‘The Walking Dead: Last Mile’ hands-off preview: a confusing, intriguing TV-game

'Last Mile' takes 'The Walking Dead' to Alaska, and puts the fate of its cast in the hands of players

The Walking Dead: Last Mile addresses a horror trope that’s been around since the dawn of time…or at least when we moved from cave drawings to writing things down: characters making silly, silly decisions. In this interactive title – a Facebook Gaming title that’s part episodic TV show, part Telltale game, part FarmVille – players will have the opportunity to vote on each character’s major decisions and determine how the story plays out to the bloody end.

In theory, this means that watching characters make foolish choices is a thing of the past – now the foolish choices come from the players. In a hands-off preview shown to NME, The Walking Dead: Last Mile shows that the game’s major decision-making beats are left for the community to vote on. Set in the frigid wilderness of Alaska, these decisions influence how two factions at odds will handle a harsh winter filled with food shortages, rising tensions, and hordes of zombies. The responsibilities given to the player will determine which characters make it to the credits unscathed, and developer Pipeworks has shared that it doesn’t actually know which characters will survive – though whatever does occur will be enshrined as canon in The Walking Dead‘s universe.

The Walking Dead: Last Mile. Credit: Skybound, Genvid.
The Walking Dead: Last Mile. Credit: Skybound, Genvid.

Besides a vote about choosing how much food to send a faction, the hands-off preview didn’t show too much in the way of this decision-making. In theory, it’s an intriguing premise that’s particularly well suited to The Walking Dead‘s universe, which has always been about making tough decisions and living with the consequences. However, it will be interesting to see how Last Mile‘s tale of resource disparity and clashing cultures lands with the infamously divisive Facebook community of all places – but it’s a neat concept with a promising story to boot.

However, the way this voting system has been put into place raises some questions. Players create their own character, select a faction and class, then get to work playing minigames to contribute to the industrious Plant or naturalistic Village. In return, players are rewarded with influence points – which can be spent on voting on the outcome of each dilemma as they occur.

That’s all well and good, but these minigames are a mixed bag. Some involve short puzzles to fix generators, while others are violent quick-time events spent stabbing walkers. There’s even a fishing minigame in the style of Stardew Valley, because there’s always a fishing minigame. However, for some strange reason players are inadvertently pitted against each other for several of these mini-games, despite sharing the same objectives.

The Walking Dead: Last Mile. Credit: Skybound, Genvid.
The Walking Dead: Last Mile. Credit: Skybound, Genvid.

In one cooking minigame, players need to smoke salmon – this involves juggling a host of tasks, including keeping the fire hot enough while preparing the fish. But, all players in the session share this task – meaning that although it’s a simple job in theory, you’re trying to share it with everyone else playing at the time. It’s a weird version of Cooking Mama, albeit here too many chefs won’t spoil the broth so much as give the entire camp salmonella. Making these minigames multiplayer – let alone vaguely competitive – doesn’t seem to serve any purpose, and would be far better if they were completely single-player like the game’s puzzles.

Although the game’s confused execution leaves a lot to be desired, The Walking Dead: Last Mile remains interesting from a viewer’s perspective, rather than a player’s. Last Mile will be updated daily as it runs over the next four months, and the developer promises the story will ramp up over that time – along with some “really interesting ways” to ensure walkers stay dangerous despite a bitter Alaskan winter. Playing Last Mile is only meant to take around 15 minutes per day, but it will remain to be seen whether The Walking Dead‘s latest venture has enough narrative weight to keep players shouldering the rest of its quirks for that long.

The Walking Dead: Last Mile launches on July 11 for all platforms Facebook is available on. 

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