It’s been a little over a year since Telltale Games finished releasing their critically acclaimed and commercially successful adaptation of the Robert R. Kirkman series, The Walking Dead. And with this follow-up, comes the questions and concerns as to whether or not, Telltale Games will be able to live up to the greatness that was season one. Are they off to a good start?
Season two picks up not too far after the final events of season one. Former writers Sean Vannaman, Mark Darin and Gary Whitta are no longer with Telltale, so it’s left up to new series writer and penman of The Walking Dead: 400 Days, Nick Breckon to get things started on a high note. I’d say he mostly succeeds. The game places you in the character of Clementine, the 8-year old from the first season whom you were responsible for protecting. But now 3 years later and without Lee, you must learn to survive in this world alone. The game wastes no time reminding you what a harsh world this is, before flashing forward 16 months. The decision to stay with Clementine and make her the central character was a good one and it feels great to be part of her growth. It also feel refreshing to be controlling an 11-year-old as this is something rare in gaming and leads you to feeling a lot more vulnerable.
The game introduces a new cast of characters who take Clementine in and for various reasons, find it hard to trust her. I instantly found myself intrigued by this new group of survivors and can’t wait to learn more of their backstory. But, this first episode is mostly Clementine’s story though and leaves little room to explore the rest of the cast. With that said, I see a lot of potential with what is presented here and early seeds of a mysterious figure named Carver leaves a lot to look forward to.
Telltale Games’ are traditionally known as being a bit buggy and unfortunately, with Season Two, not much has changed. The game still has frame-rate issues and is filled with moments where the game stutters. And there was actually a really bad bug I experienced, in the latter section of the game. Without getting into too much detail, I was sneaking into a house and I walked into two separate rooms where characters, I was supposed to stay hidden from, were standing in the middle of the room. But they took no notice of me. I went in, retrieved what I needed to, without them even speaking a word. Clearly the characters were not supposed to be in those rooms, but oddly they were. Telltale is a smaller company that is growing and with their newfound success, these graphical hiccups and bugs shouldn’t be an issue. The game isn’t very complex in its graphics or gameplay, so the lack of polish is definitely disappointing and something that hopefully will be remedied, in later episodes. For reference sake, I played the game on a Playstation 3, so these issues may or may not exist on other platforms.
But it’s not all negative. Telltale went with an interesting visual aesthetic with these Walking Dead games and the series looks better than ever. The characters models and world look a lot more detailed and colorful and there’s less of the silly looking eye movement that plagued the first season.
Fans of the series know, that the Walking Dead series is all about simple, barebone gameplay mechanics. This is not a series for the action crowd but for those seeking more narrative driven games. The gameplay lies in making decisions. You’re able to form Clementine through player choice and it really makes the player feel like they’re forming their own version of this story. And you are. Season two carries over the player choices you made in season one and the one-off episode, 400 Days. It does this by searching for a save file when you start a new game. If you don’t have a save file, it automates those choices for you. How the choices made in season one carry over, remains to be seen, but it’s exciting to know it will.
The mechanics are largely untouched, as you still have your movement stick, your reticle stick and various actions buttons. There are slight interface upgrades and a few added, directional commands to the actions sequences but it’s mostly superficial additions. But why fix, what isn’t broke? This is interactive gameplay design that feels perfect for this franchise.
Verdict: 7.5 out of 10
I’m fully invested in Clementine, now more than ever, and the cliffhanger ending left me anxious to see where this story goes. Being able to form Clementine’s personality feels natural and I found myself playing her as a person who is evolving. But the game leaves it up to you to form her personality. It’s that freedom that makes these games shine. Although the writing can be a little weak at times, the writers always seem to be able to pull off the moments that matter. This is a dark world, full of hopelessness and they continue to do a fine job expressing that. Hopefully, Telltale takes a little more time to polish up future episodes, so that technical issues don’t keep getting in the way of their storytelling.