Arguably, the franchise which pushed Telltale Games into the limelight was The Walking Dead, an interactive narrative adventure game based around the comic series of the same name. Using a similar formula to their previous games (the revival of Sam and Max, Monkey Island and even Wallace and Gromit and Back to the Future), instead of focusing on action, exploration and puzzles, the developers created some of the most memorable and well-written narrative adventures which simply took you along for the ride as you loosely interacted with them.
However, as the years went on, each new series felt very similar to the last, the gameplay was like playing a reskin of a previous game, and nothing really reached the emotions we all felt in the first Season. As such, due to sales and behind the scenes money issues, Telltale Games ceased trading in 2018. However, in came Skybound Games to save the day! They purchased the rights to the adventure games, hired a lot of the employees who were let go from their former employer, and set out to finish the final season of the game and bring an end to this epic journey, ultimately releasing this definitive collection for both newcomers and fans of the original versions.
But, is it worth picking up if you’ve already played the games? Let’s find out…
What is The Walking Dead?
The main story has you follow young Clementine as she grows up and learns to fend for herself against the walkers (zombies) throughout many dangerous situations. The collection consists of four main games, each one playing out a few months or years after the other, as you try to stay alive by making new friends, looking out for walkers and hostile humans, and doing whatever you can to stay alive within this post-apocalyptic world. Throughout your adventure, you’re given the chance to choose various polarising options to decide how the story will advance and play God by deciding which characters will live and which shall die.
Although the main feature sees you helping out our young protagonist through various seasons, locations, groups and hostile situations, the collection also contains both ‘400 Days’ and ‘Walking Dead: Michonne’ – a DLC and mini-series spin-off respectively. These don’t feature the protagonist of the main series but there are certain elements that link back into the main storyline – including the choices you make during your playthrough of them.
The game itself, bar the final season, is akin to an old-school point and click game but with the interactions and thought-process dialled right back down to almost nothing. As I said initially, it’s as if you’re watching a narrative adventure play out and you’re just there for the ride, moving the character around the screen occasionally, picking a response based on the personality you want your characters to have, and sometimes interacting with objects and items in order to solve very simplistic ‘puzzles’. Think of them as Visual Novels combined with a 3D point and click aesthetic – great to watch and experience but very light on actual user interactions.
However, this changed with the final season as the game got a full 360-degree camera implemented during exploration and combat segments, more robust fighting mechanics, the gameplay was enhanced with collectables and keepsakes, and the whole game felt ‘new’ – something the franchise was in dire need of, although it was implemented a little too late in my opinion.
Your choices matter…
By now, I imagine you’ve played at least one of the brilliant games out there which states the above – “your choices matter…” To name a few examples, we have Until Dawn, Erica, Hidden Agenda, Man of Medan, Detroit Become Human and more. These games are great examples of how your choices matter and can result in the game pushing you down a different path with branching storylines and alternative outcomes, opening up the game for multiple playthroughs in order to experience everything the game has to offer.
The Telltale games, in general, used a form of imaginary choice and/or pointless outcomes.
Whereas in Until Dawn, if you slipped up then someone could get killed, thus removing the ability for you to experience their timeline in the story and completely alter the interactions and conversations others have in the story from that point onwards, The Walking Dead didn’t actually change anything. Well, that’s being unfair, you do have some choices which make slight changes. For example, you may have a chance to either save a man or a woman. Depending on who you save, you’ll get a few lines of text which are different and the character who is in your party will be the one you saved – but the story and the narrative never changes. You’re basically deciding which person you want to kill/save without any impact on the story (unless your action kills yourself).
However, one thing I really enjoy about Telltale‘s version of ‘choice’ is how it rolls through the series. The choices you make in each episode are highlighted as the credits roll, showing you how others around the world also responded and dealt with the situations. Then, the choices you made are rolled forward – not just from episode to episode, but also from season to season. Although the changes are quite small and discrete, loading up the fourth season and seeing the character referencing things I did in the first and second seasons was quite cool. Again, it doesn’t affect the story but it does remember certain actions and choices you made.
