The UC Gaming Club : Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Season 01, Episode 01
Welcome to The UC Gaming Club. This is a feature we are trying as both a new type of article and as a way to benefit from an unlikely coincidence.
As a run down of the concept, The UC Gaming Club is much like a Reading Club except we are exchanging the medium of books for video games. We will discuss how we have found aspects of the particular game, how we think it may develop and what sorts of discussions the game may have invoked.
The series will essentially be a reflective Let’s Play. We will include spoilers for the games as we play through, so the series may not appeal to all. We will try and refrain from playing the latest games, so readers will likely have had opportunity to play the games we cover.
That is basically it. We shall feel out how it works and we may make this a regular feature if it goes well.
So you know : These are loooooong. =P
The first game we are trying this with is the critically acclaimed, Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 01. This is because the episodic content works well for chat installments and a couple of us both had the impulse to start playing it, this past month.
To start this all off, we should probably introduce the members of the group and their previous experiences with the game.
Ellen : I have played the entire series through once on the Xbox 360. I wanted to replay the series on Steam and try some alternative paths.
Khinjarsi : I haven’t played the series; only Episode 01 a few times. I have seen a few playthroughs of the series, though.
Without any further ado, let us begin…
Before the game begins, you get to choose your play style: Standard or Minimal. The main difference is the user interface and notifications.
Ellen : Having played the game through once already, I decided to play on minimal. I thought it might be fun to play through without getting the “_____ will remember that” notifications and not have any pang of worry as I realise my actions have just impacted the story. Also, it removes all of the bubbles that show where interactions are; better immersion, theoretically.
Khin : I picked Standard. I’ve played Telltales games before, and Episode 1 enough times, to know how the games work. However, I’m a console gamer at heart and hadn’t played TWD on PC, so wanted the extra help from the interaction bubbles.
The story begins with your character, Lee, in a police car. He appears to be in transit to his incarceration. The police officer who is driving starts making small talk with you, providing a means for exposition and also introducing the main concepts of the game in a controlled environment.
Ellen : This was strange for me. Having only used the 360 controller, using the mouse and keyboard was a little jarring at first. I found using “1, 2, 3, 4” a little unintuitive compared to “A, B, X, Y” on the controller. I’m not sure how else Telltale could have mapped these controls. I kind of expected to click on the dialogue choices, rather than tap keys, I guess.
Khin : I was also expecting to click on the option I wanted and it took a couple of seconds to get the hang of pressing numbers for which choice I wanted. I couldn’t get used to it and have switched to using an Xbox controller plugged into my PC for the rest of the game. It’s a fairly low energy way to get you handling the timers and decision making sections of the game though.
Ellen : Oooo. I’m jealous now! Getting the xbox controller to work with Macs is unnecessarily complex, from what I have seen. I have to buy some extra doodads and download some third-party software, hence why I haven’t got around to it yet.
Soon, your transport veers off the road and crashes.
Ellen : I have to admit, having seen this before, it still made me jump. The crash is just so visceral and the use of camera really made me uncomfortable… In a good way. I have been in a car when it has been rolled, in a really unexciting event, and this took me right back to that. Kudos, Telltale.
Khin : I’ve never been in a rolled car, but this short sequence is full of the confusion and pain I imagine it would be in reality. It’s a very unnerving few seconds.
You break out of the car and see the driver of your car on the ground. To get out of your handcuffs, you will need to find the keys. Looking around, you notice his shotgun discarded and patches of blood around the clearing.
Ellen : This was my first opportunity to move about freely using WASD; little strange…
Khin : I played this part with the mouse and keyboard, and found it odd to walk with WASD so loosely. It feels a little slow movement-wise, and I find this part goes from the quick, vivid movements of the car crash to the slightly dream-like movements of backing away from potential danger.
You find the keys on the body of the police officer who appears to be dead. It won’t surprise anyone to find out the police officer has become a zombie and starts coming for you as you break free of the cuffs. This presents the first Quick Time Event of the game; the main way action and events occur.
Ellen : Again, this bit got me… I forgot how intense these seems are. By using the First Person perspective, the game really heaps on the immersion as you have to scramble around to defend yourself. The game seemed to be running quicker than I remember and I think that may have been to do with the fact that the mouse can be moved around faster the reticle than with the controller. Then again, it may just be me. This was a cool sequence though; great sense of tension.
