Television's Walking Dead meets XCOM in a new mobile game that hit this morning which promises strong tie-ins with season six of the show.
While the free game plays like a fun, fast zombied version of Firaxis' famously difficult turn-based strategy game, the biggest draw for The Walking Dead No Man's Land might be how it will regularly connect with the show through both in-game content and behind the scenes and teaser videos.
"The show is well reflected in the game," said Mac McKean, senior vice president of digital media for AMC and SundanceTV. "A lot of attention was paid to the smallest details like facial expression and making sure people are wearing the right clothes.
"This is not just a combat game, but one about nurturing your group and surviving and hopefully it reflects the show in multiple ways."
The game kicks off with the player's first three characters locked in a shipping container in Terminus, from season five of the show. Shortly after escaping, the trio is rescued from a surprise zombie attack by Daryl Dixon, who is voiced by show actor Norman Reedus.
From there the game is meant to parallel the timeline of season five and season six. Instead of retelling those stories from the show, though, it tells a different story that sometimes crosses over with the television show through characters, plot points or locations.
And all of the game remains consistent with the canon of the show, said Mark Heggen, AMC's director of entertainment applications. Even Dixon's appearance in the beginning of the game as a sort of trainer, fits in neatly with his absence for a bit of season five, Heggen said.
He said AMC and game developer Next Games were careful to plot out the timeline of the television show and its characters to make sure the game remains consistent with what happened and will be happening on television.
The free-to-play game is an easy to understand take on the turn-based model found in titles like XCOM. Players have three characters they can bring on any mission and use their finger to swipe a movement path on a screen. When a character is tapped on, a blue outline shows up on the terrain to show how far a character can move on their turn. If a character approaches a zombie during that movie, they automatically attack. If you don't use up all of your action points through movement on a turn, the character automatically goes into overwatch mode. In this mode, a character can counter-attack zombies that come for them during the zombies' turn in the game.
Very early in the game, players discover and clear out a base camp which is then expanded to include farms, vehicles, training grounds, a hospital tent and a headquarters of sorts. It's from here that you can amass a larger group of survivors, training them, healing them and outfitting them.
Having a steady supply of survivors is important in No Man's Land because the game includes permanent death. It also requires you to abandon a character anytime you want to flee from a mission.
All of the characters you find, outfit and train are randomly generated, meaning none come from the show.
The game does include some free-to-play elements, like spending gold (which can be purchased for cash) to speed up training or upgrading, but none of it felt onerous in the time I spent playing the game.
The game also features a number of other collectibles including food which serves as money, gas for missions and radios, which can be used to recruit new random characters.
After each mission, players also earn the right to select a number of crates to unlock. Those crates contain a mix of items including the collectibles, new clothes and weapons.
Finally, No Man's Land has a sort of mini-game that has you tapping on zombies amassing at your camp's walls to pick them off with a sniper rifle and earn experience points.
The game, which is live on the App Store now, comes with 10 levels located in different settings. Each of the levels contain 10 or so missions.
And the team at developer Next Games is already working on new content, said Teemu Huuhtanen, CEO at the Finnish studio.
"The Walking Dead: No Man's Land is devotedly crafted for The Walking Dead fans. We are very excited about the momentous opportunity to bring one of the most adored TV shows into the mobile realm in collaboration with our partner AMC, the creators of the TV series," Huuhtanen said in a prepared statement. "We combine IP, TV show talent and join forces with AMC in a never-seen-before way. This game is a big first step in Next Games' strategy to become the premier partner for TV networks, movie studios and beyond who aspire to work with a veteran game studio in extending their IP into mobile games."
While Huuhtanen told me that the game will include direct call-outs to events in season six, like specific weapons, locations or surprises, the most interesting element of the crossover between the game and the show is one of the ways it allows you to earn free items.
The game features a run-down movie theater on its main screen, when you tap on it you can elect to watch a video to unlock a random crate. But instead of showing players a random advertisement, the videos feature behind-the-scenes footage from the show. It also, Huuhtanen said, will include things like sneak peeks and trailers.
On the television side of things, No Man's Land will begin to get promotion in the lead up to the show on Sundays and will be mentioned occasionally on The Talking Dead, which airs after each episode of the show.
And it sounds like the game's weekly group challenges, which require the creation of guilds, will also receive some airtime.
The Walking Dead season six premieres nationwide on AMC this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET. AMC is holding a screening of the premiere Friday night during New York Comic-Con. Make sure to check back for our coverage of that showing as well as our ongoing Comic-Con coverage.