The Escapists started as a prison break game, forcing players to scour various prisons for resources, craft materials, manage their time efficiently, and develop a cunning escape plan in the name of earning their freedom. With the success of the title, it makes sense that the game which forces you to scavenge while feeling trapped or constantly on the lookout for dangers has created a crossover with the famous zombie series The Walking Dead. Playing the first three levels of the game highlights some of the key changes which have been made to core gameplay but proves it is clearly still The Escapists at its heart.
Rather than attempting to escape from prison level after level, you must complete various objectives following the plot of the comic series and television show. While there may be an objective to escape a certain area, things such as clearing out Hershel’s barn or locating a generator within the prison are also objectives which you will encounter, progressing the story and allowing access to the next level. There are no time limits, but over time the threat level of the undead will increase, making it significantly tougher to complete your objective. Venturing into open spaces in order to find supplies is also an inevitable aspect of this game, forcing you to observe your surroundings and keep an eye out for zombies. Compared to prison guards in the original title, zombies are significantly tougher to kill and melee weapons do noticeably less damage even with a high strength rating. There are firearms to be found in the game, but carry limited ammunition, once again making you choose when to use the precious commodity.
Managing your time effectively is still a key gameplay mechanic as days will progress and there are specific duties which must be performed throughout the day. There are head counts in the morning and evening, three meals, and several jobs to perform. There is easily more free time found in this title than its predecessor, allowing you to explore the surroundings or track down specific items more easily, but there is also far more danger associated with doing this. The zombies are often found in large packs, particularly when located inside of buildings, and there is not much room to maneuver. You will find many rucksacks or random containers to search through exploring, but many only have a single item, or will simply have a crafting recipe. It seems disappointing at first, but those recipes, as in The Escapists, are incredibly useful when attempting to progress through later levels. There is also an increase in the number of weapons at your disposal throughout the game. It is unfortunate that you may only give melee weapons to your fellow survivors rather than handing them pistols or machine guns as well, but it ensures bullets are only used on zombies you deem important enough to kill.
Scattered throughout the levels are volumes of The Walking Dead comic series, unlocking the ability to read through them as you locate issues. This inclusion is a very welcome addition which not only rewards exploration, but adds something more meaningful to this crossover rather than a simple re-skinning of a game or slightly modifying gameplay. It may be discarded as something unimportant, particularly if the player has already read the issues, but it is thoroughly refreshing to see a game reward you with something more tangible than typical unlocks of costumes or bonus weapons. There are only 24 volumes total hidden throughout The Escapists: The Walking Dead but that is still 24 more than were required and may introduce players to the comic series if they have never read it.
Like in The Escapists, some solutions or gaining access to certain areas may require you to think outside of the box. Digging underground tunnels, breaking walls, cutting fences, and using fake wall covers are all still present in the Walking Dead version. It is certainly not necessary to access each area of a level in order to complete it, and how much you explore is entirely up to the individual, but those who played the original title will know firsthand that exploration is key to making your objective easier.
Given that there are no prison guards, doing things such as being in another survivor’s room will not result in an alarm being raised, but there are also new disadvantages associated with the lack of guards. As previously mentioned, zombies are tougher to dispose of than the guards, meaning that in place of a task requiring you to remove a specific item from a guard, these items are now held by zombies you must kill, or hidden in containers deep within a horde of the undead. The survivors all work together, meaning that you are not asked to beat up other humans, eliminating another one of the easier tasks found in The Escapists.
Overall, The Escapists: The Walking Dead is slightly tougher than its predecessor. Despite some aspects being easier such as the increase of free time, there were a number of components which were made tougher to better fit the zombie apocalypse setting rather than prison. These changes are not unfair, they make logical sense, and offer a nice variety of objectives rather than implementing increasingly difficult obstacles. While we will have to wait until the full title releases on the PC and Xbox One later this year to see the entirety of what the title holds in store, it looks as if fans of the original will love the increased challenge and variety found in the Walking Dead variation.
Eric is an Xbox editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.