A couple of nights ago, I walked upstairs and said to my wife, “I just played the most depressing game of all time.”
“Don’t tell me about it,” she said. I did anyway.
“Thanks,” she smirked after my 2 sentence synopsis, “now I’m depressed with you.”
I don’t know why I had to tell her. She doesn’t play games, aside from the occasional riotous, elbow-throwing bout of Mario Kart. She’s certainly never going to invest a dozen hours of her life walking in the shoes of Lee Everett. But it had all meant something to me, and it’s tough to keep something like that inside.
As emotionally eviscerating as the Walking Dead finale was for me, there was so much beauty to be found in No Time Left. Never have I been so certain in every decision I made. That’s not to say there were any universally right choices, only that I’d become so comfortable with Lee that there was no soul-searching for the best answer. I was, or Lee was, so single-minded in motivation that we were running on automatic.
As the ending closed in on me, the argument about choice – or illusion thereof – was stunningly evaporated in a way that can only work exactly once. There’s something magical about how 5 episodes of decisions return to weigh on your conscience. It might be a little disingenuous to say the game changes dramatically depending on how you play, but my perception of Lee, his companions, and of the world they live certainly feels unique to my own experience.
The Walking Dead is likely not a series for everyone. It asks the player to buy in, and buy in big, to the idea of realistic drama in a zombie apocalypse… and long before the end it’s evident the only payout will be in heartache. As a father, I may be particularly susceptible to Telltale Games’ masterful emotional manipulation. With the curtain closed on Season One, I’m comfortable saying it’s the best-written game I’ve ever played.