The Walking Dead has millions of fans around the world who’re more than familiar with the story it tells throughout its many seasons, but with GameMill Entertainment and Flux Games’ upcoming The Walking Dead: Destinies, players will be given the chance to shape that story themselves. Promising a choice and consequence-driven experience that lets you not only experience the first four seasons of the show as a game, but also lets you radically effect the outcomes of key story moments, it’s certainly looking like an intriguing prospect. As such, we recently reached out to its developers to learn more about the game and what to expect from it. Below, you can read our interview with game director Paulo Luis Santos.
"We wrote all the decisions, the story and dialogues keeping the characters true to themselves, while focusing the What If scenarios on how the player’s decisions impact and change their world and generate new decisions down the road."
A “what if” style Walking Dead experience is an inherently intriguing concept- how did that idea first come about?
Watching the show as a fan, I always thought of The Walking Dead as an IP that is all about its characters, their relationships and their decisions in an unforgiving world. And constantly I wondered about their decisions and the butterfly effect of those. Which sparked an idea: what if we could create a game in The Walking Dead universe where you could change those decisions, perhaps save your favorite character’s life? I’m pretty excited about the variety of scenarios that players will be able to craft as they explore the story of the show.
Just how significantly will players be able to take the story off its “canon” route, so to speak, with their choices? Where those narrative branches are concerned, how did you go about writing scenarios that felt impactful, but still felt like they fit nicely in the story?
When dealing with incredible, huge IPs such as The Walking Dead, it is super important to consider all stakeholders of the project: the awesome and passionate fanbase; the original material from the show; and the characters themselves and their expected behaviors. For example, you can’t expect Shane to be super soft, or Merle to be a kind team player. So we wrote all the decisions, the story and dialogues keeping the characters true to themselves, while focusing the What If scenarios on how the player’s decisions impact and change their world and generate new decisions down the road. And then it was just a matter of making sure characters were reacting to these new circumstances in a way that was true to their nature. We worked really hard with AMC to be 100% true to the show’s roots while still providing something fresh and unique for players trying out decisions that go in a different route than the show did.
You’ve said that The Walking Dead: Destinies will allow players to visit a number of familiar locations from throughout the show’s first four seasons. In those locations, how much freedom will players be afforded to explore and take in everything at their own pace?
While the game is not open-word, it features 23 handcrafted levels ordered episodically, from the Memorial Hospital to Woodbury, designed to allow for both stealth and guns-blazing approaches. Some levels are more action-packed, some are more story-driven. We worked to make them very similar to the show, but also opted to make some adjustments to empower gameplay and make it as fun as possible to get through these iconic landmarks. Personally, I love when you get to the West Georgia Correctional Facility. Really brings back some memories!
"While the game is not open-word, it features 23 handcrafted levels ordered episodically, from the Memorial Hospital to Woodbury, designed to allow for both stealth and guns-blazing approaches."
What can players expect from the combat in The Walking Dead: Destinies and its core mechanics, especially where things like weapon and enemy variety are concerned?
The concept of the game’s combat system is really based on the show, and quite straightforward: the player is very powerful against a single walker. They should do okay against two. But if you’re facing three or more, things can get really messy, really quick, so you’d better watch out and avoid that.
Stabbing walkers in the brain is one of the trademark moves of TWD, so it is at the core of the game’s combat too: you can stab any walker as long as they are stunned or unaware. This blends seamlessly with melee weapon attacks, in a 1-2 combo that feels super satisfying.
There are a variety of melee weapons such as baseball bats, crowbars, sledgehammers and, of course, a katana, with different movesets, combos, special skills, damage and reach. Players will be able to improve their performance on each with special skills unlocked as they progress in the game.
And there is gunplay: firearms such as the revolvers, shotguns or assault rifles are powerful, yet noisy. If you decide to take a shot, you’ll have to brace yourself for a tough fight from the other enemies – unless you’re using a certain crossbow.
From the enemies’ perspective, we’ve got some unique walkers, including walkers that explode, walkers that creep across the ground, walkers that make extra noise while you’re fighting them, and larger more challenging ones. There are also human enemies and boss fights; after all, it’s all about killing the dead, fearing the living.
If players want to take a completely stealth-driven approach, will the game allow that?
Yes, that is heavily encouraged! Essentially, stealth approaches are something the characters really do a lot during the show, so the game wants to stay true to that. The walkers have strength in numbers, so keeping a low profile is key to a smooth progression through the game.
What was behind the decision to focus purely on the first four seasons of the show?
We actually considered doing more seasons at one point in the project – like I mentioned, I personally really wanted to save Beth. But at the end of the day, we wanted to focus on crafting the best TWD experience that we can, and we decided that it means a more detailed, deep dive into these rich, awesome arcs that include Rick and Shane and Woodbury, as opposed to rushing through content. Even so, we still set to cover a 40+ episode span, so we still had to make some tough choices and cuts to keep the game focused on the stories and characters that we feel are the coolest for fans to experience.
How significantly will all the playable characters differ from each other where their abilities are concerned and in terms of how they’ll change up the experience?
We have created a character-driven skill system that is shared by the whole party, but is tied to who is a) in your party and b) alive. This means the “What If” choices also impact gameplay! For example: You need Shane to be alive and in your party to unlock some abilities from his tree. If you chose Rick over him, you won’t be able to unlock the “Bogo” skill, that makes shotgun shells go through the first enemy, hitting the ones behind them. This brings an extra layer to the decision-making in the game!
"The concept of the game’s combat system is really based on the show, and quite straightforward: the player is very powerful against a single walker. They should do okay against two. But if you’re facing three or more, things can get really messy, really quick, so you’d better watch out and avoid that."
What can you tell us about the game’s resource management aspects? How much of an emphasis will be placed on things such as scavenging for resources or conserving ammo?
We wanted to focus players on experiencing more of the action and story of the show than a variety of resource management. There is absolutely a component of ammo scarcity within each level and conserving bullets, plus the danger of being swarmed by walkers as you use firearms, but we do not focus on resource scarcity such as food, water or other resources.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?
According to our tests, an average player should be able to complete one playthrough of the game in around 7-8 hours, while a completionist should spend around 11-12. And that scales up real quick if the player wants to try other choices in the branching narrative of the game.
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
It will be 4K at 60 FPS on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, and 1080p at 30 FPS on PS4 and Xbox One.
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the Switch in docked and undocked modes?
720p at 30 FPS in both modes.