**On a side note, as far as I can tell (on the PS4 at least), saves from the stand-alone series’ can’t be read by this collection – so, if you want the rolling narrative, you have to start from the first season and play it all from the beginning**
This is where things get a little confusing as there are multiple versions of the same game out there in stores and on PSN (as some digital versions are still on sale). You can currently buy:
• Each of the four seasons and both 400 Days and Michonne are available digitally. The main games are also available physically in stores. (Fun Fact, the digital and physical versions of the fourth season are technically ‘different’ as they launched it after Telltale shut down. This means there are four platinums to grab if you own both the physical and digital version of it in both EU and NA format).
• In 2017, The Walking Dead Collection was released via Skybound Games (this has since been removed off PSN but you can still find it in shops). This contains The Walking Dead season 1, 2 and 3, as well as both 400 Days and Michonne. These games had all been ‘touched-up’ from their original versions, releasing as a ‘remastered’ version of the games thanks to some improvements in the lighting, textures, visuals and performance.
• Today, September 10th 2019, the Definitive Series releases. This is a collection of all four main games, 400 Days and Michonne, a bunch of bonus features you won’t get on any other version, and the inclusion of an all-new filter to play the game in – called Graphic Black mode.
Let’s take a look at what you get within the Definitive Series as the games are technically the same, so it’s all about the bonus features and if that’s enough to convince you to replay these memorable adventures once more (over fifty hours for a single platinum)…
Graphic Black Mode
By far, the biggest draw for me of this new collection is the new visual mode which you can’t grab for any of the other versions (not even the previous collection). If you’ve played all the main games previously, you’ll notice how The Walking Dead The Final Season was graphically different to all of those which came before it. The blacks were black, the environment looked like it was straight out of a graphic novel, and the overall feeling was much darker and sinister than the previous games which tended to use muddy brown and dull palettes. Finally, we can have the same gritty experience on all prior episodes thanks to the Graphic Black setting within the options menu.
With this enabled, certain scenes really stand out as if someone has just sat there and drawn the whole 3D environment out for you in real-time as you walk around it. It’s almost like Borderlands but more realistic combined with the thick black outlines and shading. This mode can be turned on or off at will (but not in the final season as it’s always on in this one), instantly reverting the game to the newly remastered versions we saw in Skybound Games‘ previous collection if it’s been disabled.
I’ve placed an image above which you can swipe from left to right (you may need to tap it first if you’re on a mobile) and you’ll see how the visuals have changed within that scene. Some scenes look a lot different with the mode enabled and others look similar but with a few darker areas, but overall I’ve really enjoyed reliving the franchise with this new visual style.
Pleasure for your eyes and ears…
The Walking Dead Definitive Series has a few interesting options on the menu screen which any fans of the games will love:
This is a collection of every single character from each of the games. You can change their visual styles (based on how they appear throughout the game), pick from a number of their animations (including combat and specific scenes), and listen to various voice samples. I spent a while in here just looking at the various characters, zooming in, spinning them around and generally faffing about! My one complaint, you can’t change the background or freely move the camera around – you can only zoom into their face or spin them on the spot.
This contains various design images, concept art and screenshots from every singe game included in the collection. I’m not the biggest fan of artwork like this but I know a lot of people really like it. It’s like a digital artbook for you to peruse at your leisure and see how various scenes were constructed and how the characters were designed.
Over 150 music tracks, again, from every single title here. If you’ve ever heard a song in any of the games but you never knew what it was called, it’ll be on this list – simply find which one it is and play it as many times as you wish.
There are five videos included in the collections. The first video is the story of how Skybound games came in to help finish off Clementine’s story – it’s a really good video and I’d recommend everyone who picks up the collection gives it a watch. The other four are from the main series. There’s one video from each season and they contain various staff members who talk over the footage as they describe the scenes, the processes, interesting facts, etc… you all know what directors commentary is!
If you’ve bought the retail version of the game, I’d highly recommend you install the day-one patch for the game before you attempt to watch these videos. They were updated to much better quality videos with clearer commentary a few days ago.
Is it worth it?