Khin : There seems to be a bit of lag between the controller and what you see on screen, so the mouse worked out better for this kind of scene.
Using the shotgun attracts the attention of other undead and Lee quickly decides to flee through the woods. He escape over a fence, landing in a back garden. Little does Lee know this will be the most important garden he may ever step foot in… Talking of feet, Lee has sustained an injury between his car journey and his fence-scaling escapade and he has a limp. In search of medical supplies, he enters the house and looks for people.
Khin : There’s a whole bunch of stuff in the garden to interact with, which allows you to get more accustomed to how a larger proportion of the story works. Click on things to look and touch them, and make your way to the door to carry on the story.
Ellen : Are there, really? On “Minimal” I didn’t get any of the prompts… I wonder how many things I will miss, due to this?
Khin : Yeah, there’s a tea set, the pool, the ladder up the tree. Nothing major to the story, but indications of how sudden all this happened.
Eventually, you uncover a radio / walkie-talkie and communicate with a young girl. You can choose how to interact with her, but it becomes apparent that her parents went away and left her with a babysitter before things went awry. This is Clementine. You see she is hiding in the treehouse, out in the garden. As you wander around the house, you can piece together aspects of her family before Sandra, the babysitter, introduces herself.
Clementine warns you of her presence as she lurches for you; she has been zombified!
Ellen : This was also pretty intense through the computer inputs. I was completely taken by surprise when the game wanted me to mash “Q,” despite never having used it before this point. Even so, I forgot how visceral the game gets when Clem saves you by giving you the hammer; you feel every one of those hammer blows.
Khin : This sequence I found to be more tense than that we mentioned earlier (the cop zombie). As Ellen said, those hammer blows hit home.
You introduce yourself to Clementine in person and decide how to proceed. As far as I can tell, all options lead to you leaving with Clem, with varying levels of trust based on your dialogue. Here, you can choose to go now, or wait until nightfall to travel. You head out to the street and find a couple of guys trying to move some abandoned cars to make way for their truck. After interacting with the strangers, a horde of zombies approach and you help clear the road in time to escape with the new people.
Ellen : I had to be honest with Clem; I didn’t lie to her. Obviously, some of the answers are pretty vague and ambiguous at the start, but I was as honest as the game would let me be. I chose to travel by day and found a couple of guys trying to move abandoned cars. We chatted and then some zombies started swarming, so I went through some Quick Time Events and escaped, unscathed. I acted the same with the new guys in the street; I didn’t say I was Clementine’s father or that I had even met her before. I wanted a completely transparent Lee, this time around.
Khin : I was as honest as I felt I could be at that point. I knew I wanted Lee to be open about his past, but some things aren’t appropriate at the time they appear as an option. With Clem, I tell it how it is. We left the house in the daytime and I said I was a neighbour of Clem’s.
The two fellows take you to a farm, in their truck; Shaun and Chad. You learn that they have been living here for a long time and, despite everything going on in the cities, seem to be safe. Fans of The Walking Dead’s universe will know this to be Hershel’s farm.
You introduce yourself and Clem to Hershel while he patches up your leg with his veterinary skills and his son, Shaun. Hershel offers you a place to stay for the night and mentions another family are staying too. You share a little moment with Clem before resting for the night.
Ellen : I was never a huge fan of Hershel in the graphic novels, but apparently fans like him. I heard that in the TV series he gets some sort of shotgun-leg like in Planet Terror… Weird… The scene with Clem was very nice; I was blunt with her, but tried to maintain some hope.
Khin : As I said, I’m honest with Clem. I missed one of the timers with Hershel (it left me staying silent once he’d asked me a question), but otherwise I was largely polite and open to discussion. I felt a little that Hershel hadn’t got a realistic view of how things were at the time – he doesn’t seem to grasp why his defences need bolstering.
You are awoken by a handlebar-moustached hillbilly, named Kenny. He informs you of some defences being added to the perimeter and that your help would be appreciated. You are then dropped into an open area. You can wander around the farm, chat with Kenny, his family and Hershel. All of these interactions add some depth to the characters and plant some seeds to build off of.
