The Escapists: The Walking Dead Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Survival Sim
 
Rating: M
 
Release Date: Out Now
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3/5


 

Positives


Amusing Walking Dead parody vibe
Routine and crafting suit the property well

Negatives


Repetitive and requires patience


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Posted November 18, 2015 by

 
Full Article
 
 

The Walking Dead is no longer just a comic series. It’s not just a TV show. I’m not even sure if it’s just a franchise at this sage. It’s become a phenomenon, a brand stamped on everything from table lamps to guitars, and a property now perhaps even more synonymous with zombie horror than the classics like Night of the Living Dead. This has continued into the virtual world, as you can not only get your Telltale Walking Dead fix, but Walking Dead: Survival InstinctWalking Dead Pinball FX2 and now The Escapists: The Walking Dead. 

The pairing of The Walking Dead with The Escapists does seem a little odd. The Escapists is an indie prison escape game published through Team-17 at the start of the year, taking the form of a pixellated top-down RPG largely concerned with crafting and sneaking. The formula applied to The Walking Dead universe is a little ham-fisted, but you can see the logic in it, as well as the humour.

Take for example the ‘Routine’, one of the mechanics both the original and this spin-off hinge on. Time passes quickly in The Escapists: The Walking Dead, and your day is split up into several sections. At the crack of dawn, it’s time for a head-count, to make sure everyone’s still alive and to deliver one of Rick Grimes’ inspirational speeches (they get hammier as time goes on). Then, you have a block of time to get your ass to breakfast to recharge and chat with your fellow survivors. There’s a few hours after that to take care of mundane tasks, like the laundry, before some free time to actually get on with crafting, escaping, or whatever else your objective is. Then it’s dinner time, followed by a rousing head-count speech and bed. You must follow this routine day-in, day-out, to minimise your risk of walker attack. There’s actually a Zombie % meter on-screen at all times, measuring how likely you are to be attacked. Ignoring your routine can make this rise, as can adventuring out at night unprotected and getting promptly  chomped by walkers.

Woodbury_GlennPrisoner

The game takes you through the major events of both the TV show and comic series, although it can be hard to follow if you’re not already a fan. Cutscenes are extremely simple stills recreating key scenes, intercut with titles which more or less explain the plot. They’re amusing if you can recognise what’s going on, in that Lego video-game kind of way, as dramatic scenes become cute and retro. However, if this is your first Walking Dead experience, you’ll be lost as they don’t really do a great job conveying who the key characters are, or their roles. The first location is also the shortest – a quick escape from Harrison Memorial Hospital. This is followed by a visit to everyone’s favourite season-slowing location, the Greene Family Farm, then the Prison, Woodbury and the Governor, before ending at the Alexandria community (which is where the TV series is now up to).

You won’t always be escaping, despite what the name of the game would imply. Your objectives change depending on the location, and the developers have tried to model these on the original storyline as much as possible. For instance, at Hershel Greene’s farm, your ultimate objective is stated pretty early on – storm into the barn and kill all the walkers that Hershel has kept locked inside. There’s no dramatic reveal about their presence like the show or comics, in fact since you already have a top-down RPG view, the barn’s interior is plain to see as soon as you walk up to it, which depending on your knowledge of the storyline, is actually pretty funny. In any case, you’ll need a lot of weaponry and armor to take them all on, which becomes your primary concern as you fit your preparations among your daily routine.

A lot of time is spent finding materials and recipes to craft the gear you need. There are some pretty bad-ass weapons to be found and crafted, from simple hand-guns to the ‘Razor Claw’. However, actually using these is a little funky, and I can’t say I’m a fan of the controls. You can equip a weapon and carry around six items at a time, which are activated by clicking on their icons in your inventory. You can use these as you strafe around your decaying friends with the WASD keys, making it feel almost like an MMO’s controls. Your left-click and right-clicks can perform a variety of functions, which are contextual depending on what you’re hovering over, and can get a little confusing. It was fairly common for me to pick up a desk and throw it across the room than search it.

GreeneFamilyFarm_Barn

Ultimately, how long you spend with The Escapists: The Walking Dead is up to you. There’s always the option of risking life and limb to explore and collect items in a quicker fashion, if you think you’re skilled enough, but more often than not it’s wiser to stick to your routine and slowly gather what you need. The patience required for a successful run on one of the missions may be what makes or breaks the game for you. You can take on side missions for fellow survivors, which are often simple ‘find this item’ quests in return for coins, which in turn can buy weapons and items to speed along your progress. The pacing of the game can be very slow, but again it depends on how you choose to play it.

The Escapists: The Walking Dead has a fair bit of comedy value in its simplistic, retro and relatively  happy lens on the grim and dark atmosphere of the original property. As I mentioned it’s almost Lego Walking Dead, and for someone who’s a big fan of the show or comics, I can see them getting a kick out of the game’s presentation and style. The actual mechanics, being built around crafting, routine and patience, are going to be a bit more divisive. Their presence in a game taking place in the zombie post-apocalypse make sense, but if you’re not already on board with finding the right ingredients and recipes for tools (as  in, you’re not a fan of Minecraft), you’ll probably want to pass on this one. While there are tense moments when zombies swarm, it’s largely not action packed, and while there are elements of the original storyline, it’s more used for atmosphere and parody. It’s a cute, amusing and surprising take on The Walking Dead, it’s worth at least a look if you’re a mega-fan, and if you already tried The Escapists, it’s not a bad variation on the formula either.


Adam Ghiggino

 
Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.


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