This is a question which only one person can decide, yourself. If you’ve never played The Walking Dead Telltale games before then yeah, I’d highly recommend this collection as it’s literally the Definitive way to experience all of the main games, DLC and spin-off episodes. Not only are you getting the whole story, but you’re also getting the remastered version of the original games, a new graphical setting that makes the game much more like the source material, a whole host of bonus features, and the games have supposedly been given a touch-up on the lipsyncing and overall visual effects.
If you’ve played the games before then you need to decide if you want to replay the games and if you feel the extras that the collection contains is enough to rebuy the entire series. For you, you may want to wait for a sale unless you really want to re-experience the journey of young Clem one final time.
Trophy hunters – don’t bother. Telltale Games‘ games have become infamous as “I love easy platinums” or “I want to boost my platinum score” titles, but this collection requires you to complete every single game in order to get a single platinum. That’s over fifty hours. Now, I know people will get the platinum – I’m one of those (I’ve recently played a number of games that took me over 70 hours to get the platinum on each one) – but the stigma with Telltale was ‘quick and easy platinums’ – this isn’t one of them.
This actually leads me to my one and only complaint…
Not very rewarding…
I’ve seen this with collections before, even The Walking Dead Collection had this ‘issue’. The trophies are a joke. The series originally started out well, offering trophies for each ‘act’ within a chapter as well as various trophies for picking different options and seeing different things. Then the franchise turned into a cash-grab for easy platinums (as with all other Telltale games at the time), offering just a trophy for each act and completing the chapter. Then, the Final Season went back to its roots and offered a bunch of trophies for collecting things and doing various choices – making the game much more interactive and increased the replayability and exploration factors.
However, The Walking Dead Definitive Series has sunk back into the crap-factor with rewarding the players. There’s one trophy for each chapter of each game – that’s it. They’ve stripped out all the choice-based trophies, removed all the collection rewards, and eliminated any and all reason to replay the various chapters and games after you’ve completed the game once.
Again, I’m sure they’ll be people who play the game multiple times in order to see what could have been if they chose another route or answered differently, but I’m one of those who loves it when trophies don’t only reward you, they push you in another direction. If I’ve completed the game but then realise there’s a trophy for befriending a dog, I’ll go back and see how I can adjust my gameplay to befriend the animal. This could lead to a scene or part of the game I missed because I didn’t know it was possible.
I’m sure this complaint is just a pet peeve of mine and not a lot of people will feel the same, but I would have loved a replication, or enhancement, of the trophies from all the previous seasons, rather than a reduction to make it incredibly unsatisfying to achieve the platinum. I’m guessing there may be a trophy limit – but even having the additional trophies as ‘DLC’ formatted ones, like in Hitman 2, would have been enough to increase replayability. Maybe it’s because the game on PC is an Epic Games Store exclusive and they don’t have trophies, so time wasn’t spent implementing them fully into the console versions?
Despite my issue with the unoriginal and dumbed-down trophies on offer, The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series is by far the best way to experience this amazing journey of trust, survival and friendships. The newly introduced ‘Graphic Black’ visual style adds a whole new level to the storytelling, making scenes much more dramatic and intense thanks to the dark and gritty overall look. Once you’ve completed all five stories, with over fifty hours of content, you can sit back and relax to over 150 tunes from the franchise and a bunch of concept art, images, and 3D models. If you’re a fan of Telltale‘s The Walking Dead, you should own this version.
Whether you’re a fan of the game and have followed Clementine from the very beginning, or if you’ve never actually played any of the games before, The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series is by far the best version of the game to pick up today. Sure, you can purchase previous versions, but this one stands out above the rest with all of the fan content and beautifully horrific visuals.
The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series£39.99
- - One of the best narrative adventures on the platform
- - The new 'Graphic Black' mode makes the game feel fresh, new and more sinister
- - A bunch of bonus features including soundtracks from all the games
- - Every episode is included on the disc (if bought physically)
- - The definitive way to play any of these titles
- - A single platinum for completing every game
- - Trophies are dumbed down to one per-chapter, completely scrapping all the interesting collectable, exploration and replayability ones