Let’s face it, zombie’s are everywhere these days! Whether it’s in TV shows, films or games, you just can’t seem to escape the shambling hordes of the undead. Thankfully, The Escapists: The Walking Dead is a breath of fresh air in a genre which is starting to become stagnant.
The general tone of the game is what sets it apart from other zombie games, and the light-hearted music coupled with the cutesy 8-bit graphics really make this title stand out. The lighter tone extends to gameplay as well, so that if you take too much damage you simply pass out and wake up in your bed with a note saying that “your approach didn’t exactly go as planned”, rather than the elaborate and gory death scenes that you’d likely find in other zombie games.
The game draws inspiration from The Walking Dead’s comic books rather than the TV show, although fans of the show will still recognise many of the characters and locations on offer. Playing as Rick Grimes, you are tasked with leading your group of survivors through 5 areas full of puzzles, zombies and even human opponents.
Story objectives stay true to plot points from the comics. The main objective at the Greene Family Farm, for example, is to clear out the barn of walkers which is one of the most memorable scenes in that particular story arc. It’s exciting having to tool up yourself and your fellow survivors using the simple, yet effective, crafting system before taking onthis challenge.
In order to keep your living area safe, there are a number of activities in your day to day routine which include a morning and evening head count, meal times and some general tasks to complete during the day such as laundry, mopping up zombie guts and so on. You can get away with skipping one activity without any real consequence, but if you frequently break the routine then your threat of attack greatly increases, this threat level is indicated by a ‘zombie percentage’, which increases as you break the routine and decreases as you stick to it. Players must also level up through exercise in order to run away from or be strong enough to attack enemies, and you also need to read to increase your intellect before you can craft certain items.
What has struck with me through my time with the game is how it occasionally feels like the game is working against you. I spent so much time on the Meriweather Correctional Facility level because I could never find the right materials to craft what I needed. In order to craft a pickaxe I required some timber, a file and a crowbar, but I simply couldn’t find any timber, no matter how much scavenging I did. This was despite the desks, where you get the vast majority of your crafting materials from, being replenished with new items each day.
The saviours in all of my scavenging woes were the various vendors which appear through the level at night to peddle their wares. More often than not they will have an item that you have been desperate for so, whilst I was searching everywhere for that illusive timber, I visited a vendor and they quite conveniently had a piece of timber for sale. To earn money to pay for these items, you have to go on various simple fetch quests for your fellow survivors, but while they make it easy to earn currency, it would be nice to do something a bit more challenging than simply go and grab a frying pan or a lighter.
The Memorial Hospital level acts as your tutorial and gives you all the help you need to get started but after that you are on your own. No matter how stuck you may get, there’s no hand holding at all and it elevates the game to a true survival experience. With no hint system to give a guiding hand, I spent well over an hour trying to find materials to craft ladders to get into the air vents in the prison and getting frustrated about not knowing what to do.
It wasn’t until I replayed the tutorial that I realised I had forgotten you can carry desks to use as a boost up into air vents. A simple hint would have saved me so much frustration and this is where my biggest gripe with the game lies. I like games which don’t smother you with hints and pointers, but if you so desperately need one then the option would be welcome. I turned the game off at one point because I simply got fed up of trying to find where to go next because I had seeming exhausted all available options. However, the games keeps you coming back for more and, once you figure out what to do, the overwhelming sense of achievement does make up for all of the stress!
The Escapists: The Walking Dead is a very addictive time and resource management game which can easily make the hours fly by as you play just one more day to hunt for that elusive item you need. However, the addiction can slowly turn into frustration at not being able to find what you need or by not knowing what you need to do next due the lack of any hints. It is a test in patience and the will to keep going and try every possible combination of item to find your way through the game, but as long as you have these qualities then you will have a blast.
Version tested: Xbox One