Ellen : I chatted with everyone, despite my best efforts. Honestly, I find “Duck” so annoying… Oh, he is Kenny’s son for those who don’t know. I tried to maintain some distance from Kenny’s family in this play through as I thought it might offer up some alternative content.
I found Katya bland and Kenny a little too obnoxious for my liking.
Shaun was level-headed, so I went to help him with the defences. Of course, Duck was there, playing on the tractor which was so poorly placed. I’m sure nothing will go wrong, right?
Hershel was kind of rude. He grilled me on some questions which I answered as honestly as the game would allow. Then he snapped and said I should stop lying if I want to survive. It felt quite poorly implemented as I could recall actually lying to him, but I guess it can’t always be perfect.
Khin : In these kind of situations, where you get the run of the place and the chance to talk to people, I try to talk to everyone. In some games doing this leads to new quests and new storylines, but in TWD it builds relationships with characters, which is the whole point. As to my opinions on individual characters:
Kenny’s family irritates me for many reasons. Duck is the most annoying character in the episode (possibly the series), and although he clearly has some sort of learning disability or such like, just grates on me. Katya is neither one thing nor another. She’s incredibly defensive and protective of Duck, but has no real contribution to the group and thus I felt no real attachment to her. Kenny is a bit of a fool. His determination to reach the infamous boat in Savannah (above everything else), and his inability to see things from other people’s perspective get tiresome.
Ellen : They are all very insular and it does make them hard to get on with. Thinking about it, I wonder if Katya is only there to give Clem someone to interact with during the open areas?
A sudden Zombie attack occurs at the defence building site. It came as no surprise that Duck had knocked something on the tractor and rolled over Shaun’s leg… As you run over, you have to make the split-second decision of which son to save.
Ellen : I chose to save Shaun. Duck was so annoying and I thought the rest of the game could be better if he was removed from it sooner. Unfortunately, Kenny rushed to save him, while I struggled to move the tractor… Needless to say, things didn’t go well and Shaun was bitten… Lots… =[
It was cool to see why a zombie is in Hershel’s barn, in the other areas of TWD; nice touch, Telltale.
Khin : Since I know what happens later in the game, I went for Duck, but when it comes down to it Duck was in less danger (where’s Kenny? Dicking around with a car), and had caused the problem. Shaun was sensible and of more use to the group. Still, Duck gets saved and Hershel kicks us out.
Hershel is pretty angry about how the whole situation was managed and abuses Kenny. He tells everyone to leave and Kenny offers Lee and Clem a chance to ride along with his family to Macon.
Ellen : If the game wasn’t so channeled in it’s progression, I would have loved the choice to stay. As it was, I accepted the ride with Kenny, but I didn’t defend him during Hershel’s outburst.
Khin : Kenny was relatively friendly to Lee, but I’d love to get the chance to have saved Shaun and leave Kenny to go find his boat on his own. Duck causes nothing but problems and the parents do nothing to help.
Ellen : Tell me about it! The story could be quite different without Kenny about…
The truck runs out of fuel in the little town of Macon. As you move through, you see undead lingering in alleyways and scattered about the streets. For some reason, Kenny decides to ask a “stranger” for help and seems surprised that they are a zombie. Things escalate quickly and as survivors burst out of a drug store to save you, Duck gets attacked by a zombie before fleeing into the drug store. Things get heated as the new survivors fight with Kenny about Duck.
Ellen : No surprises that Duck should make things more complicated than they need to be. Despite never having met these other survivors, I sided with them when they suggested throwing Duck out of the safehouse. As stated above, I really have no affection for Kenny’s family; I was a little disappointed when Duck was fine… That being said, I don’t really like Larry, the loudmouth of the new group.
Khin : Duck is a constant trouble maker. His father doesn’t help much – why would you shout at someone in a zombie apocalypse, just on the off chance they might still be human? If he had kept quiet, the whole Larry thing would have been fine. I defended Kenny in the argument, purely because:
a) Larry jumps the gun far too quickly – check for a bite before throwing people to their death, and
b) I don’t like him. I don’t have any particular attachment to Kenny, but I agreed with his ‘let me check, before you murder him’ approach.
