Disclaimer: I am going to be discussing plot points of The Walking Dead video game series (both season 1 and 2), so if you haven’t completed the games yet or have any intention of playing them in the future, don’t read this! (Unless you like spoilers, in which case, go nuts!) Let me just start off by saying that The Walking Dead Season 1 is my second-favourite story-based video game, just behind Knights of the Old Republic. I’m a huge fan of the T.V. series and also the graphic novel so playing the game was a no-brainer. At first I was a bit skeptical about the it being an adventure game that was point-and-click based like the LucasArts games of the 90s, but since it was being made by the able minds at Telltale Games, I had quite a lot of hope for it. After the disaster that was the other Walking Dead game (it’s so bad I can’t even remember its name), this series needed a hit. And a hit it did get! This was the only game that has ever made me shed tears (man-tears mind you!) and that says something about it. It was brilliant in every way imaginable. However, at the end, I was left asking myself this pertinent question – “did the choices I make throughout the course of the game even have an impact on the ending?” (This holds true for the second season as well.)
In the series, you’re continually forced to make decisions that range from menial to life-altering; they may be as simple as choosing which people to give some of the last remaining food to or choosing who Clementine stays with after you (Lee) are gone, it may be to lie blatantly to get your own way in a particular situation or to be brutally honest thereby putting you in a slightly awkward situation but also gaining the trust of your group. These are just some of the examples the hundreds of decisions that you’ll have to make and each one will change how the next scene plays out. The choices you make don’t affect the final ending at all. You’ll be given the same cut scene as a person who played the game entirely different from you. However, in this case that isn’t a bad thing. Telltale Games had a vision of this is how they wanted the games to end and thus, that is how they will end. But what they did do is ensure that the way you get to the end is as diverse as the species of germs in the world (that is to say, a lot!). It’s like this – you’re given a point ‘A’ and a point ‘B’ and there are a hundred different paths from ‘A’ to ‘B’ with each part having branches and sub-branches. That is what it feels like. Every time you make a decision, you have a voice at the back of your head asking you “Well how is this going to affect me later?” or in certain cases “How is this going to come back and bite me in the ass later on?”. Often, the game itself tells you that the decision you’ve just made is going to have some impact through a little box that may say something like “Clementine will remember that.” (Those always made me anxious) So many decisions carry over from the first season to the second and if you were one of those guys who still had the saves of the first season with them (like me) then the world in the second game just feels so much more familiar. The game isn’t the most interactive one out there – it involves a lot of clicking, not as much as Diablo that it gives you carpel tunnel syndrome but more than enough. Essentially, it plays out like an… interactive movie. That’s the best way I can describe it and that’s a compliment because it plays out as smoothly as a well-directed, well-acted movie (The kind that Twilight isn’t. Sorry for bashing on that “movie” if you can call it that, I just hate it. Whoa, I’m getting sidetracked.) There are very few hitches along the ride and of course there are some standout episodes like well, every episode of the first season and episode 2 and 3 of the second season. (I guess that’s almost all of them, but oh well.)
Okay, so coming back to the main point, the choices that you make impact your “journey”, not the “ending” and both are pretty damn awesome. Would I like the game better if Lee didn’t die, if Kenny didn’t die (or did he?), if Carver became good, if Clementine got bitten instead of Lee? Well, to be honest, I don’t know. I played the game the way Telltale wanted it to be played and I loved it, so I can’t really imagine an alternate storyline where things turn out to be radically different at the end. In summation, “it’s the journey that matters and not the destination”. (Cheesy? I know, but so apt) I used the same logic to justify the Mass Effect 3 ending(s), but for The Walking Dead, it just seems to be more appropriate. I like the ending and I love the journey, in the end does anything else even matter?