Without a doubt, the most talked-about game of 2012 was The Walking Dead by Telltale Games. The game, a simplified point-and-click adventure with a focus on dialogue and story choices, struck a chord with its outstanding writing and genuinely gut-wrenching story twists. Now, the first episode of the second season, entitled All That Remains, has been released and it’s time to feel bad all over again.
All That Remains picks up a year and a half after the events of Season One. You’re playing as Clementine now. She’s a little older and a little tougher, but she’s also on her own. The central theme to this episode is the value and risks of trust in a dying world. This theme manifests in numerous relationships throughout, and play out in some very unexpected ways.
Aside from a couple of scenes near the end, zombies barely appear in this episode. In fact, the episode’s strongest moments have basically nothing to do with the walkers; sticking instead to exploring the dichotomy between staying alive versus preserving a sense of dignity, and how far one will go to do one or both. If you’ve played the previous season of this game (and if you haven’t, you really should), you’ll know that it doesn’t shy away from hard choices and dark material. Without giving away any details, rest assured that The Walking Dead has not lost its edge in Season 2 thus far.
Considering how much of the game occurs with Clementine on her own, Telltale does an incredible job of conveying a performance through many extreme closeups, showcasing the unsettlingly expressive face a young girl in increasingly awful situations. Lee, the protagonist of Season One, was a pretty standard video game character in that he played the traditional roles of leader and protector for Clementine and the rest of the group. He was not much different from, say, Shepard in Mass Effect.
With Clementine, her role in the game and as the player’s avatar is much more complicated. It’s a bold choice to have her front and center; the interactions she has with the world around her take on a much different dynamic by putting her fate and well-being directly into the player’s hands.
Gameplay is generally similar to that of the first season. It’s point-and-click adventure lite, with fail states interspersed throughout during action scenes. There are some context-based movement controls which is well-used, but Telltale is clearly sticking with what they know. The Walking Dead: Season 2 has the same visual style of its predecessor, modeled after the look of the comic. The storytelling however is far more dynamic, with much more of a confident directorial hand. Unlike the sparse, static environments from last season, this one features swaying grass, denser composition, effective use of shadows, and much better character movement, which serves to add to the already impressive storytelling toolbox that Telltale Games uses.
One of the common complaints about Season One was technical issues; specifically, corrupted saves. I played this on PC and had none of those issues, but the audio was at times poorly mixed. In one scene, I could barely hear the conversation going on because the rainstorm was too loud. I can’t say for sure if it was a choice on the part of the developer, but it was frustrating particularly considering the investment you are putting into the dialogue and story. The ending of this episode felt somewhat abrupt and rushed, especially considering the slow-burn pace for most of the story thus far. On the other hand it definitely left me thinking about all the ramifications of my choices in the continuation, so ‘mission accomplished’ I guess.
Upon reflection of what transpired in All That Remains, I’m feeling equal parts eagerness and dread with the continuation of Clementine’s journey. The dread comes from knowing that things have started off pretty rough for her, and I don’t anticipate them getting any better. Eagerness comes from not only the promise of discovering answers to the story’s mysteries that lie on the horizon, but from the realization and relief that the first season of The Walking Dead was no fluke.
[+Writing is as good as ever] [+Unexpected twists] [+Beautifully designed and directed] [+Complex lead character] [-Audio issues] [-Abrupt ending]