Everything dies down quickly as Larry has some sort of heart attack / palpitation thing and Clem accidentally unleashes a zombie on the room while looking for the toilet. He requires some medication which is in the Drug Store’s pharmacy, but it is locked. Lee offers to find a way into the pharmacy, hoping to bring some peace to the newly enlarged party. As TWD fans may have noticed, one of the new party members is Glenn; a streetsmart kid with a knack for sneaking around. He seems like he could be useful in the long run.
Ellen : The new party actually hold a range of characters, some of which I actually liked.
Larry, as mentioned earlier, is the loudmouth of this group. He is an ex-military man with quite the temper. He is also the father of Lily. I don’t like how quickly he goes off the handle.
Lily is the kinder half of Larry. She is considerate and level-headed, with the best interest of the group at her core. Lily is much more amiable than her father, but she really cares for him and seems to puts him before herself.
Doug is the quiet guy. He seems like a bit of a nerd and it is later revealed he is a bit of a wizard with technology. I found Doug more likeable than I remember.
Carly is the headstrong reporter of the group. She also packs a firearm and is the reason Clem is still alive. She is a nice enough character, just a little bit of a know-it-all, I guess.
Khin : I’ve voiced my opinions of Larry, but I do wonder how he survived this far with that quick a temper. If his answer to everything is shout until people give up, how has he not attracted zombie attention?
I’m not massively fond of Lily to be honest. During your chats with her, she seems to swing wildly from Larry’s temper to being more level headed. She’s trying to protect the group, but won’t acknowledge that her father is causing a lot of the problems.
Doug and Carly only reveal more about themselves during one-to-one conversations. Doug is the nerdy, techy guy and is basically left to watch the door. Carly, on the other hand, is a mean shot, but has no technical know how whatsoever. You later find out she can’t fit a pair of batteries in a radio properly….
This opens up the Drug Store as an area to explore with a few internal puzzles. As with Hershel’s Farm, you can chat with the characters to develop your relationships and reflect on the current situation. Among the main puzzle of getting into the pharmacy, Clem is hungry and Carly is looking for some batteries to power a radio. Glenn suggests heading out to find fuel for the truck and ends up going on his own; remember, he is streetsmart.
Ellen : I searched the area and found some energy bars. I gave one to Clem and kept the rest for later. I think Lily suggested giving them to the kids, but I didn’t bother with Duck. The batteries posed quite a mystery, to me. I found one of them, but never the second one. Same goes for when I played through the first time. Any ideas Khinjarsi?
I chatted with everyone and got to know them better. As I said above, I found Doug quite intriguing after Carly discussed how he saved her.
Khin : I gave the energy bars to Clem, Kenny’s family (my brain thought it would be a nice gesture if nothing else), and one to Carly because that mean shot with a gun will be useless if she’s lacking in energy. The batteries weren’t too difficult for me; one in the main room and the other was in the drawer or remote in the back office. Carly and Doug’s relationship is a bit far-fetched (she starts falling for him almost immediately after discussing how he saved her), but sets up for the later parts of the episode.
Ellen : Interesting… I offered an energy bar to Carly, but she declined. As for the batteries, the ones in the remote were too small for the radio and I didn’t find anything else in the drawers… Hmmm…
Khin : Turns out the batteries are just lying around. One is near Clem where she’s sat down and another on a shelf.
After wandering around, you head into the office of the Drug Store. This is where you find out that this store was owned by Lee’s parents. It seems that the party threw a pair of corpses out of the back when they moved into the store and evidence suggests that they were likely related to Lee. A sombre moment is shared with Clem before Carly enters. She confronts Lee about his past; being a reporter, she had followed his trial.
Ellen : As with previous discussions, I was honest with Carly. She seemed to appreciate it and promised to keep it quiet while I was in her good books. Lee also took a photo of the family and tore himself out of it. This made me a little sad, as family is important to me… But no family is perfect, right?
Leaving the office, you get the option to leave the Drug Store with Carly and go find Glenn as he hasn’t reported back to Clementine on the radio. This leads to the biggest puzzle of this episode.
You find Glenn hiding in an Ice Box at a motel. He explains that he heard a girl in one of the rooms which has attracted zombies to the door. You agree to help him rescue her as more survivors will make the chances of survival better.
