I’ve been eagerly anticipating Telltale’s The Walking Dead returning for quite some time now. I’m a huge fan of the comic book and TV Show, and when it was first announced Telltale would be creating a video game based on creator Robert Kirkman’s world I was intrigued by the prospect of a game focused more on ethics and decision making than “aim gun fire”.
Not to say that isn’t fun, its just that Kirkman’s The Walking Dead has always been more about the characters, the decisions they make and the eventual repercussions, be they good or soul shatteringly devastating, and so a game that focused on that seemed more in keeping stylistically.
With Season One of Telltale’s game, they managed to create an incredibly beautiful, emotional and poignant gaming experience with memorable characters and situations that really made you choose what was often the least bad of two painful decisions. It was a triumph in empathy, creating two incredible lead characters in Lee and Clementine who’s relationship was the emotional anchor that really held the game in reality. Although for me I found to perhaps not have quite the same emotional resonance, it did definitely deliver in continuing the interesting narrative that is there for the player to create, and give the player heartwrenching decisions to mull over. The first two seasons together are wonderful, and I urge anyone who has not played these games yet to play them before reading this review, as not only will I may potentially be covering some spoilerific ground for the previous two seasons, but they are games that are worth everyone’s time. In this review I will be discussing both episodes one and two which were simultaneously released.
The game begins not by following on from where Season 2 left off, but by introducing new characters. We meet Javier Garcia and his family shortly before the outbreak, which I found to be particularly refreshing for this season. Although I did enjoy Season 2 I did find it to be not quite so powerful or individual as Season 1 was, so by providing us with new characters that are genuinely interesting and have their own rough relationship, it’s like jumping into a fresh new game again. And this lack of linearity in the storytelling also brings a freshness to the game. We don’t see immediately what happened to Clementine right after Season 2, we are instead treating to flashbacks, slowly piecing together how she got to where she is now, and how she managed to meet with our new protagonist in Javier. I was initially skeptical about having a predominantly new cast appear in the game, however as stated it does work to the game’s advantage. As with previous Seasons the characters, even the tertiary ones, do feel very organic and believable in their decisions, wants and personalities, which ultimately leads to interesting interactions of dialogue and action.
The narrative and the pacing aren’t the only things that I found have been improved. With the cutscenes I found the editing and the direction to be very interesting as well, as though watching something from an actual TV series. This added attention to detail really helps in the building of atmosphere, be it the horror of an imminent threat, or by using more nuanced angles during the quieter scenes. This coupled with the noticeable improvement in the visuals from past seasons makes this game on a technical level must stronger than its predecessors. I would perhaps prefer a bit more exploration and item using within the game, something I have always wanted a bit more of in the past, but I do understand that this is very much a narrative driven experience, so this should only be something considered provided the pacing of the story is not hurt by it. The story definitely outweighs the gameplay as it has with previous seasons, so if you’ve been a fan of the game up until now you can expect more attention to narrative.
As with previous episodes the game also offers hard decisions and shocking moments, pretty much from the get go. Life has truly been breathed back into this game with new twists and turns and unexpected moments. This is something that I feel the TV show could actually take notes from, as Telltale managed to create a taught gaming experience with action, depth and horror without relying heavily on blood and gore, something that Telltale’s latest Season continues in grand tradition.
So my spoiler free analysis of the return of Telltale’s The Walking Dead is that it truly is a return to form, by giving us new characters to be intrigued by, new locations to visit whilst still being a continuation of one of gaming’s most gripping ongoing narratives. On a technical level it shines brighter than its predecessors, and much like with previous episodes, Episode 2 of this Season has me counting down the days before I can find out the consequences of what just happened.
Any future reviews of these episodes I will delve more deeply into what preceded each episode and examine the episode as a whole, but for this I wanted to ensure the fans that Telltale’s The Walking Dead is back, and it is definitely worth your time returning for another Season.
Episode 1: 8.5/10
Episode 2: 8/10
By James Burch