While Among Us didn’t invent the social deduction genre, it’s certainly the game that popularized and nearly perfected it. That’s why it isn’t surprising that many games have tried to mimic and build upon its success over the years, from indies like Goose Goose Duck to Fortnite, one of the most popular games in the world. The latest of the games to try and take on Innersloth’s hit is The Walking Dead: Betrayal from Other Ocean Interactive, the developers of Project Winter.
Curious to see what a licensed social deception game would be like in a post-Among Us world, I jumped at the chance to play a match of Betrayal with a developer. What I found was a multiplayer deduction game that prioritizes roles a lot more than its peers and brings more action into the experience. On top of that, it feels like a true The Walking Dead game, with odds that feel very stacked against its survivors.
Matches in The Walking Dead: Betrayal support up to eight players, who are supposed to work together to fix an objective within their safe zone and then leave the map without succumbing to an encroaching walker horde. Everyone has a unique role, like a Bodyguard who must protect another player or risk their stats being drained faster for the rest of the game or a tailor who can craft walker skin suits. Two players, called Traitors, are trying to sabotage the completion of that objective, although they can be exiled from the safe zone if they come under suspicion.
When it comes to why two members of this group are betraying the rest and leaving them for the zombie hordes, lead designer Kate Olguin tells Digital Trends that Other Ocean is leaving that open to interpretation from players. “We wanted to leave that more open-ended because, unlike other The Walking Dead games, this game being multiplayer means you create the narrative yourself,” she says. “There are so many reasons people betray each other in The Walking Dead, and there are so many reasons people betray each other in this game too.”
This is reflected in-game, where the Traitor role’s description tells players they “could be anyone,” like a saboteur working for another community or someone who just wants to be left alone. Olguin also suggests those who wish to role-play should look at the traitor’s objectives for that match and further craft the story from there. And while I didn’t get to play as a traitor during my time with The Walking Dead: Betrayal, I certainly felt the ramifications of having a disgruntled imposter in my match.
In my match, I was a tailor and had to help my crew gather the wheels and other resources to repair a wagon. I decided to stick closely behind Olguin, who was playing the match with us, as I knew she’d know the best ways to survive. Spear in hand, I ventured out with Olguin and some other players to Shelley Station, where we saw some critical resources were located. We first encountered a small horde of zombies outside that station and fought them, although I found the action to be a bit stiff. Most of the time, it was best to avoid encounters entirely.
We were successfully able to get some of the resources we needed and returned to base camp. After we decided not to banish a player we found a bit suspicious, we ventured back out to get more resources. This second excursion went reasonably smoothly, although we did have to rush back to camp when it started raining hard, draining our health. When we got back, though, my team discovered that somebody stole most of the resources we’d given to the wagon, bringing us back to square one.
After this, we were all a lot more suspicious of each other, so when Olguin and I ventured back out and found another player in a cowboy hat seemingly tampering with one of the places we could collect resources from, we got extremely suspicious of him. As he didn’t have a good excuse for what he was doing, I decided to attack this player and leave them in a downed state for an approaching horde of zombies. From there, things only got worse as more and more zombies attacked us as we returned to base camp, where no forward progress had been made.
Still, Olguin told me, “I trust you,” on the way back. That made it all the more disappointing when she betrayed me. As we were entering base camp again from the southern gate, one of the Traitors triggered a gate jam while I was in a spot where I could have conceivably also activated it. Now extremely suspicious of me because of that and how I left that other player to die earlier, Olguin attacked me, and the horde of zombies downed me. After death, I could take control of a zombie and attack the living players, but the match didn’t last much longer.
No one who had died at this point was actually a traitor, so the two traitors used the chaos of these zombies invading a safe zone to take down the remaining players and win the match. The ups and downs of this match certainly provided the dynamic tension I enjoy about social deception games, even if the role system and action focus didn’t wow me. My game seemed pretty weighed in favor of the traitors, but that might just be a feeling that will go away after I spend more time with the game.
The zombie hordes constantly looming around the map add even more pressure than a game like Among Us and help give Betrayal its distinct The Walking Dead flair. I’m not sure that it’s revelatory enough of a social deception game to overtake Among Us in the mainstream zeitgeist, but The Walking Dead fans looking for a tense, yet enjoyable multiplayer game to play with their friends should get a kick out of this social deception take on the franchise.
The Walking Dead: Betrayal is in development for PC, with closed beta tests beginning on August 10.