The Walking Dead: 400 Days DLC Review: Four Stories Too Many
Across five episodes and 10 hours, players built some pretty strong bonds with the game’s protagonist, Lee Everett, and his young ward, Clementine. Those bonds helped make it the best game story of the year, and possibly of the entire Seventh Generation. (Yes, that includes The Last of Us.)
Can The Walking Dead handle a reverse of formula — five stories in a single episode, hyper-condensed, spanning only a few minutes each? It’s a conundrum, truly. While the quality of writing and characterization that made Season One of The Walking Dead so great is fully intact in The Walking Dead: 400 Days, the season-bridging DLC package, it’s not quite as effective as its bigger counterpart.
Sure, 400 Days has a lot of water to carry without the benefits of the same production time or storytelling depth. But at the same time, the bite-size offerings of 400 Days show the weaknesses of the formula of The Walking Dead. Season One was able to effectively hide its proverbial wizard — the various choices that seemed to have major effects on the plot — behind some ingenious game design curtains. The first season was so incredibly effective because it managed to weave player choice in beautifully, while still disguising the fact that, left or right, both forks were going to bring you to the same place further down the story’s road. The smaller DLC struggles in hiding the magic of The Walking Dead, and as such, it’s a bit tougher to really connect with 400 Days.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: July 2, 2013
The Walking Dead: 400 Days concerns the first 400 days of the zombie apocalypse. We saw a good portion of that time from the perspective of Lee Everett in Season One of The Walking Dead, but 400 Days centers on a number of other survivors whose stories take place in roughly the same area of Georgia, at roughly the same time. All of the stories unfold in the vicinity of a truck stop; some characters use it for shelter, some encounter other survivors holed up there, and some are merely in the general vicinity when s–t goes down.
And since this is The Walking Dead, s–t invariably goes down.
Each of the five stories concerns a different player character, and you can play them in any order. There’s a chronological organization to them, but you won’t know it until after you’ve played; it doesn’t make much difference, really as the stories don’t really intersect all that much anyway, at least not until the sixth “epilogue” portion.
First off, it’s important to note that 400 Days does a great job of capturing snapshot survivor stories in just a few minutes, and offering strange, very different experiences in all five offerings. Like Season One, the writing here is pretty top-notch, the characters are well-drawn even in their short on-screen appearances, and all of the scenarios tap into different aspects of the changed, post-zombie world.