And so, we begin again.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead managed to not only grab a lot of attention and awards when it was released, but it also won the hearts of many a gamer. So the wait for Season Two of the narrative-driven, zombie apocalypse adventure game has been not too dissimilar to the forced wait in between TV show seasons. The gamers have been waiting, and now the wait is over and The Walking Dead: Season Two has launched with Episode 1, the bleakly titled “All That Remains”.
***Whilst spoilers for this current episode are avoided for this review, certain things may be revealed from Season One. If you have yet to play the first Season and are planning to, stop reading now.***
The first Season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead prided itself on building character relationships, especially that between the main character Lee and his ward, the young girl Clementine, and forcing the player to make difficult decisions. All That Remains continues with the difficult decisions, in some way, but the most obvious absence is the relationship building as the main character from Season One, Lee, is no more. All of the emphasis this time around is on young Clementine.
It is difficult to tell at this moment, after only one episode, if Telltale will be able to reach the same heights of player investment that they found with Season One. All That Remains is undoubtedly an emotional rollercoaster, but it feels rushed and new characters that Clementine comes across are not yet given enough depth for the relationships to grow. The episode feels as though it has three simple objectives – to wrap up the last season, to set up this season and to leave the player utterly depressed.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting “fun-times in fluffy-land”, but things really are quite grim for Clementine. For a fair chunk of this episode it really does feel as though Clementine is not going to make it at all, as she moves from one traumatic incident to another. One particular scene involving a dog left me feeling quite shocked, and I have a high shock threshold. But Clementine is a survivor, and this comes across in the way that the player deals with these situations.
Being that much smaller than Lee was, Often Clementine’s only choice when faced with Zombies, or other Humans, is to run away. She is not afraid of getting stuck in physically when she has to, or when she is backed into a corner, but she just cannot survive on her own, so the moments in the game when she is all by herself give a real feeling of helplessness.
She is a child after all, and the game is not going to let you forget that. Certain times during All That Remains I found myself screaming in frustration as the game refused to let me do something that I felt was common sense. While this was somewhat annoying, I like to think that it was the games way of reminding us that although Clementine may come across as quite capable and street smart, she is still very vulnerable and prone to making mistakes.
As for the other characters that seem to be at least hanging around for a while in the game, it is a little to early to pass judgment. There are quite a few and each is not really given enough time yet to develop. Little hints are dropped here and there in conversations that may lead to developments in future episodes, but for those we will have to wait. For now, let’s say that there is the usual mix of likable and unlikeable characters that may, or may not as the game does have a history of killing off characters, lead to some more interesting situations down the line.
All That Remains follows the pattern that was built in the first season, with a high emphasis on dialogue trees and narrative, with the occasional frantic quicktime event or object hunt thrown in. With the same low level of interaction from the player, this episode will not win back any players that found Season One to be too hands off.
Visually, the same engine seems to have been used with minor improvements. The game is has the familiar comic book styling and is atmospheric, but still feels slightly dated at this time. The sound is of an incredibly high level though, with the voice acting once again standing out as a highlight of the game.
It is quite difficult to talk about The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode 1 without commenting on the plot, which is the most important part, and without the rest of the episodes to give it context. All That Remains feels a little rushed and doesn’t build the depth that we have come to expect from the characters in Telltale games. But it is early days yet and Episode Two will undoubtedly make more progress in the right direction. For now though, it is good to be back in the Zombie infested world and Clementine makes for a great guide.