When we last left Clementine…
The day we have all been waiting for has come. The first episode of The Walking Dead: season 2 by Telltale games has gone public. We finally get to see how the epic, sad, and somewhat horrifying tale of Clementine continues. Fans of the original, do not fear. This is still The Walking Dead that you know and love. It’s a point and click adventure game that constantly faces you with tough moral choices and painful situations. If this is enough to keep you playing, by all means stop reading now and pick up the season pass. However, there are some changes to the formula–some for the better some for the worse–that set season 2 apart from season 1 .
I’m going to try my best to keep major plot details under-wraps, but at times I will have to talk about specific plot points so fair warning, there may be SPOILERS ahead.
First of all, the game’s interface has changed. Instead of having you scroll through your interaction options whenever you mouse over something, the game uses action wheels complete with multi-colored action icons, much like Telltale’s other recent game, The Wolf Among Us . Quick time events have also been changed to be more like TWAU ’s, with big red arrows and huge buttons popping up dead center in the screen in order to make them easier to see. Combat has even gotten a Wolf Among Us face lift, as the “click on the red action point” system from TWAU has also been ported in. Heck, even TWAU ’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” looking dialog boxes have made their way into the game.
You can’t dispute that these new changes make the game easier to play. Choices are easy to read and easier to make. Actions are self-explanatory. Although you can scroll through your inventory and select items now, you basically automatically use items when you need to. The Wolf Among Us ’ system is better in every way for point and click adventure games. However…
It’s all so colorful! The multicolored action icons and the big red arrows in quick time events felt right at home in The Wolf Among Us ’ fairy tale saturated New York City, but in the zombie apocalypse it feels kind of out of place. The simple and spartan white color scheme of the original really did far more to drive home the tone of emptiness and hopelessness.
This is really just a nitpick though, as just about everything else about the game has improved. The graphics are absolutely amazing. They utilize cell shading a bit less, which allows character features to come out a bit more. Character faces are even more expressive than they once were, showing a variety of emotions, even hidden ones, over the course of conversation. The biggest visual upgrade can be seen in the environments. Foliage now bends and rustles as you move through it. Subtle lighting effects can be seen as you walk in front of candle lights and sit in front of a dying fire. It’s just an incredible looking game.
The voice acting is, for the most part, very good. Every performance is very emotional and believable, except for Clementine’s. You see, they got the same voice actor for Clem, which is a good thing, but she gives pretty much the same performance that she gave in season 1 , which is a bad thing.
Clem isn’t the same innocent little girl we remember. She has become hardened to the world as the people closest to her die. Heck, there is a particularly harrowing scene in episode 1 where she sews up a wound using a needle, fishing wire, and old rags. You can actually choose to play her as a complete emotionless badass, telling everyone around her to screw off and even going as far as blackmailing those who cross her.
Unfortunately, no matter how you play the character, the voice actor gives the same innocent girl performance that we remember from season 1 and it’s a bit jarring. Clem’s voice really does need a bit more power to it, and hopefully this will change in coming episodes.
The core gameplay of The Walking Dead: season 2 is mostly unchanged, though there are a few new context sensitive commands you will be asked to perform. For example, there are now Heavy Rain style moments where you will have to push and hold a button while flicking a control stick or moving a mouse. In fact, that’s exactly what the game makes you do when you are sewing up your own wounds, and it goes a long way to making you feel the pain of the situation. Aside from these few context sensitive interactions, however, you will be spending most of the game talking to people and trying to solve simple, yet oftentimes violent, point and click adventure puzzles.
Finally, there is the story, which has only gotten better. The game picks up shortly after season 1 , with Clem traveling with whoever she ended up with. Of course, this doesn’t last long as a few small acts of stupidity easily cost some of your most loved characters their lives. The game time-wipes to 16 years later quite quickly, where we rejoin Clem hungry, tired, and camping in the woods. Unfortunately, she is soon attacked by bandits and finds herself alone, injured, and without any food. She is soon found by a hunting party and taken back to a house, and much of the rest of the game revolves around Clem interacting with this new survival group.
Telltale once again knocks character design out of the park with this new band of survivors. They all feel like living breathing people, each with their own morals and values. There’s a paranoid doctor, a hardened hunter, his somewhat hippie son, a couple ready to have a baby, a soft spoken man who gets overshadowed by the group, and even a naive girl who has been sheltered from the harsh realities of the zombie apocalypse. As Clem, you can choose to try and befriend these new people, use them, or keep them at a distance, but no matter what you won’t please all of them, and some of them are going to have to die. That’s just how the zombie apocalypse works.
There is one unfortunate hitch in the story, however, and that’s a small lack of immersion. You see, in season 1 Lee Everett came to serve as an avatar for your own morals and choices. As the game progresses, Lee became you. He made choices that you would have made. He did things that you would have done. Clementine, however, is not you. She is a character that you already interacted with in season 1 . As a result, you don’t really make decisions based on how you would react, but rather on how you think Clementine would react. It’s a perfectly valid way to play the game, but it just doesn’t feel quite as personal as season 1 did.
In addition, the biggest flaw with season 2 is its stability. When the game starts, it loads up your season 1 save file, or at least it tries. Even though I had a fully completed season 1 game, season 2 would not import my file. I fiddled with it for hours trying to get it to detect the complete game that I can very obviously see if I loaded up season 1 , but to no avail. I had to start season 2 with randomly generated choices, which kind of made everything I did in season 1 and 400 Days completely pointless.
The game is unstable in other ways as well. Character models would spaz out sometimes if they got to close walls. At one point, in the middle of a quick time event, my cursor completely disappeared and I needed to reload the game to make it appear again. Heck, the game flat out crashed right before the closing credit scene, which made me play the last section of the game twice. Expect more than a few bugs over the course of Clem’s story.
Despite its flaws, The Walking Dead: season 2: Episode 1 is still an outstanding game. It still makes you feel for its characters in ways no other game on the market does. It’s still one of the best examples of games as art our industry has to offer. In fact, this is perhaps the best piece of zombie fiction available right now. Yes, better than World War Z . Yes, better than Night of the Living Dead . If you are a fan of zombie fiction in general, you owe it to yourself to play this game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
A few graphical glitches and an out of place U.I. are the only thing keeping the game from a perfect score. 4.7 Control
The game controls perfectly and once again it’s only the glitches that keep this from getting a solid 5. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Everyone but Clem’s voice is perfect. It’s a shame Clem is the main character. 5.0 Play Value
Who am I kidding? Just get this game. It’s amazing. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|