Many people like to argue over what makes a game good. Some say that graphics make or break the game, others will tell you that it’s all about the gameplay. For me a game is most enjoyable if there a solid story. And by solid I mean really solid. Not the kind of garbage you find in Call of Duty or Battlefield where the story is just one big excuse to shoot everything to shit. I picked up The Walking Dead rather late on Steam. It was probably already a few months old by the time I decided to give it a try. Something I initially didn’t want to do, because we all know what happens when you try to turn a successful TV/book franchise into a video game. But then some of the most positive reviews I’ve ever read started popping up everywhere. On the internet, in game magazines, friends started to talk about it. And the one thing everyone seemed to be amazed by was the story telling and the level of immersion. Not only did the claim the game had an amazing story, you could actually influence the story by the decisions you make. Say no more! I just had to try this! When I first started playing the game I was amused by the interesting graphical style of the game, which is styled entirely like a comic book, except in 3D. This gives the game a very unique touch that I honestly haven’t seen before. It takes some getting used to, but in addition to the story and the carefully directed camera angles I soon felt like I was simply reading (or watching) a comic book where I could tell the characters what to do. The game is also highly interactive. You can often respond to other characters in multiple ways (or not respond at all) and often the environment has many interactive elements to it as well. At the start of the game Lee, the protagonist in this game, finds himself in the back of a police car and is on his way to jail for allegedly murdering his wive’s lover. The officer behind the wheel makes some idle chit chat with him and then you get to respond. You can be nice and chat along, stay quiet or act like a total douche bag and tell the officer to go **** himself. The way this is done throughout the game is worthy of a compliment, because no matter if you decide to act nice or be an asshole, the response Lee gives always seems natural to his character. Even if you are nice first and not so nice a little later, the writers always make sure it makes sense no matter what you did before. When you first start the game it will tell you that the story is based on the decisions you make and this gives you the impression that there are multiple endings or maybe even entirely different branches to the story to explore. And there are quite a few choices to make. Deciding who to save and who to kill are some of the more important ones, but there are also subtle decisions like deciding who to side with in an important argument. Unfortunately, despite what the game wants you to think, your choices hardly have any effect on the story at all. In fact, in some cases the story (or the writers) seems to actually ignore your choice all together. [spoiler][Spoilers!] There was a situation early in the game where I had to make a decision between saving an adult and saving a not very bright kid. I decided to save the adult since, from a survival standpoint, I perceived the kid to be a liability in our group. But as soon as I made the decision, the adult dies anyway and it becomes clear that I didn’t have a choice at all. The kid would have survived no matter what I had done. Later I did get some backlash during a conversation about the choice I made, but it didn’t effect the story much. [End of Spoilers][/spoiler] Things like that seem to happen a lot during the course of the story. While many choices consult your moral compass and make you wonder if you made the the right call, the eventual outcome of a choice will always be the same regardless. If you choose not to kill someone who is meant to die in the story, that person will die some other way. In the final chapter of the game you are left with a certain number of specific people. These people and the final location where you end up are all static. You have no choice in deciding who to bring and who to leave behind and even the final ending of the game is pre-determined and has no alternatives. The only effect the choices have is to make you question your own decisions, and that actually makes up for the lack of story influence. Because for most choices you make, there is no right or wrong choice. Only you and your principles can decide that. While you play the game guides you from one location to another, often accompanied by a large number of cutscenes and conversations. Within a single location you have very little freedom in what you can do or where you can go. Going back to where you came from is often not an option and the only way to advance is to solve the puzzle or talk to the right person. In that sense the game is very much on-rails. Even if you think you know the solution to a major problem, you will have to do all the other stuff first before the game lets you deal with this major one. [Spoiler] In one instance a group of strangers were taking care of my injured friend. They seemed to be alright people, but when I went to the house to check up on him they just brushed me off and told me to come back later. Me as the player behind the keyboard wanted to insist on seeing him, find a backdoor and sneak in if I had to. Because I had a gut feeling something was wrong. But the game simply wouldn’t let me, no matter what I tried. Only when I solved all the other problems did the game jump out at me with something that was supposed to be a plot twist. To bad I had already figured it out. [End of Spoilers] While I wish that choices had a bigger impact on the story, The Walking Dead is by no means a bad game. In fact, I can’t wait for Season 2 even if they don’t change that. You may not be able to influence the story, but in the end you don’t really need to. The story as it stands is very solid and will often make you gasp for air or make your heart race. You get a real connection to some of the characters and I genuinely found myself hoping that my best friends weren’t the next ones to be eaten by Walkers. I felt guilty in some cases for not being able to save them. And it’s those subtle things that make a game great. This game will grab you, drag you in and make you care. And not being able to influence anything might just actually enhance that feeling.