Ellen : This felt REALLY clunky on Minimal settings… If I hadn’t played through it previously, I am sure I would have been stumped. Hell, I was anyway; I forgot how to use the Pillow correctly. Even when I had the prompts, this was very much a process of trial and error. It felt good to get it right, but some parts were a little unintuitive… I wanted to use the pillow as a suppressor and shoot out the car window. Instead, you use the pillow as a suppressor to shoot a zombie, find a spark plug, break it to remove the firing pin and use that to break the window… *sighs*
If this didn’t include killing something, it could have been an Artifex Mundi puzzle!
Khin : This whole ‘puzzle’ sequence had me going back and forth between the hiding spaces for ages. I knew roughly what I needed to do, but had forgotten about the pillow. When I found it, logic dictated to shoot the window with the pillow as a surpressor, but no. Extend the puzzle by having a spark plug near a zombie and use that to break the window. This section isn’t the strongest part of the episode, that’s for sure.
Ellen : It certainly is not strong, yet it is presented as if it is the major set piece for the episode…
When you find your way to the room with the girl, you see the door is sealed from the outside. You speak to her and she tells you to go away; Glenn insists you rescue her though.
Ellen : Seriously, at this point, if the option was available, I would have just left. I get that Glenn thinks he may get to be a hero, but the girl doesn’t want saving. She probably wants you to leave for a reason…
You bust open the door and find the girl, Irene, has been bitten. She sees that Carly has a gun and asks if she can be killed. Glenn gets upset but understands her request, Carly isn’t so keen on the idea.
Ellen : I didn’t want to give her the gun; ammunition is short and there are other ways she could end her life. I understand she didn’t want to become a zombie, but…
Irene steals Carly’s gun and blows her brains out. She falls off of the balcony and makes a hell of a mess. You soon return to the drugstore with Glenn.
Ellen : I have to admit, I felt a pang of guilt and I felt bad for Glenn. I think he knew he shouldn’t have pushed it and I got the feeling some personal growth occurred in his character.
Khin : This sequence annoyed me. Carly won’t co-operate, Lee and Glenn are trying to convince her she’s fine. When Carly decides that she won’t give the gun to Irene, I decided Carly can either shoot her or give her the gun. Since I knew whichever way it happened, the bullet ends up wasted, I chose to teach Carly that sometimes hope runs out. Also, Glenn was irritating – once we had determined that Irene wasn’t going to come with us, we should have left. In a zombie apocalypse, that bullet we used and the efforts we went to, to get that door open, were of better use elsewhere.
Once you have returned to the Drug Store, you can start to take action on a plan to get into the Pharmacy. By moving the desk in the office, Lee gets to talk with Clementine and provide first aid after she hurts herself, helping. You find some items and can assemble a plan of action after heading outside with Doug.
Ellen : This was another weak puzzle section, in my mind. Mainly due to the fact you have to do things in the specific order, although some things aren’t really that time sensitive.
Lee spots his zombified brother, pinned by a downed telephone pole. Lee predicts that he will likely have the keys for the pharmacy on his person and that is good enough to risk going out into the zombies. After creating a distraction through a laborious procedure, you venture out and confront your brother.
Ellen : As mentioned above, this “puzzle” was kinda lame, in my opinion. Particularly acquiring the brick which is clearly in reach of Lee, but the game won’t let you get it until you jump through their hoops…
Heading out to see Lee’s brother is kinda emotional; not hugely as there is little character development, but the sentiment is still there. In short, it is a lengthy Quick Time Event for killing his brother, with a build-your-own-last-respects section. It was kinda cool but goes on a little long, which doesn’t go well for Lee and the zombies across the road. *sighs*
Khin : Lee, just hit your brother in the head instead of slowly hacking at his neck. Ugh, now you’ve drawn attention to yourself, well done.
Time flies as you put down your brother, or so they say, and the zombies stop caring about the distraction. Lee manages to get back into the Drug Store with Doug, but the first line of defence is compromised and now they are piling up against the store. Lee explains the situation to Lily and they head to the Pharmacy. They get in and it turns out to be alarmed.
Now, all of the zombies in the immediate area want to get it to the Drug Store.
