peer at a notice board. The eponymous 400 days after the virus that has swept the world and disassembled society is your initial setting and ultimate destination. From here you pick a photo from the board and step into the shoes of that person. Each person’s story is told from their perspective at varying points of the infection, Vince’s view is early on, before anything has even happened or the world begins falling apart, where as everyone else moves on further and further until we’re suddenly at around day 259.
Really, if you’ve played the main campaign (and I hope you have if you’re playing this) you know what to expect. The game is comprised primarily of the same elements as the main game, you walk, you click and your figure out some puzzles and serious moral dilemmas. As with the main campaign, the gameplay rests solely on the strength of the script and it delivers, for the most part.
Each character is given a short 5 minute introduction, you’re given all the details that you can possibly squeeze out of the characters and this is truly the strength of the DLC, yet we could also argue that the entire DLC is flawed because we never truly get to know the characters. For all it’s worth it does a good job at introducing some interesting, if slightly two dimensional, characters to the universe. From criminal Vince, to student Russel or addict Bonnie.
Focusing around a central point on our map, the gas station shown at the start acts as a place where people pass through or somehow end up at. In my opinion the most tragic story is that of Shiel with her crumbling society, as they try to work together in order to survive things begin to break down around them and distrust is spread, as she tries to preserve the innocence of her sister.
It’s hard to talk about the Walking Dead without feeling like you’re spoiling the story really, your choices throughout are what influence the story, the awkward or dark situations you ultimately end up drawn into are what will pull at your emotions. You’re not going to remember this for its gameplay mechanics, the soundtrack or even the visuals – even though in normal fashion they heavily represent the artwork of Tony Moore. As with the main game you are only here for the story. The Walking Dead is a Western visual novel, the production values are high and there’s a larger focus on expressive character emotions through subtle movements.
The problem here is the story has nowhere to go, because we know that we’re in such a small space of time for every character each one can feel forced and sped along. Each character never really gets enough room to breath so the impact never really hits you, you can come to find them loveable, and also it could act as a good seed for future stories in the second season allowing them to develop future plot points, starting with this mysterious community.
Whilst I enjoyed each story to an extent, I couldn’t help but feel that the ending was the biggest issue with this installment. These issues with character development crop up prominently at the end where you are given a choice about what to do. Confusingly, your choices don’t really seem to ultimately influence the finale that much. If this is a setup for the next installment, then it works well, but if this is the end of a series of standalone stories then it disappoints me greatly. Especially since you are suddenly thrown into a character that has no characterisation, or background.
Really for £3.99 400 Days is a perfect DLC, a simple 1-2 hour campaign that enriches and expands on Telltale’s own view of a popular universe, I can only hope that we meet our new group again- because I’d like to get to know them better.
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