Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” is back with a brand new season filled with hard choices and even harder consequences. I should start off by saying that this review won’t have spoilers for the first episode of season two, but it might contain spoilers for season one. I hope you remember that.
Season one of Telltale’s zombie adventure game left players in a pretty dark place and season two kicks off by diving a little further into that darkness. As if we could somehow forget the way things spiraled out of control last season, Telltale sets out to remind us that this is a bad world right from the start.
The first episode of the new season, called “All that Remains”, is a brief excursion back into “The Walking Dead” universe. My total playtime came in around an hour and a half and while it seemed short, it felt densely packed. From the onset the game grabs you by the hair and drags you through one gut wrenching moment after another.
I don’t want to give away too much, because the game is so short, but the story picks up over a year after the events of the first game. Clementine is taking the lead role this time around and it’s readily apparent that she’s grown a bit. Not only is she a little taller, but her voice is slightly different. It’s a change that can be startling at first, but once you get past the differences it’s clear that this is still the same old Clem.
And while Clem might have grown, the world has largely stayed the same. Around every corner is a new danger and, more often than not, it’s the humans you have to be wary of. And with a new game comes a whole new batch of characters to suss out.
For some, it’ll be painfully obvious which are going to be troublemakers. Others will be less obvious and, as the game teachers you early on, the bonds you think you’re forming might be one-sided. There’s a moment in the game where the developer toys with the players need to find a new companion and just when you think you’ve found a friend, they pull the rug from under you and remind you not to let your guard down. It’s a horrific moment that damn-near killed any hope I had of good things happening in this universe. I’m not ashamed to say that I had to pause the game for a moment because I was too choked up.
All of the tricky relationship building in the first game is present in this one as well, but now it all takes place from the perspective of a kid. And that makes for a unique dynamic which allows you to use your childlike innocence as a tool of manipulation. In one exchange you find yourself trying to win people over and the game gives you the option to use your puppy dog eyes. I personally didn’t do that, because my Clem isn’t that kind of kid.
That brings us back to the star of the show, Clementine. The events that took place in the previous season were dire enough to sour anyone’s outlook on life. Being in control of Clem allows the player to express that by dictating how Clem reacts. Is she now a mute, determined to remain silent after the horrific events? Or is she bitter and quick to snap at people? Perhaps, like my Clem, she’s still the same plucky girl that is good to a fault. I feared that playing as her would take away some of the magic that made the first game so remarkable, but for me, the relationship built between the player and Clem is still present and as strong as ever. It’s weird to say this about a virtual person, but I know a lot of people formed a bond with the character and it’s a relief to see that it has transcended the necessity of having an avatar (Lee) as a middleman for the player and the character of Clem.
And how does the previous season factor into this new game? How does that story connect to this one and does the save file transfer over? It would appear that it does, but there wasn’t a major revelation in this chapter that called back to what we had accomplished in the previous game. Beyond a short intro which showed a few highlights of your actions, there didn’t seem to be a huge impact on this new season. Strangely, the biggest connection between this game and the last is a brief appearance of characters from the 400 Days DLC. Perhaps as time goes on we’ll see more elements of the previous season bleeding in to this one.
Beyond the story elements, the mechanics of the game remain largely the same, though it’s presented in a prettier package. The UI has been redone and icons now look sleek and modern. Meanwhile, the gameplay still has you investigating areas to find clues or items that you need to progress the story. Action moments are centered on you rapidly mashing buttons or sliding the joysticks around to dodge zombies. It’s still all very simplistic, but you can tell that they put some thought into its presentation. Overall, it’s a slight improvement over the last season and is fitting for the way a child would maneuver in this world.
Despite its short runtime, the first episode of season two is definitely a triumphant return to the Walking Dead series. Now the question becomes whether or not this series will sustain its momentum and craft a story worthy of being a successor to the first season. I have hope that it will, but hope can be a dangerous thing in the world of “The Walking Dead”. If the first episode is any indication, this is easily on track to be another finely crafted roller coaster of pain, anguish, and hope.
“The Walking Dead Season 2: All that Remains” is currently available on Steam, PS3, and XBox 360 for $4.99
I’m giving away one Steam code for the first episode. If you’d like to win the code, then be sure to leave a comment down below telling me about your favorite moment from the first season. I’ll be picking a winner on Thursday the 19th at noon pacific time.