Ellen : Larry, I am blaming you for this…
Larry gets around to shouting at people, despite it being his fault we even needed to get into the Pharmacy. Kenny actually thinks about other people and rallies everyone to get things sorted: Kenny gets the truck, Glenn gets the fuel, Katya gets the kids together, Lily sorts out her selfish father and Carly, Doug and Lee secure the doors in the meantime. Things get out of hand and Lee has to decide whether to rescue Carly or Doug.
Ellen : This was an interesting choice. The first time around, I saved Carly, so I decided to try rescuing Doug, this time. After actually listening to him and what Carly had to say about him, I felt he could actually be a valuable asset to the group.
Khin : I went for Carly. Although I had spoken to Doug, I didn’t get much of an impression that he’d be any use other than as a door block. Carly, on the other hand, can use a gun. I do appreciate that she can’t put batteries in a radio, but she seems a lot more logical and less likely to fall apart. She could have shot that zombie though.
After making your choice, Clem gets grabbed and Lee has to save her. After succeeding in that, Lee rushes to the door and meets the fist of Larry. Fumbling in a daze, Kenny comes to rescue you and you safely leave the Drug Store.
Ellen : So, after everything that happens and helping Larry get his stupid medication, he tries to leave you for dead. What a scumbag?! I couldn’t believe it when it happened. I think I actually shouted out loud with anger at that moment. I was reassured when Kenny came to help me, but I honestly didn’t remember this scene.
Khin : Larry can shove off. He has nothing of use to contribute to the group and does nothing but antagonise people and blame them when his heart problems cause the major issues. After all, if he had kept calm when Duck arrived, he wouldn’t have collapsed. If he didn’t collapse, the alarm wouldn’t have gone off and we wouldn’t be running for our lives. See Lily, it is your dad’s fault. At least Kenny came back.
The next scene starts, back at the motel. Lee talks to everyone, including Glenn who decides to leave, and finally confronts Larry about the Drug Store. Larry tries to justify his actions as having the groups interests at heart. The group decides to make a base at the motel and looks for some solace.
Ellen : Again, I didn’t remember this ending. I also didn’t notice that this motel was the one which Glenn scouted out earlier. I spoke with Clementine and tried to give her some hope. She explained that her radio had been damaged in the escape and hopefully we will be able to get a new one for her. Also, I wanted to take her away from Duck who seemed to be completely devoid of any acknowledgement of the world around him…
Interestingly, it was nice to talk with Doug. He asked why I chose him over Carly and I explained it was a split second decision. He seemed unimpressed, but I mentioned Carly had expressed feelings for him and he seemed a little touched by it.
Larry was a scumbag. He went on about how he knows about Lee’s past and how he isn’t going to let me jeopardise anyone else’s safety. If he actually knew my Lee, he would know that wasn’t the case; I defended you, Larry?!
Khin : The calm before the next storm. Now is the time to catch up with everyone, comfort those who have lost something (Clem and her radio, Carly and Doug), and to take a breath. Talking to Carly revealed her fondness for Doug and she seemed comforted by the fact Lee wanted to help them both. Duck, as Ellen has said, fails to comprehend the current situation, although I think this is due to his learning difficulties (or whatever you want to call it). Clem needed to be spoken to and treated as an adult and Duck was clearly starting to grate on her.
And that wraps up Episode 01 : A New Day.
Ellen : For a new series and concept at the time, I felt this was a very strong entry for Telltale. It made me care about The Walking Dead again and got me interested in the Telltale style of game. I like point and click adventures, to some degree, but this gives a little more agency to the player with regards to their character and actions. I am looking forward to seeing how our paths change, now that some different choices have been made between Khinjarsi and I.
Khin : I’ve played this episode a few times now and each time appreciate different aspects of the game. When it was released, this was a fairly new concept in gaming and many of us wondered if it was going to take off. Using The Walking Dead as a launch pad, Telltale managed to bring narrative and character relationships back to the forefront, making us all care about a small girl.
I’m keen to get going with Episode 2.
Our individual choice screens will be included at the end of each article to collate some of the data across the world of players.
Based on the length of the article, this will likely be a fortnightly release; so we shall see you in a fortnight with Episode 02 : Starved For Help.
Ellen : It is REALLY interesting to see that every one of our decisions was opposite, despite me being honest with Hershel… At least, I thought I was…
Part 2 is now available and you can go straight to it here : “Starved For Help”