Telltale really don’t make it easy to talk about this game – its title is quite the mouthful.
I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead since picking up my first graphic novel back in 2009. A birthday present from a good friend of mine, I quickly grew to love the gruesome artwork and the gripping narrative. A year later and I found myself thrilled / slightly nervous of the upcoming televised version of my favourite graphic novel series. Thankfully, AMC done good and they translated The Walking Dead uinverse perfectly on to our television screens. Jump forward to 2012 and Telltale Games, the geniuses behind the Monkey Island series (to name but a few), have released their own imagining of The Walking Dead, following the graphic novel’s narrative and keeping in line with the original artwork. The series was met with mass praise and it was by far the best game I’d played in 2013 (and it still remains one of my favourite games of all time). How so? You might ask. Well, there was so much to love. It had a gripping story that constantly left you wanting more. It reminded me of my childhood, reading through the old Goosbumps books with the, ‘turn to page 20 if you chose scenario A’ style of storytelling. It made you feel as though you were shaping the story and deciding the fate of this group of survivors. The characters were engaging and the voice acting was enthralling, dragging you into the narrative as the story pushed forward. All of this was coupled with moments of pure joy, horror, suspense, fear and a healthy dose of trauma that left me but a shell of a man for a good few hours after playing. So, when I heard the news that Telltale were developing a second season to the series, (seeing how they’d left the ending of the first on such a cliff-hanger), I was understandably on the edge of my seat.
I spent the majority of the 18th of December refreshing my Xbox Live dashboard waiting for the title to be released on the marketplace. I had even plugged in my old 360 because they’ve not yet released a current-gen equivalent. I waited patiently, doing work or anything that would kill the time. Finally, it was there; ‘Season Two, Episode One – All That Remains’. Whilst I waited for it to download, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Who would we be playing as? When would it be set? My questions dragged on as the percentage bar edged forward in the eternity that I’ve come accustomed to, thanks to my slow download speed. Once it had finally downloaded and I had clicked ‘start game’, I was greeted with a ‘previously on The Walking Dead’. Short clips flashed on the screen, featuring the highlights from the last game – I was able to watch my decisions unfold as the game read through my save file and gave me the highlight reel of my own personal playing experience. The flashback ended and I was quickly brought back to the present, a month or so on from the ending of the first season. From now on, I will avoid spoilers the best I can, but I will still tell you a bit about the first episode of the second season.
The biggest revelation in this season is that you play as Clementine, the brilliant supporting character form the first season, wonderfully voiced by Melissa Hutchinson. In the first season, Clementine was the voice of youth and naivety, a welcome contrast to the otherwise overwhelmingly dark story and the serious tones of the main, and only playable character, Lee Everett (fantastically voiced by Dave Fennoy). In the second season, however, this dynamic has shifted somewhat. Clementine is still young, but she now seems to be a young woman rather than a little girl. Much like Lara Croft form the Tomb Raider series, she exudes an aura of strength and sensibility, yet, at the same time, you can still see that childish flair in her character. This was a bold move by Telltale Games. It isn’t often that a game series chooses a female protagonist, let alone a teenage girl and especially not in a game with such adult themes. It could well have blown up in their face, but in a way, it’s a refreshing change seeing the apocalypse through the eyes of a person who’s already going through the toughest time of their life – that transformation into adulthood, with the overwhelming feeling of being left in the voids of the teenage years. In the first episode, I thoroughly enjoyed playing as Clem, but whether it will remain that way is yet to be seen. My favourite aspect of the first season was the ability to shape the group’s future through the major decisions Lee had to make. As Clem, these decisions won’t be left up to you, rather you’ll be watching the events unfold, instead of actively shaping them yourself. That being said, I get the feeling that as Clem we’ll have to manipulate the people around her to change the situation and ensure her survival, rather than being the one that makes the final call. I think that this could be a brilliant way of seeing The Walking Dead series, more often than not the children have played a supporting role, so it could be quite refreshing to see the apocalypse through the eyes of a young teen.
The episode itself, as any fan of Telltale’s The Walking Dead game series would have guessed, was emotionally jarring. I felt drained by the end of it, having spent most of it on the edge of my seat, or peering through my fingers. Throughout the episode, the storyline picks you up and then drops you flat on your face. It gives you a bone, and then snatches it away to bludgeon you across the head with it. It gives you the slightest snippet of hope, and then drains it all out of you in a matter of seconds. But that seems to be Telltale’s MO these days, and boy do they do it well. This episode is by far my favourite yet, and if the ‘next time on The Walking Dead’, flash foward at the end of the episode is anything to go by, this series will be going from strength to strength. We were only briefly introduced to the new characters in the season, but it’s safe to assume that they’ll be playing a larger role throughout the series. The first episode was well worth the small price-tag, but you can tell that it isn’t the best Telltale have to offer. Much of it was spent introducing new characters and setting up the new story, so I’m sure that the next episodes will only increase in awesomeness.
Developer: Telltale Games
Games Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, PlayStation Vita, Ouya
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Player Modes: Single Player