The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land

Forgettable, mindless base-building and turn-based combat.

Beneath us we see an abandoned wasteland, barren of sound thought and mind, and filled only with the shambling corpses of those who once led meaningful lives. But now, those same hordes are fit only to prey upon the desperate and the weak, while those who survive must subsist on the scraps of resources they are allowed, lost amidst a sea of mindless, lifeless husks, lest they become one of them.

But that’s enough about the App Store. We’re here to talk about The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land.

Look at all those beautiful, cluttered icons!
Look at all those beautiful, cluttered icons and resource bars!

No Man’s Land is the same mobile base-building game you’ve already played five or six different versions of, this time wrapped in the guise of everyone’s favorite zombie-themed AMC drama. If you’ve played Clash of Clans or The Simpsons: Tapped Out, you know the ropes: you plant buildings in a grid, then wait as they produce resources for you to harvest by tapping on them – and of course, you can spend real money to speed those timers up if you’d like. This time around you’re building a shelter, populating it with survivors and harvesting resources like food, currency and gold, though how they’re used is pretty arbitrary: Sometimes an action requires food, sometimes money.

The twist in this game is its combat system, which the game uses to string combat encounters into narrative chapters. Combat is both grid-based and turn-based, where you can scavenge supplies and hold off the walkers on your way to the next destination. While you can use character-specific abilities to spice things up, in reality it doesn’t amount to much, and the game’s combat is pretty simplistic and not all that engaging despite its best attempts: for example, there’s next to no reason to prefer characters who use blunt weapons instead of bladed ones.

At least this game has Norman Reedus, if you're still mad about Silent Hills.
At least this game has Norman Reedus, if you’re still mad about Silent Hills.

For a game based on the Walking Dead license, there could have been great potential for procedural drama to take place, but the game never fully commits to that idea. Your survivors are too resilient and combat is too straightforward for any kind of survival drama to occur, and there’s not even any of the conflict between survivors that the source material revels in. A wounded survivor is back on their feet in thirty seconds in No Man’s Land, while Telltale’s Walking Dead games would make a huge deal out of searching for medical supplies – which, by the way, are completely absent as a resource, along with ammo. As a reskin of the still-popular base building game genre it’s nothing special, but as an adaptation of its license, the failure to commit to any kind of meaningful innovation to help tie the game to its source material’s themes is a travesty.

The constant prompts to pay money and watch ads certainly didn't warm me up to this game.
The constant prompts to pay money and watch ads certainly didn’t warm me up to this game.

While there’s nothing wrong with zoning out to a simplistic mobile game for five minutes, No Man’s Land doesn’t change up the formula or provide anything else that’s meaningful on its own to make it stand out from the dozens of similar games out there. If you’re looking for anything beyond a simple time waster, look elsewhere.

Developed & Published by: Next Games
Platforms: iOS, Android
Released on: September 27, 2015
Rating: 17+