While The Walking Dead isn’t quite a hot property these days, there was a time when the comic books and TV viewership were peaking almost simultaneously. With Telltale Games doing pretty darn well off the universe by developing narrative-driven episodic adventures, it made sense for others to want a piece of the pie. Team17 decided to merge this post-apocalyptic, survival oriented comic book series with their relatively well received strategic sandbox game, The Escapists. And looking back now, five years on, the resulting experience of The Escapists: The Walking Dead turned out great!
The year was 2015 and at the point of Team17’s walker-filled release on 30th September, AMC’s The Walking Dead prepared to launch its unforgettable sixth season – the one which saw the villainous Negan create the arguably the biggest stir on TV since Game of Thrones depicted ‘The Red Wedding’. What I’m trying to say is that The Escapists: The Walking Dead arrived on Xbox One and PC at the optimum time. In fact, having The Walking Dead attached was the only reason I’d elected to give The Escapists a whirl; I hadn’t played the original before.
Despite holding a mediocre Metacritic score of 65 on Xbox One, I believe The Escapists: The Walking Dead to be a thoroughly enjoyable sandbox affair which truly tests your ability to strategise. Playing the role of main protagonist Rick Grimes, it’ll whisk you off to 8-bit mock-ups of Alexandria, the Greene Family Farm, Harrison Memorial Hospital, Meriwether Prison, and Woodbury. These are iconic places and will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with The Walking Dead, which helps this spin-off to stand out. On top of that, it features a decent selection of NPCs based on characters from the comic books, including Michonne, Glenn, Hershel, and the Governor.
Although there are only five levels present, it offers hours of play as you attempt to fulfil objectives, complete chores and look after your fellow survivors. The ultimate aim is to stay alive long enough to acquire the necessary tools to escape the confines of each level, much like the original game. Unlike The Escapists though, prison guards are the least of your worries here as the pesky walkers and enemy humans make the whole process quite tense. It also puts more of a focus on the combat aspect and needing to put up a fight.
You see, keeping the likes of Abraham, Glenn and Martinez well-equipped with craftable items and weapons found hidden away somewhere, could be crucial in mounting an escape. If Rick is left on his own, the chance of failure is practically insurmountable and all the hard work, following daily routines and scheming, ends up being all for nothing. Ensuring everyone can handle themselves is the hard part, with combat involving a rather simple approach of just highlighting the enemy and spamming until their demise.
The only real drawback is how much time it generally consumes in the early stages of each level as you scope out the area, perform attribute boosting activities like running on a treadmill and lifting weights to get Rick stronger, and repeat a lot of the same tasks that are essential to keep things ticking over. Laying down these foundations is important though, because doing so allows additional breathing room to plan a crafty escape. You have to appreciate there are often multiple options for exiting a level, which offers some replayability.
Post-launch, it did receive a very on-brand Survival Mode for free; seeing you trying to survive as long as possible against walkers, humans and legendary characters. Other than that, Team17 failed to dip their toe in The Walking Dead universe again, however there was another instalment for the main series in 2017 – The Escapists 2. It’s progressively difficult and follows the same formula as before, but the prisons are much bigger and deliver far more variation in regards to layouts. The new transit prisons are damn cool as well, doing away with roll call and all that nonsense in favour of a frantic race to escape within a time limit.
Surviving the zombie apocalypse has seldom been more regimental than this, but it’s worth the effort to pull off the great escapes. While the slow-burn nature of The Escapists: The Walking Dead won’t be for everyone, the cunning strategic elements and the fact it’s themed on such a popular franchise certainly won me over. Due to the aesthetics and simple game mechanics, it still holds up well five years on from its release too – see for yourself if you’ve got £14.99 to spend via the Xbox Store.
Do you remember trying to break out of Meriwether or Woodbury in The Escapists: The Walking Dead? Are they fond memories, or would you count it as a blessing that we’ve not seen anymore crossovers between Skybound and Team17? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us as we’re always interested to hear your opinion!