The Walking Dead Season Two: All That Remains PC Review
Grab your tissues, pour a glass of wine, and emotionally prepare yourself for another trip into the world of The Walking Dead. Developer Telltale‘s The Walking Dead Season 1 was a masterpiece of storytelling, and my personal game of the year in 2012. It would be a tall order for Season 2 to reach the incredible balance of story and gameplay of the previous game, but if any developer is equipped to handle the task, it is Telltale.
The Walking Dead Season 2 has followed in the footsteps of Mass Effect, and for those whom played Season 1, your save file will be used to color the plot of Season 2. Decisions the player made in the past will impact the world you explore making the experience unique to everyone. If you haven’t played Season 1, the game will make past decisions for you, though sadly there is no option to have any input on your idea of Clementine’s past. From there, it is a refined point and click adventure with Clementine as the protagonist this time around.
Little has changed in gameplay since Season 1, though the interface has been tidied up a bit. There are fairly simple puzzles to solve, and a few objectives that require some scavenging clicks or button presses, but the emphasis remains on the storytelling. Most of the important gameplay elements involve making split second dialogue decisions, and it is these decisions that will affect the plot the most and define what sort of person you see Clementine to be. While I am certain the decisions made in Season 1 will be very apparent in future releases, the first episode fails to really make good use of that promised feature.
Telltale’s signature cell-shaded look is on full display in The Walking Dead. It is an apt choice for a game based on a graphic novel, and it works well here. The visceral gore of stabbing an animal or stitching an open bloody wound is in no way diminished by this aesthetic choice. The shading and shadows are top-notch, and it is a completely believable world. There are some graphical hitches, however, with a framerate that inexplicably drops from time to time and lip-syncing that is sometimes off. With such an involving world and story, though, the technical issues do little to detract.
The voice acting is once again top-notch, and a little more subtle this time around. Gone is any character as broad as Larry from last season, and every character seems appropriately somber and cautious for someone who has been living through a zombie apocalypse for several years. Clementine is now two years older and a lot more hardened, and it is noticeable in both her tone and demeanor. She’s savvy enough to know when to threaten others, and when to use sad eyes to get her way, and voice actress Melissa Hutchison plays it all convincingly. The orchestral music is constant, and sets the somber mood effectively. It ramps up during tense moments and fades into the background during exploration. The sound of a crackling fire or a zombie’s head being smashed with a log are all fantastic and there are very few if any oral beats missed.
It has been some months since the events of Season 1, and the game begins on a quiet day in the woods. The story then punches you in the gut, rips out your heart, and stomps you into the ground. There is no holding back here, and there are very few wins for young Clementine. The Walking Dead, in any medium, is a difficult experience to endure. There is little hope in this apocalypse, and it would be so much easier to simply give up and take the easy way out. That’s what makes the story of Clementine so powerful. She is young and has been through so much in her short time, yet she continues to fight for every day she can. She’s resourceful and intelligent, and a capable survivor. It isn’t clear yet what the overarching plot of Season 2 will be other than simply surviving and finding a place in this world, but as a mood setter it is devastatingly effective.
Telltale have again shown that they are in a class by themselves in the realm of point and click adventures. A few technical glitches aside, this is an excellent game. It’s accessible to players who have never played a Telltale game and rewarding to those who have a vested interest in the character of Clementine. The vagueness of the overall plot is a little disappointing, but taken in context with the remaining pieces of Season 2 will probably seem much more appropriate. The Walking Dead remains a rich world with plenty of stories to tell. There are difficult ethical questions to tackle as the player decides what kind of young woman Clementine will become. The table is set for the rest of the season. I can’t wait to see what Telltale has in store for the main course.
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