Telltale scored a big win with the first season of The Walking Dead in 2012, bolstering its status as a reputable studio. Its success with The Wolf Among Us further established its place in the gaming industry, making it clear that these developers know how to capture a world and make it an interactive experience of choice through a terribly efficient formula. If “All That Remains” is any indication of the quality of the rest of the season, it appears that Season 2 of the adaptation of Robert Kirkman‘s comic is poised to be another feather in Telltale’s cap.
Warning: If you have not finished Season 1, do not read this review. It might contain spoilers that would ruin your experience.
The first season drew strength from the relationship between Lee Everett, the protagonist, and an adorable child named Clementine. Acting as a sort of surrogate father, Lee had to protect Clementine at all costs, and teach her the harshness of this new world overrun by zombies and where men have become ferocious predators.
Season 2, which begins with this episode, shuffles the cards. The little girl is catapulted onto center stage as the main character of the season. Her fear, her sorrow, her pain, her choices become ours. It was feared that the changes in perspective and challenge would diminish the story’s excitement. I assure you: We don’t have time to think about it.
The End of Innocence
It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes before “All That Remains” smacks you straight in the face reminding you of the terror and grief that permeate the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. No more than 15 minutes to realize that the fear of Clem’s death has hardly faded, even knowing that nothing final will happen to her for at least five episodes. No more than 15 minutes trying to feel nostalgia. And yet, no time to feel sorry – danger lurks everywhere and our heroine, who has grown a little (like Carl in the comics) since the last season, will soon have to implement the lessons learned from her adventure with the previous group. Less candid and stronger, left to herself for almost the entire episode is the new Clementine.
Choose Your Destiny
Once again, the gameplay consists primarily of puzzles, quicktime events, and dialogue choices, but with some enhancements. Puzzles have the same setup as they did in the first season: you are placed in a situation until you find a solution to a problem or a way out. However, in Season 2 they seem to be a little less linear. You have at least a little choice in what objects you use to complete the necessary task. The game doesn’t reveal in the first episode whether these choices will have any effect on the story, but even without any tangible consequences, they still give the player a glimpse into the psyche of Clementine and add a layer of complexity to the experience.
The quicktime events are so far similar to those in Season 1 – clicking on the right thing within a certain amount of time or mashing a button fast enough – but they are more forgiving than before. Instead of immediately dying if you fail a quicktime event, you are sometimes offered another situation to redeem yourself before you are forced to reload the game and try again.
Ostensibly, the only change to the dialogue choices is their interface: Instead of the options being listed vertically, Season 2 lays them out in a kind of grid. The real improvement in the dialogue choices is in the storytelling in general. Thanks to phenomenal writing, it is a real treat to decide the state of mind of the kid with the cap. Does a new companion deserve a little friendship or is it better to be on guard? If someone orders something by putting Clem under the threat of a weapon, can she afford to play cheeky? Is Clem kind or spiteful? The new protagonist’s attitude seems very malleable in the first episode of the season; it will be interesting to see how the choices made here will play out in later episodes.
Problems That Remain
Despite the otherwise superb execution of the game, it is impossible not to scold Telltale on some things that are not going well. Certainly, graphically, there is a very slight improvement. It is thinner and sharper. However, this implementation has never been a problem. But why would there be a model of another character floating before me, motionless, for a dialogue with someone else? Why do micro-loads and slowdowns still occur from time to time? And why let invisible walls so grossly impose on areas that we explore? Admittedly, the price is very affordable for such a crazy and entertaining adventure. But these types of issues cause problems in immersion. Sad when you see how everything else is so masterfully executed.
Despite these minor defects, the Telltale recipe works. Clem is still adorable; staged but nicely calibrated surprising situations are connected; and I am still amazed at some of my choices afterwards. Judging by the presentation of the next episode, there is an obvious potential for an increasingly dark and nerve-racking odyssey. I can’t wait to see how things play out in the next episode, “A House Divided.”Powered by Sidelines