The first season of The Walking Dead was an emotionally exhausting game full of choices that would carry over and at least partially impact your game as you moved forward, winning over the hearts of the gaming world in 2012. Telltale has done a lot over the past few years to really push the world of narrative storytelling in games forward without compromising the fact that it is a videogame, which was evident in the first season of The Walking Dead. You could say that Telltale’s modern games are simply the evolution of the old point-and-click adventure titles from the 90’s and feel satisfied with that response, I think.
As always, if you haven’t played Season One, don’t read on, please.
Season Two of The Walking Dead was released this week and it is safe to say that Telltale is right back in the saddle again with the very gripping “All That Remains.” The voice of Dave Fennoy (who plays Lee) narrating the “previously on The Walking Dead” will probably force you into flashbacks of the end of Season One and how different of a game this is going to be with Lee gone and Clementine as the protagonist. It might also give you feelings and that is okay.
Clementine is literally lost in the woods in this episode, as she is forced to survive the zombie apocalypse without Lee, Kenny or most of the Season One crew who helped to keep her alive. This episode is difficult, in a few ways, with the first of which being that Clementine has to learn about the consequences of her decisions and that her trust can be both her biggest strength and her biggest weakness. Moments of kindness will either go rewarded or brutally punished with you never quite sure of which outcome you’ll get. As always, stick to your gut and make the decisions that you think are right, because there is probably never going to be a “right” or a “wrong” decision.
The pace is obviously a bit slower than where we left off, as this episode is all about getting acclimated to being Clem and being on her own. In the first season the player controlled Lee, who wasn’t the strongest or smartest guy around, but he was an adult and could hold his own in such a dangerous world. There were also inherent problems with being Lee, like his criminal past that haunted him up until the very end or the fact that it takes place in Georgia and racism, even in the zombie apocalypse, is still very real. Clementine has her own strengths and weaknesses that the player has to play to, so a lot of this episode is a transition period for the player occupying a new headspace.
There are still moments within this episode that are heartwarming and gut wrenchingly awful, though, that much will probably never change. Humanity is still very much in shambles, distrusting of each other and of course the dead are still roaming around freely, making everywhere dangerous. If you were worried about a new writer at the helm, don’t, as the feel and tone is still very much there, inspiring confidence in future episodes. It also probably explains why there are so few carryovers from Season One so far. Making tough decisions as a small girl adds a whole new dimension to The Walking Dead and you have to decide between Clementine being her naive self or a tough survivor, depending on the situation.
If there were any real flaws to be seen it would have to be in the game engine itself, which is both being held back by last gen systems and too advanced for them at the same time. Telltale could very much make “next generation” improvements to the graphics and performance, but as long as they are still working with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as their main consoles for this season I’m not sure that we’ll see that. What we will see is a lot of slowdowns when the action gets thick, which is probably the worst time for the game to get bogged down.
I played “All That Remains” on the Xbox 360 and found the performance to be downright sluggish at times, much worse than The Walking Dead Season One ever got, even with hordes of zombies on the screen. It really made me wish that I had a save file to import on PC or could at least find one online and avoid this nonsense altogether as the first episode of The Wolf Among Us played perfectly on my PC. That isn’t to say that issues aren’t being reported on the PC version, but they sound like server issues if anything.
The biggest struggle is going to be waiting two months for another episode of The Walking Dead Season Two, but I guess the fact that we’ll be getting a new episode of The Wolf Among Us should help to tide us over, right? Technical issues aside this was definitely the start of a new chapter in Telltale’s The Walking Dead and it is clear that Clementine is going to have a lot of new faces around her throughout the season. What’s clear is that this little girl has been through a lot and she is able to stand on her own, even if help is nice from time to time, but at what cost?