The universe of The Walking Dead has a seemingly limitless capacity for unique and interesting stories. The tales of perseverance and loss told across the various television series, comics and video games in the series have a powerful way of ripping us from our comfortable lives and dumping us blood-soaked and afraid in the middle of one life-or-death situation after the last… And yet, we keep coming back.
That immediate, powerful appeal is in full effect in the latest game to come shambling out of The Walking Dead universe, The Walking Dead: Road to Survival. A blend of the comic books and the hit TV series, Road to Survival treads a fine line between the unique tone of each, even going as far as to intertwine characters from the show in with the action at times. You’ll encounter fan-favorites like Michonne, and even a cameo or two from other Walking Dead games.
The familiar faces will be a treat for experienced fans, but the game doesn’t lean on them as a crutch. Instead, it smartly keeps their appearances relegated to guest spots, and doesn’t force knowledge of the wider universe in order to enjoy the game. This formula allows the story to go in some unique and interesting directions, without straying too far from what fans have come to know and love.
As it turns out, the story is one of the strongest points of the game. You’ll take on the role of a new survivor, beginning by wandering in the world. But it won’t be long before you’ve encountered plenty of other survivors and formed a battle party. After a fierce combat tutorial, you’ll find yourself sequestered in the town of Woodbury, which fans of the series will recognize as a not-so-great place to be. You won’t need intimate knowledge of the backstory to figure out that The Governor – the self-appointed ruler of the town – isn’t such a great guy, though. From there, it’s all about expanding your resources, building your characters and readying yourself to combat the evil that’s been festering in Woodbury.
Unlike many mobile games, The Walking Dead: Road to Survival doesn’t just tell you a story; it puts you in total control. One of the game’s biggest selling points is its branching storylines, which allow you to shape the storyline based on key decisions that you make as the game plays out. You might, for example, be asked whether or not you want to trust a survivor who claims to offer help in the wasteland. Or, as the game escalates, you may find yourself with another survivor’s life in your hands. The choices you make will have a domino effect, and might lead to unique battles, dialogue exchanges and more.
Story aside, the gameplay offers plenty of depth to dig into as well. Battles occur frequently in the wasteland, and you’ll have to use your wits to claw your way through. Walkers (the game’s equivalent of zombies) aren’t the only danger out there, either; you’ll fight a lot of human enemies in your time with the game too. Each character has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, special abilities and more, and the game uses a simple rock-paper-scissors dynamic to determine which attacks hit the hardest. You’ll want to be at the top of your game at all times if you have any intention of coming out alive.
There’s also a base-building component to the game. As you explore and collect resources, you’ll dump them into your base, which will expand and grow alongside your party. The bigger your base, the more survivors you can recruit, and the stronger you’ll be during combat. The interweaving of the game’s systems is subtle but very intelligently distributed – each system works in tandem with the others, and everything you do in the game matters.
The Walking Dead: Road to Survival gets an enthusiastic recommendation thanks in no small part to its gritty, violent story and engrossing combat, but it’s the way that all of the systems interact with one another that makes the game really special. I’d say that makes the game a beaming five stars, for fans and newcomers alike.