In 400 Days we follow 5 different characters in what can be described as short-stories, I doubt you'll be disappointed unless you are looking for that Clementine-Lee level of attachment (or worse, the actual Lee or Clementine!). Furthermore, you won't be stuck playing Generic Dude Nº 1 for the nth time. You'll play as men, women, people with different backgrounds, ethnicity and/or age! Yes, I know that this - like many other virtues found in this series - may actually have less to do with triumphs on the part of TellTale Games and more to do with failings coming from the entire rest of the videogame industry... but I shall take my victories where I can.


Anyway, aside from some little stuff that feels-different-but-maybe-it's-not-really-I'd-have-to-replay-Season-1 (like characters seem to fill dialogue while you're deciding what to say in a better, more organic way; textures seem sharper and more detailed; "little stuff" like that) 400 Days is just more of the same. Do not get me wrong though, it was great for scratching that particular itch Season 1 had left and bridge us into Season 2... which was officially trailered just a few days ago, answering everybody's biggest question: Will we play as Clementine? Yes, we will. Thus, I must complain about the things I like and dislike about this series and how this all may affect Season 2.

The false and/or meaningless choices.

By now we all know what TellTale means with "tailored by how you play": cosmetic changes and small differences, the overall plot and main NPCs are set in stone. I wish this game offered some plot branching (however limited), but our choices are stuck just affecting NPCs disposition towards our character. Russel's story in 400 Days played me for a fool when a truck driver offered to take me and decided to drive off after I refused. Whoa! It looked like the game was allowing me to make a choice, very interesting. But no, five seconds later my character decided to go where the writers had pre-ordained him to: into the damn truck.


Why do this? Why do this in a small story where you can let us do most anything without worrying about the next episode? I have no problem if situations override my decisions, that's to be expected (most of the time, even) and it would actually enhance the times where I can make a meaningful decision. So TellTale, I know you are not reading this, but please get more ambitious in Season 2 and also allow the player to fail, there's nothing wrong with that! Give us more failstates that don't equal death+reload last savepoint. If my choice brings death and pestilence then let it be so, it'll always be orders of magnitude more powerful than your carefully crafted piece because it was my goddamn choice. If Russel gets bitten for refusing to hitchhike, runs into an abandoned farmhouse, locks himself in the bathroom and cries himself to unconsciousness (and eventual undeath), then so be it. Don't reload a previous savepoint, don't force my character to do something I don't want, just drop me back in the clippings board so I can choose the next short-story to play. Yes, his "main" story will be locked in choosing to hitchhike, but there's nothing wrong with that (there'd be nothing in wrong in trying to pursue different aspects of a same theme in both sides of his story either).

If I fail to save some NPC, then the game should go on without that character. Don't make the character's death a requirement and don't give me a replacement (or have interchangeable characters) to fill his/her role. And it shouldn't just be a one-choice event that decides their fate, but also little choices that have accumulated during the last 8 hours of gameplay. If I had acted differently during the game, maybe the character would have been open to a life-saving suggestion, but now he's gone and we still have a third of story to unravel (a third of story that could have been unraveled with that character by my side).

Of course, I'm not saying this kind of thing should always happen for every choice presented to us, that'd be far too complex for the game and a good storyteller can weave a very compelling - if linear and inflexible - story, I'm simply saying Season 1 could have benefited from a healthier mix of player-driven vs. storywriter-driven plot progression. It seems to me that what I'm asking for was especially doable in the 400 Days format, so I'm (sadly) confident Season 2 will be just like the previous one in this regard.

Children in videogames.

Clementine was such a welcome departure from the norm. Kids in videogames are usually there to be dumb, act nothing like real kids and annoy the player in awful escort missions and/or by being perennial victims[1]. In contrast, Clementine sounds like a kid, talks like a kid, manages to pull her own weight and gets into trouble just enough to remind us her age and further her character. If TellTale had failed with Clementine, then we wouldn't have cared, the central theme of parenthood would have been destroyed and I doubt this game would have got a single GOTY award or acclaim from the players. In Season 2, though, we will be filling her shoes and I'm not sure how that may affect the character.

"Clementine will remember that."

That lil feedback text. Each time I read "Clementine will remember that." my heart went heavy with dread. Oh. My. God. Will this teaching help her or doom her? And this kept happening even after I realized your choices largely didn't matter! TellTale was also smart enough to provide these pointers whether it actually affects anything or not and without telling us the specifics (like most RPGs are now so fond of doing much to my chagrin[2]), which is wonderful as a means to keep you guessing and keep you engaged in thinking your decisions through. You can meet a guy that'll die in very next scene but you'll still get stuff like "John Doe noticed that". And guess what? As a player, you damn sure notice such feedback.

But here comes my main fear with Season 2: will my Lee become irrelevant or did he actually teach something to Clementine? I can forgive no major decisions or branching points (It worked in Season 1, who am I to force TellTale to change things now?), but Season 1 told me CLEMENTINE WILL REMEMBER THAT, well she damn better remember it. If everyone's Clem is exactly the same, if my Lee didn't leave an impact on her different from all the other Lees from other players, it'll cheapen the emotional impact. Not only that but it'll be such a big missed opportunity. If TellTale had been bolder in Season 1, if there had been more freedom to impart lessons each player felt were the right ones, I wouldn't fret meeting Clementine again (or filling her shoes). But as it stands, I can only hope Clem will reflect and react upon what Lee did and said during Season 1 in a general way (I'm guessing Lee will be back in echoes and maybe flashbacks), but I very much doubt my specific choices from my Lee will have any meaningful impact.




[1] In most cases, though, I must admit they are conspicuous for their absence (or *shudder* immortality).


[2] I mean that they outright inform you whether your companions liked or disliked something and they even quantify it! "Bob lost 5 trust points". Such systems should be hidden from the player. In The Walking Dead it's not hidden but it's just ambiguous enough to treat your companions as persons instead of stat dumps.