Today Skydance Interactive and Skybound Entertainment have announced The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is coming out on January 23, 2020 (instead of 2019 like originally planned) and we’ve already gone hands-on with the zombie-slaughtering adventure.
The Walking Dead, with both the comics and the AMC show, is perhaps the most recognizable post-apocalyptic zombie franchise in the world. Telltale’s episodic series already introduced the universe to video games with its point-and-click-style adventure series packed with meaningful choices and Skydance Interactive is following their lead with the survival-focused, first person VR title The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners.
Set in a dilapidated and flooded New Orleans, Saints & Sinners puts you in the middle of a chaotic world split between several factions. There is the Tower, a group located in a highrise downtown that controls the flow of zombies through their use of bells, and outsider groups that are hellbent on making the Tower answer for crimes they’ve committed. The development team worked with Skybound Entertainment, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman’s company, to loosely fit it into to the greater Walking Dead universe.
I played an incredibly enjoyable segment which took place a few chapters into Saints & Sinners at a press event in Los Angeles last week. The general objective of my demo was to find several machine parts somewhere in a small residential area packed with overturned cars, decrepit homes, and, of course, zombies. Skydance had me armed to the teeth for the demo in order to experience the combat in full even though you begin the game with far less.
Saints & Sinners makes full use of all space on your body. I had regular-sized weapons on each hip, an assault rifle over my right shoulder, a backpack full of gear over my left, my notebook with quests and other menus on the right side of my chest, and a flashlight that needed a good bit of shaking in order to work on my left. I felt like an absolute commando with everything on my body to the point where it was difficult to interact with other objects in the world because my gear attached to my body would get in the way. Hopefully that confusion was due to me just learning how to play.
As I trekked through the flooded streets of suburbia I took a few of my melee weapons for a spin on some nearby zombies. As soon as I engaged with them one thing was clear: Saints & Sinners wants you to feel like you’re in a zombie apocalypse, with all the desperation included. Zombies came at me hard and it was not easy to land a kill on most of them. Using big two handed weapons, like an axe, pushed me to be as accurate and methodical with my swings as possible. They needed to land squarely on the head to be effective and smaller weapons, like knives, required a similar approach. Both weapon types got stuck in zombie heads often, making each moment in combat a frantic mess. It was incredibly fun.
I did kill one with a spoon, so I had that going for me.
The struggle is intentional, as Skydance told me. They didn’t want me to feel like a zombie killing machine, they wanted it to be about survival. I had a watch on my arm that ticked down to the moment the bells would ring, meaning zombies would be moved by the Tower. While I would’ve loved to stick around to kill some zombies, I knew I couldn’t take them on and come out alive. I had to complete the mission.
I noticed that a nearby non-playable character was shooting at the zombies I was fighting. I made my way into the house they were in and was directed to a man in the side yard. This demo took place midway through the game so I wasn’t caught up on the story thus far, but these people were with the Tower and I had to appease this guy to get the machine parts I needed. He asked me to head a few doors down and try to free his brother from the clutches of some outsiders.
I found the other house quickly and scaled a pipe on the outside by climbing, which is a cool addition to something you wouldn’t think would have any kind of vertical elements. I walked inside the second floor and found outsiders, who were about to execute the brother. As soon as I got close enough all attention was on me.
The leader of the outsiders said the man had killed his daughter and the Tower refused to answer for it. They said that the Tower always preaches community, but pushes away anyone they view as a burden. For some odd reason he asked me to decide his fate. At any point I could have killed the man I was speaking to, one of the three other armed people in the room, or the hostage. The choice was always there and it came with consequences, if I killed a quest giver in The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners I could lose access to missions later on.
It was a difficult decision, but it was only a demo and I didn’t have much time to mull it over. I could relate to the man that lost his daughter so I shot the hostage. Then everyone in the room agreed to go back to the previous house where I had received my orders and kill everyone there. I was caught up in the moment so I went with it.
We stormed the house guns drawn and started lighting things up. I quickly went from using two hands to gun down enemies with my rifle to pulling out my handgun. It was fast and exciting, although I didn’t see many consequences here. The enemy AI seemed downright stupid. They strafed and shot back, but it felt like I barely took any damage. I was hardly even hurt after fumbling with all the equipment on my body right in front of an enemy. Humans are supposed to be more threatening than the actual zombies in the world of The Walking Dead, but that didn’t feel like the case in my demo.
We cleared the house and I found the machine parts I needed on a bed upstairs. It was time to head back to my base camp, a location where you can gear up and craft items, to figure out what to do next. Bells started ringing, which meant the area would be flooded with zombies shortly. I ran back out into the street, weaving between groups of the undead only stopping to kill a few in order to open a path. I nearly died on multiple occasions but finally made it to the the boat that would get me home.
My overall experience with The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners was fantastic. The combat was survival-focused and frantic, the single choice I made in the demo made me pause, and the entire stylized New Orleans Skydance created had me eager to explore more. I’m tempted to say that this could give Telltale’s best game a run for its money.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners releases on January 23, 2020 but Skydance Interactive couldn’t confirm which platforms they’d be launching Saints & Sinners on. My demo was on an Oculus Rift. They also said the entire story mode would take around 15 hours to complete.