Note: This page, and the text within it will be updated with each new episode of Telltale's The Walking Dead. In order from top to bottom, each episode will receive several spoiler-free paragraphs. Furthermore, rather than scoring each episode, we'll be waiting until the season's finale to give a score.
Episode 1: “All That Remains”
When I first went into season 1 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I knew I wasn’t in for a pleasant experience. The game would surely be brutal in a way similar to the comics, and characters would probably be killed-off every so often. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was for the experience to be as engrossing as it was. I didn’t expect to grow so close to its characters, much less find myself on the verge of shedding tears as many times as I did while playing it. Telltale’s past attempts at breathing life into the adventure game genre were less than successful; but the success of The Walking Dead was a statement.“Adventure games are back, and they’re here to stay as long as we have any say in it.” They went on to introduce another promising series, “The Wolf Among Us” based on the Fables comics. But a bit before that was their special Walking Dead episode, “400 Days”, which was disappointing to say the least. That fact didn’t help my worrying that Telltale might have some trouble making lightning strike this franchise a second time. All that said, this first episode of season 2, “All That Remains”, is an incredible start.
With the events of season 1 having occurred about a year and a half ago, we’re now placed in the shoes of the young girl Clementine rather than her caretaker, Lee. As is demonstrated throughout the episode, Clementine has grown stronger, and more able to cope in her bleak, apocalyptic world. She’s slower to trust, and overall less optimistic than she once was; who wouldn’t be if they’d seen the things she has? Even though she’s grown a bit more mature, she’s still the little girl that everyone did their best to protect in the last season. Her slight transformation is shown in a lot of subtle ways, but for the observant, they’ll pack a punch.
There are also a host of really, really big moments that pack even bigger punches. In fact, the episode gets dangerously close to being over-saturated with these fist-clenching occasions. Especially since the episode is barely an hour and a half long. However, it manages to keep every moment thoughtful, and relevant to what’s going on in the narrative.
Over the course of the episode, Clementine meets-up with a few familiar faces, and a handful of new ones. As has been the high-point in Telltale’s games as of late, the writing and voice acting is exceptional, and the way characters behave on-screen has only gotten better since season 1 of the series. Some jerkiness is still on display in the animations, but none of it is particularly detrimental to the experience.
I suppose it’s important to note that if you’re planning on using this episode as a jumping-on point, that’s a grave mistake. This is a horrid introduction to the series. The character development that takes place in the first season is what makes this episode work. For newcomers, everything will move far too quickly, and likely wont feel at all meaningful. Give season 1 a play-through first. If you do, the decisions you made from that season will carry over to this one. Otherwise, the game will chose a random set of decisions.
For veterans of the one prior, this is a fantastic start to season 2. At some points it moves a bit too fast for its own good, but everything that takes place throughout manages to be meaningful, and at some points, horrifying. This episode manages to deliver what you’d expect from an episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but does it in a number of somewhat unexpected ways. Get ready to feel terrible all over again.
Episode 2: “A House Divided”
“This game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play”
Decisions have been prominent in Telltale’s other works, but they’ve never felt particularly organic. Two characters will arbitrarily be in danger, and you have to choose who to save, choose who to side with in an argument.Either way, the player more or less has an idea of what consequences their options come with. Thus far in Season 2, though, decisions are masked; and end up being far more interesting for it.
Rather than obvious “choose one or the other” situations, subtle player-actions, and dialog choices seem to move mountains – and seldom in obvious directions. There are characters in A House Divided whose fates are dictated by player action, and they seem significant. The only reason to doubt the significance is thanks to Telltale’s track-record with characters whose fates are determinant. If last season was any indication, it’s only a matter of when they die, not if. That’s not to knock the game, it’s only an assumption, after all, that some of these characters’ scripts might not be much longer. But it does become difficult to think of these “optional” characters as much more than Star Trek’s “Redshirts”, even if they are excellently written.
The arc of the episode is precisely what most are looking for. It tells interesting side-stories, character-development is abound, and several significant reveals are made, one that’s particularly emotional, and another that’s connected to 400 Days. But there are a few odd logical issues in the plot that are sort of maddening to sit through. Most of the quagmires the gang end up in are either due to allies who uncharacteristically throw caution to the wind, or thanks to the player-character’s odd inability to warn other characters of things he or she has seen. Even so, the episode managed to be thoroughly compelling, making the long wait between episodes more agonizing than ever.
Clementine’s growth since Season 1 shows more than ever in this episode. As has been established, she’s had a rather hard life, and at this point, she’s no stranger to death. Where before she was frail, and afraid, she’s hardened, and mostly unfazed by some of the brutal happenings of the episode. She’s successfully made the transition to a protagonist-level character. Also – and this is really subtle – there’s a certain look she has when walking around. A look of determination, but at the same time a deep grief. Happiness comes for a time, but quickly retreats. Telltale’s The Walking Dead may not be the prettiest game, but when it comes to communicating emotion through facial expressions, it’s one of the most successful in the business.
Though it doesn’t seem to be true for everyone, technical hiccups like those found in the last season have yet to pop-up for me. I did, however, run into a bit of a scripting bug, but nothing too distracting or offensive. Season 2 continues to impress, and A House Divided cuts-out on quite the cliffhanger, leaving me aching for more, and bracing for the impact that episode 3 may very well bring.
Episode 3: “In Harm’s Way”
The trend of not-so-obvious decisions continues in “In Harms Way”. Small “choices” delivered through dialog trees continue to steer the events of the episode, though perhaps not in the most dramatic ways possible. While not perfect, it’s an admirable way to handle player-choice, and it doesn’t take you out of the experience like time-freezing instances of “this-or-that”.
While the story is continuing to move in interesting directions, and the episode is easily one of the most eventful, there are a few awkward bits. For instance, at times it seems like the adult characters in the game rely far two heavily on Clementine, our eleven year old player-character. Not to say she hasn’t proven herself capable, but it does seem a little bit odd when a group full of adults talk among themselves, but then give the youngest among them the final word. Also, things happen to some characters, but given they’re relatively new characters, and none of them have been given much time in the spotlight, the events related to them ultimately fail to evoke a much of a response.
That’s not to say this season is a let-down in any way, though. Writing without providing spoilers is somewhat maddening, but I can assure you, the story is moving in interesting directions, and I can’t wait to see where it ends up.
Version reviewed: PC
While, again, we aren't ready to score the game, we would, at this point, most definitely recommend it.