By William Shelton
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Systems: PS3(Reviewed), PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac
Developer: Telltale Games
Metacrtic Score: N/A
I think Season One of Telltales Walking Dead is the game I’ve given my highest review too (although I kind of want to go back and re-score Dark Souls), and for good reason. With the sole exception of some underwhelming action sequences, that first season is pretty much perfect. Ever since I finished the game i’ve been looking forward to seeing how Clementine’s story continued. Now that I
have I have to say season two just isn’t as good. And before we get into why that is let me inform you that major spoilers for Season One lie ahead. If you haven’t played it already, go do that. You owe it to yourself.
The season opens with Clementine being looked after by Omid and Christa after the tragic loss of Lee Everett. Christa is visibly pregnant, and there is a general senses of optimism in the group. Omid and Christa joke about what to name the baby as the three head into a rest stop bathroom to get washed up. You, as Clementine, head into the girls bathroom alone and soon find yourself being robbed by another young girl. Omid, clearly noticing you’ve been gone for too long , goes in after you and tried to get the jump on your attacker. Sadly this fails and Omid is shot and killed. After the thief is taken care of, we jump 16 months. Christa lost her baby and it’s never really discussed how or why. What we do know is that whatever happened, it clearly broke Christa. She becomes more irritable and introverted, and attempts at conversations didn’t go well. While it’s never said out loud, I got the feeling she blamed Clementine for the death of Omid, which may have added to the strain on their relationship. This soon becomes irrelevant as the two as quickly separated and Christa isn’t seen again.
The now isolated Clementine begins to look for food when she comes across a lone dog and an abandoned camp. The dog seems friendly enough at first, but once you find food it’s own survival instincts kick in and it viciously attacks the young girl, leaving a nasty bite mark on her arm. That bite mark doesn’t do Clementine any favors once she comes across a group of survivors who could help her clean and stitch it up; they don’t want to waist supplies on someone who’s going to turn and none of them can verify that it is in fact a dog bite. So the deal they make is that they’ll hold clementine in their shed until the next morning. If she’s not dead then they promise to help her out. This doesn’t go over well for clem. Fearing infection and exposure (both of which could kill her) she finds a way out of the shed and break into the cabin the group is staying in and gathers the supplies needed to stitch up her arm in what is the single most painful experience in the game. Unfortunately, a zombie makes its way into the shed using the whole clementine made to get out and she has to fight it off using the tools around her. While that alone would have been bad enough, this also alerts the group to the fack that she not only broke out, but stole from them too. This does not endear her much to them, although they do allow her to stay once they are sure she wasn’t bit.
And in traditional Walking Dead fashion, things only get worse. You learn that the group you’re with is running from a man named Carver who soon finds them and once again you’re on the run. To make a long but ultimately pointless story short, they get caught and soon escape. After three episodes the game begins to really start asking its big question: is having a big group really the right way to go in the apocalypse?
My issues with the game’s story come up almost immediately: this cast just isn’t as interesting. While the story and writing are still on par with what you’d expect from Telltale, and this does serve as a good fallow-up to season one, I couldn’t help but look back at the original cast and wish more of them could have made it into this game. Omid and Christa are gone within the first 20 minutes and the only other returning character undergoes such a destructive mental break down that the sooner you get away from them, the better things are.
Not helping matters is how the game play streamlines the choice mechanics. In the first game it was always easy and usually more fulfilling to make the “bad” choice, but the outcome and the way it effected clementine often made me want to go back and undo that choice. Here everything is just is much more strait forward and the outcomes are almost all binary. In season one there were 8 different outcomes in episode five as too who would go with you to get clementine back. There is nothing like that in this game. Even where there are more than two ways to handle a situation, the end game wrap up always portrays each choice as a binary choice. I’ll be the first to admit that season one was mostly smoke and mirrors when it came to how your choices actually effected the game, but here even that trickery felt missing.
I know I’m coming off as overly down on the game, so let me reiterate: the game is good, just not as good as I would have wanted. It may not have helped that I replayed season one to make sure that I went into season two while jumping off from the choices I wanted knowing in advance the outcomes. In the end there just wasn’t as much that resonated with me the way so much from season one did.
Game play wise things are pretty much the same as the first game with a new interface being the only substantial change between seasons. Other than that the button layouts are the same as well as the patterns used for the more action sections(mashing X then hitting either square, circle or triangle to finish). Personally I found this to work in the games favor as it helps make transitioning from one game to next easy. And as the focus is still primarily on the story, this helps to engage the player in the game with out taking too much attention away from the narrative.
The voice acting, sound design and music is all just as fantastic as it was before, but I do wish I had been allowed to skip the intros and credits for each episode. Neither of these were bad: the credits music was all pretty good and it was nice to have each episode opened with Lee’s voice, but I wanted to keep playing and these just ruined the pacing in my opinion.
In the end, I may not have loved this game as much as I did season one but I did really enjoy it and I’m still looking forward to season three. Nothing in the game matched the relationship between Lee and Clementine, but there was still more than enough to hold my interest for the few hours I spent playing. With the Michonne mini-series being released next month, it seems like a likely bet that the story of Clementine will be continued soon as well, and I’m more than ready for it.