After a few awkward tries with prestigious franchises such as Back to the Future and Jurassic Park, Telltale Games managed to find the perfect formula for The Walking Dead. As impatient as we all are to see season 2 of the game, the arrival of 400 Days comes as a very pleasant surprise to ease the wait. This bonus episode will be the link between both seasons and is obviously best played after completing the first. To read our full review of the PC version and check out our 2 gameplay videos, you know what to do.
For this transitional episode, Telltale decided to change the narrative structure of the game by proposing no less than 5 playable characters, each of them being involved in a specific arc. The other new feature is the possibility to choose the order in which you wish to play the different plots. They are all independent from each other so there is no risk of spoiling yourself by starting with the wrong character, but each of these stories have been carefully chosen because they depict a very important moment in the lives of the 5 new heroes and their friends. Some of the plots do interweave to some extent, so you get to see some of the characters more than once, but there is no ideal order to follow. All the remaining characters end up all together in the episode's epilogue, which is obviously a way to prepare us for season 2 and a possible new group of survivors.
Introducing new heroes could have made it difficult to identify oneself to them and get attached in such a short length of time - it took us about an hour and a half to complete the DLC - but it turns out Telltale nailed it once again. The different stories are so well written that it's impossible not to feel concerned with what happens. There is one flaw though, everything goes so fast that it can be a bit frustrating to leave one character to play with another, just when things were starting to get very interesting. One the one hand, Telltale must be praised for creating likable characters with their own weaknesses and making us want to get involved in their lives. On the other hand, we can't help but feel they also deserved to be developed a bit more, although there is obviously a reason for the several plot holes. When all is said and done, the five of them have more depth than characters such as Omid and Christa from season 1, which is quite an achievement in its own right considering you don't have much time to get to know them.
Telltale of 2 zombies
As far as gameplay mechanics go, there was no reason to change a recipe that worked so it is no surprise to see the return of quick time events and multiple choices in dialogs - timed or not. The PC version still allows to play with a controller or the typical mouse/keyboard combo if it's more your thing. Either way, moving around is all the more simple as there is often even less freedom of movement than in the previous 5 episodes. 400 Days uses the saved data from season 1 though the choices we had made didn't seem to have an impact in the DLC. Well, at least not the important ones. That being said, we really hope the consequences of the - tough - choices we made in 400 Days will show in season 2 as there is unfortunately no time to see their outcome in the DLC. One question remains though: will Telltale keep the multiple character approach in the second season and potentially lose the strength of the link between the player and one hero?
Aesthetically speaking, the comic book look is of course still there and it shines, especially on PC where there is no aliasing or framerate issues to deal with. Technically, our only grudge with the game is with the save system which is still broken more than a year after the game's release. It doesn't affect everyone but we had to copy/paste the pref file of our user folder to put it in the game's folder to be able to use the right save. When we loaded the game first, the only saves it found dated from episode 3, so it was annoying to be forced to do use the save game "fix" found by the community again. Another - minor - problem came with the audio quality of the voices that sometimes felt like it was a bit distorted. It's not a big deal but playing with headphones on was a bit less comfortable than it should have been as a result. Other than that, the voice cast is once again stellar and all these guys really bring the characters to life.
Short but intense, that's actually the best way to summarize our experience in 400 Days. By using well-tried gameplay mechanics and by trying a few new things, Telltale has managed to give birth to another very solid episode of the Walking Dead series. Sure it could have been a bit longer, some sequences leaving you asking for more, but in the end, it remains worth the $5/€5 it costs if you are a fan of the franchise. After all, when the biggest frustration is that you need to see what's next, there really is not much you can complain about. Needless to say, we'll all even more hyped for season 2 now.