Fans of the The Walking Dead--whether it be the TV drama or the comic books--will tell you what the series does well. One of the most important is that those behind the show have mastered the art of tension. From the roller coaster of social tension seen as characters interact with one another to the immense bursts of tension when zombies strike, The Walking Dead almost always has viewers' chests in knots. The same can be said for The Walking Dead social game on Facebook.
Unfortunately for developer Eyes Wide Games and publisher RockYou, the source of said tension isn't its tactical combat, sprawling story or its theme music played on loop and after nearly every interaction. More times than not, this branded game will make you tense out of frustration or fear that your play session will come to a screeching halt in mere minutes if not seconds. That is unless, of course, you're willing to pay up big time to keep playing.
And since The Walking Dead on Facebook has little to no social features to speak of (aside from randomly dubbing zombies with your friends' names and profile pictures as a means nag them) we'll move right along. Every social game has its ways of getting players to fork up the cash, but it's a combination of the ways in which Eyes Wide Games attempts to make it happen and the structure of The Walking Dead that makes it particularly groan-worthy.
The Walking Dead can be best described as a tactical role-playing game, which ultimately means that every move the player makes, every stat point she allocates, every weapon she equips and every attack method she chooses has serious weight to it. In any other situation, this would be an accomplishment, but your decisions in The Walking Dead are rendered superficial by the true weight behind them: "How will this help me play for as long as possible without paying?"
It can be said that this question nags at the back of every player's mind while playing a Facebook game. But the pay wall hits The Walking Dead so often, interrupting at the worst of times, that this question almost becomes a game within the game. The Walking Dead attempts to limit the experience of those that refuse to pay in so many different ways that it's easier to list them:
Somewhat standard: Every move players make on the map in a mission consumes an energy point.
Also standard: Every time players shoot or strike a walker, an energy point is consumed.
Masking as realism: Every mission consumes one point of an equipped weapon's durability, eventually rendering it unusable for four hours.
Not even attempting to mask as realism: Talking to other characters at camp consumes energy, though it boosts morale, which is needed for missions.
Downright silly: Missions also require Intel, a finite resource found by, again, consuming energy in talking to characters at camp and triggering scouting runs. (Intel for what? There are zombies everywhere--that's the info.)
Nonsense: You can recruit other characters to assist your avatar, but their movements and actions consume your own overall energy.
Ironic, perhaps: It's said that the more difficult Expert Mode consumes less energy, but ultimately consumes more due to its extreme difficulty.
Combine all of these ways in which the game attempts to convert players into payers with that incessant crescendo of theme music and The Walking Dead becomes one intense Facebook game. (Of course, all of these issues can be remedied with your credit card.) Intense in that it might have you throw your computer mouse in a fit of rage at the office. True story.
The Walking Dead on Facebook does some things right, like its unique combat system and filling fans in on what happened before Rick reunited with Shane and his family. But the blatant and entirely-too-frequent ways in which the game attempts to dig at players' pockets are too prominent and crass to be ignored.
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