Please Be Advised… This review contains spoilers from Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 1.
When it was released nearly eighteen months ago, the first season of The Walking Dead was met with near-unanimous acclaim. Critics praised the game’s gripping story, deep characters, and heart-wrenching choices. The first season won several Game of the Year awards – deservedly so – and changed the way we look at narrative-driven video games. It even made Warp Zoned’s Apocalypse List for 2012. Having recently finished the first season in a matter of a few days, I can certainly agree with these sentiments. Never before have I been this emotionally involved in a game, and when characters I had grown attached to died, it hit me hard. Lee’s death was just as traumatic to me as it was to Clem, but we both knew we had to move on.
And here we are again, continuing our ride through Hell on Earth, hoping that one day we can find someplace safe, someplace secure. Someplace like home. It’s that hope that keeps us moving, keeps us alive. But after playing the first ten minutes of All That Remains, that hope was completely shattered, and I thought to myself, this is going to be quite the bumpy ride.
Platforms: iOS, PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Choose Your Own Adventure
Release Date: December 17, 2013
ESRB Rating: Mature
The story of All That Remains takes place shortly after the events of the first season. Clementine, now slightly older (and a little worse for wear), quickly finds herself a lone survivor, braving weather, zombies, and other humans in order to make it through another day. Through a very intense turn of events, she comes upon a new group of survivors, who are a bit apprehensive about having another person join them.
It’s really tough to discuss the details of All That Remains without giving away some of the details of the plot – especially considering the fact that the episode is almost all story. I don’t want to ruin anything that happens, but I will say that it is an intense first chapter. The good thing about this being the second season is that we are already familiar with our main character, and we don’t need a lot of exposition. We are perfectly comfortable with starting this game in medias res, which allows us to get into the action a little bit quicker.
The first season of The Walking Dead surrounded us with characters. Lee was almost never alone. Whether with Kenny, Ben, or Clem, Lee always had someone to talk to. Season 2 is a stark contrast to this. For a good portion of the game, you’re alone. Clem, while stronger than when we last left her, is still a child, and is an easy target in this unforgiving world. The emptiness of the woods she is in felt at the same time desolate and horrifying; every crack of a twig causes us to stop dead in our tracks, hoping that is isn’t a walker – or worse.
When Clem does stumble upon this new group of characters, we are thrust back into the play style so prevalent in Telltale’s games. There’s a lot of walking, a lot of talking, and a lot of searching and backtracking. If you’ve played the first game, you’ll instantly be familiar with how this works. Apart from a few refinements, it’s the same point-and-click, quick-time-event heavy experience. But those refinements make all the difference. In some of the more intense situations, I noticed that the “zone” in which you can click on an object appears to be widened a bit, which is a huge relief. I died way too many times in Season 1 due to a mixture of a shaky screen and a smaller-than-desired hit box. In Season 2, this was pretty much a non-issue.
The glitches so prevalent in the first game have also been addressed. The choppy animations are all but gone, and the only time I really saw a glitch was when one character’s rifle appeared to float around in his hands. Other than that, everything moved silky-smooth.
But don’t go thinking that this is the exact same experience. Playing as Clementine makes more of a difference than you would think. In the first game, your focus is on keeping Clem safe from harm, whereas in this game, there is no safety. The child I cared for last time is now thrust into situations that no child should ever have to experience. One scene in particular had her tending to a wound, and I must say it was very tough to watch.
As is the norm in these games, your decisions have an impact on the story. Some decisions are much more difficult than others, but for the most part they seem to be pretty obvious, at least in comparison to Season 1. Remember when you had to choose between saving Shawn or Duck last time? There’s no decision that drastic to make – but one does come close. I’m willing to overlook this because we’re in the first chapter, and the more I experience with these characters in subsequent chapters, the tougher the ultimate life-or-death decisions will be. It’s a slow burn, but when it pays off – you just know it will be big. There’s a reason that the first season of The Walking Dead got so much love – it’s because so much love was put into making it.
Clem and I shared the same experience, she as a character in this world, and I as the player, learning this play style for the first time. Last year we were scared people in a scary world. I second-guessed every decision I made; she was unsure that Lee would be able to keep her safe. We had both gone through some tough times. Now, we’ve matured a bit. I’m more confident in what choices to make in this world, and she in turn is a stronger survivor than she’s ever been. If you’ve played the first season, there is absolutely no reason for you not to pick up this title. The story, while a bit slow at times, is sure to build up to great things. The issues with the first game have been addressed, which makes a great experience that much better. The Walking Dead is back – and it’s just as good as it’s always been. I’m eagerly anticipating the next chapter, while at the same time scared to death. I hope that one day we will both find a happy ending, but I’m not holding my breath.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of The Walking Dead Season 2: All That Remains was provided by Telltale Games for the purposes of this review.