by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
The Walking Dead
I've been a fan of The Walking Dead since the first episode on TV. I got hooked so much so that I went out and started collecting the comic books that the TV show is based upon. So when The Escapists: The Walking Dead came along, I had to take a look. I did get a brief chance to view the game at a Team 17 event that Hooked Gamers were invited to a few months ago, and although what I saw was pretty cool, the preview code that they had on show was way too short to give a proper opinion on.
The Escapists: The Walking Dead has you taking on the role of Rick Grimes, the main protagonist from the Walking Dead series as he makes his way through the various settings of the TV series and comic book series. In The Escapists: The Walking Dead, Rick must lead the survivors to safety, whilst completing day to day tasks to keep the zombies at bay.
Visit well known locations
All the important locations from the TV show make an appearance. The hospital Rick wakes up in, Hershel's Farm, Woodbury (run by the Governor), the Merriwether Correctional Facility and Alexandria all have a unique feel, even if they do have the same pixelated look. And each particular location has a specific goal to be achieved. Rick has a multitude of options of how to complete the missions, though. Gamers can take Rick on a solo run, or befriend the other members of the survivors in order to get them to work together. The other survivors will often ask Rick to find certain items and if completed will improve their relationship towards him. Once a quest from a particular survivor is complete, that survivor can be called upon to follow Rick on whatever particular task you want completed. They can be used to attack a certain zombie to create a diversion, or can co-operatively attack the undead creatures. As you would expect, it is much easier to clear a path of zombies as a team than individually.
Combat is fairly simple. Rick can either attack from a distance with projectile weapons such as pistols and shotguns, or get up close and personal with the undead using melee weapons such as knives, baseball bats and even gardening equipment. Since ammunition is scarce, melee combat will be the general way of taking care of the infested. In such cases, it becomes a clickfest as you wield your weapon of choice when Rick is situated close to a walker. Hopefully, you win. As mentioned earlier, having an ally by your side helps.
As well as taking care of zombies, Rick must collect components with which he can use to craft important items such as improved weapons and tools. The weapons will of course help to deal with the zombie scourge, but the tools such as pliers and shovels, will enable Rick to open up new areas within the current location. Crafting is quite simple, requiring only a blueprint and then joining together the selected components.
Perform menial tasks
Rick also has tasks (some with the help of other survivors) to complete during the day cycle. Attending morning and evening head counts keeps the team morale high, as does completing the scheduled daily menial tasks. Failing to attend these events and scheduled meal breaks increases the zombie presence. If it increases too much, the zombies seem to become more curious and will attempt to invade the safe compounds. It can be annoying at times to have to complete these daily tasks when you would rather be completing the main goal, but it is a system that rewards teamwork between Rick and the other survivors. After a few days, these tasks do seem to become quite repetitive though, and as well as being a distraction, become even more grating.
During his free time - the time between scheduled meal breaks and daily tasks - Rick can wander about the locations as you see fit. Lots of exploration is often required, especially in the latter levels, as you search for pathways into locked areas within the current location. Indeed, the game encourages exploration, as you search for quest items and components for crafting items. But Rick can also stay 'at home' and improve himself in a variety of ways. He can increase his intelligence by reading books and playing games, ha can increase his speed by running on a treadmill, or improve his strength by pumping iron at a gym. And you'll definitely need to focus on these attributes if you want to help lead Rick to safety. Unfortunately, these attributes erode over time, so you'll need to keep going back for more brain and muscle exercise.
The game has a vintage look to it, with a top-down 8-bit visual design. With the pixelated visuals, it can sometimes be difficult to work out who the other non-playing characters are. Carl has his signature hat, Michonne has her signature dreads and Hershel has grey hair, but the others can be difficult to differentiate, especially when a walker (often known as Roamers) gets thrown into the mix. There is a day-night cycle as well, so things get darker at night giving the game a sense of continuation.
The Escapists: The Walking Dead can be quite a bit of fun. I've enjoyed revisiting some of the famous sites from the comic book and TV series and teaming up with the well known characters as I take on the walking dead and attempt to survive the plague. I was enjoying the journey early on, but as I kept playing, I found the game to become quite stale. The same daily tasks kept distracting me from my mission and although they were varied, they were primarily the same. I felt one on one combat was primarily a clickfest as well, but I often went into a combat scenario with a companion to alter that situation. The pixelated visuals and synthesized audio track are kinda cool though and I did like the exploration and crafting. Definitely worth a look for fans of The Walking Dead and the original version of The Escapists.
Revisiting the settings from The Walking Dead series
Gameplay becomes stale