I know, I know. As if weekly blogs weren't enough. But alas, reader, I am ill, so I have more time than ever to write about TWD. That's either the best or worst thing to happen to me in the while, depending on if you like blogs. Anyways, this weeks' topic is about The Overkill Game.
To say Overkill's The Walking Dead has been not well reviewed would be an understatment. The game is being roasted pretty hard online, but when you release your game at the same time as Red Dead 2, Spider-Man, Spyro Remastered and Hitman 2, naturally one is going to fall to the bottom of the pile. Overkill's reputation with Payday II probably didn't help the game's reception.
That doesn't mean it's a bad game per say. It looks perfectly average on a gameplay standpoint, but the cutscenes look nice and the promise of support after launch is great. I think it's the company repuation and the pricepoint that have really angered some people. Regardless, I don't really think the walking dead is made for this type of game, especially when it's basically bargin-bin Left 4 Dead.
Obviously, I realise the Telltale games exist (or did, at least. RIP) and they have a huge following. But I wouldn't agree they are perfect either. The further the games have gone along, the smaller the audience has gotten. The long waits, the broken game engine and the lack of impact on your decitions mean that player choice doesn't really matter, which is basically the main draw of the game. Plus, the creator duo of season one left, and, in my opinion anyways, they have not been able to recreate the same magic in a bottle the original game.
I think in an ideal world, the 'perfect' Walking Dead game would capture the perfect balance between character and gameplay. Killing walkers wave-on-wave like Call of Duty zombies isn't really the aim, and taking down other humans like it's a war game isn't fun either. A million games have got that area of the market locked down tight, so no point going there. On the flipside, the 'anyone can die' mechanic and the 'find a base and fortify it' corner of the market is already owned by the amazing State of Decay. The zombie genre is very crowded, so I'm going to present the only way I can think of making a successful Walking Dead game.
What to Include
- First of all, we have to make it third person. I think it makes the most sense, and helps the game stay focused on character
- Secondly, an open world. Freedom and exploration make these types of games much more fun, and it sets it apart from more linear games like the Last of Us.
- Throw in some RPG elements like scavenging for supplies and ammo, buying things from vendors, and having changable clothes.
- Side quests triggered by talking to characters.
- A small aspect of player choice, like multiple endings.
- A base building mechanic, to show progression.
Lean into the Comics!
This might be a controversial pick, but leaning into the comics and including comic book characters is what is going to give this game the edge. TWD has spent over a decade crafting it's story and characters, and it would be such a shame not to see them. Seeing comic characters in colour and with real voice actors would be really rewarding for readers, and it makes the game instantly more playable. Being able to see the communities and how they function would be fantastic, and would drive open world exploration forward.
What would the Story be?let's just imagine this: We have one main character, a drifter-type who leads a group with 2 or 3 others who follow his lead. The dude is a badass, but has become untrustworthy of people. He leads the group by a strict set of rules regarding other people and sticking together. He's a Daryl Dixon type because it'll make a nice character arc, and everyone loves a badass rouge. With him is Annie and a few original characters. They are weak from always running, but eventually find their way to the Alexandria Safe-Zone. It's been about four months since the end of All Out War, and the survivors have only just returned there to begin rebuilding. The main character and co are captured, but after meetintg Rick (who's in a wheelchair from his injuries) The two parties negotiate, and the protagonist demands his people cannot trust these strangers, but needing food, Rick suggests a deal - The survivors set up a base nearby, and in exchange for collecting supplies to rebuild Alexandria, they are given food and supplies to set up their new base. From there, the group find a home, but the protagonist frequently talks to survivors from all Four (the Oceanside wouldn't be found just yet) communties, and completes many side-missions from your favourite walking dead characters. The main game would be about rebuilding Alexandria, and learning to accept people again. Obviously as this protagonist is not in the comics not all ends happy, but Annie is a definite survivor. The other two are perhaps Determinant.
Why the timeskip?
Well, it's the period of space in which there is the most space for working original stories in. We get to fill out gaps in the story, like rebuilding alexandria, the saviours being put in line, Rick's recovery, Maggie giving birth etc etc. Plus, that's the period of time where there a the most characters. Seriously, side missions from Rick, Ezekiel, Maggie or Dwight, or any of the inhabitants of these communities would be fantastic, and just talking to these people would be great. Just imagine side missions like:
- Collecting scrap metal for Eugene's bullets.
- Finding Siddiq heading from Oceanside and getting him back to Alexandria.
- Redirecting a horde from Alexandria.
- Helping Andrea take down Walkers from the Bell Tower.
Why have your own Base?
Because the characters Rejecting living at one of the communties helps set a great character arc of opening up to society, means the player can move freely and do missions for any community they please and is the best way to check progression. Player homes are a great way of personalising your game and recording your progress. See the Progression in the Mad Max game for a great example of this in action. Collecting supplies and parts for stuff like water butts, a plough for crops, spikes for defence and so on helps make the game feel unique to you, and encourages exploration and questing for other characters. Plus, when your base is attacked, it feels cool to have earned making it that bit easier.
Why an Open World?
Because player choice is important, but giving them freedom to explore instead of faux choice over the story works a lot better. Imagine travelling by car or horse from the Hilltop to the sanctuary. It would make the world feel real, and be rewarding for comics fans. Plus, all the little locations matter too. Perhaps there could be a collection system for photographing or drawing a notable location, like in the batman games with the Riddler's Riddles. For example, here's some of the locations you could find.
- The Water Tower Gabriel Falls from
- The blood marks from where Glenn died in the road
- Eugene's factory.
- The camp Rick and Co stayed at before finding Aaron
etc etc. I think it would work for comic fans and completionists alike.
We can't have a game set in the timeskip without Negan. Seeing him newly inprisonned would be fun to see how he'd react, but I think it would be really cool to see him provide comments or messages under very specific senarios, just like Callender Man from Batman Arkham City (I know second arkham reference). On specific days or with specific items in-hand, getting different comments from Negan would be really cool, and would lead to lots of easter egg hunts to see how mnay comments people could get from him.
every good walking dead story needs a villain, and every video game needs someone to shoot. I think the most obvious villain is to have defecting saviours, especially those from the communties that are not the sanctuary. Having one of the satilite communities turn on the survivors makes sense, especially as the survivers didn't seem to suprised at their rebellion after the whisperer war. However, to add some nuance and character into this, having a vigilante character taking down saviours (like the oceanside in the show) can illustrate how neither side are innocent in this, and perhaps the vigilante killing saviours can be a suprising twist for walking dead fans.