It’s back to the apocalypse for a second go-round in survival, betrayal, loyalty, scares, emotions, and regret.
GROWING UP IN THE APOCALYPSE
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 1
Telltale Games brings us back for a second season (with a third in development and also a spin-off close to debut) in The Walking Dead franchise, this time staring the first season’s companion character, Clementine. It’s a much different feel from season 1, with a fresh perspective and a different attitude.
Going back to season 1, playing as Lee, I ran through all 5 episodes as I believe that I would have myself. I gave mostly everyone the benefit of a doubt, I used compassion at every turn, and I never made rash decisions. Violence was a last resort, despite a brutal, unforgiving world. As Clementine, who is forced to grow up quickly, my outlook changed completely. My wife would often sit in on both seasons, offering her two cents and passing on her opinion on what she would have done. You see, she’s much more brutal when it comes to video game conscience.
Come season 2, I played like she would.
I’m not sure what changed, but perhaps I should give a little background on the title first. You play as Clementine, who is a young girl (approximately 9/10 years old) living in a world post-zombie outbreak. The zombies, called “Walkers,” can only be killed by taking severe and precise damage to the brain. The game’s main gameplay focuses on timely decision making through the use of quick-time events and dialogue boxes with multiple choice answers, as opposed to running around with a weapon free-style. If you haven’t played a game made by Telltale yet, you might have played something like Heavy Rain or Beyond Two Souls. It mirrors those titles very much so.
Back to my strategy. I decided I needed to be much colder this time, playing with calculated ruthlessness when needed and playing it safe at each turn. Is a given person about to screw me over? Not on my watch! Do I care about hurting someone’s feelings or if they will “remember that”? No way Jose. This was about me this time. Perhaps that is the difference – last time, I played to defend Clem each and every moment, as if I was her father. This time, I was Clem. This time, I needed to take care of myself.
The emotion that Telltale is able to pull out of the player is astonishing. It’s a video game, why would I care so much about each decision? Remorse is a common occurrence here, but it does not last long before it’s time to make another gut-wrenching choice.
One aspect of season 2 that made certain choices potentially easier is the weaker supporting cast. Though you come across a character or two from that first season, there’s no one here I really cared about, no one that I needed to stick my neck out for. Call it heartless, but play the game and come back to me. Despite all of the drama of the first season, I connected with those characters with a much greater depth. There’s also a few more groups of people you run into here in season 2, so the fact that I was meeting so many people in so little time could have factored in.
The Walking Dead: Season 2 is a gorgeous game, showing off a vast array of comic book-y colors in all of its cell-shaded glory. The infamous game engine used to power the game episode-to-episode is still a let down, at times running smoother than last season and at times halting the game completely. It unfortunately became a spoiler of sorts, as I knew the action was about to pick up right after a 5-10 second freeze on-screen. That is unacceptable for a game that relies on those big moments. I am pleased to say the controls handle better than before, with over sensitivity no longer being an issue. For example, I was able to target Walkers or on-coming enemies with much more precision. It rarely, if ever caused me to misfire and face the consequences of an untimely, gory death.
Heading into the season, I was a bit worried that Clementine wouldn’t hold up on her own as a standout character. I couldn’t be sure that she would be strong enough or even interesting enough to be a lead character. Though she isn’t without her faults, I loved how far she has come in such a short period of time, from a little girl that relied on a father-figure to survive, to a stronger, independent character that is able to make increasingly solid, intelligent choices. Her maturity has come a long way and she certainly earns my praise.
The five episodes that comprise of season 2 feature different pacing, for better or worse. I wasn’t hooked or pulled into the world as quickly as I was in season 1’s amazingly superb first episode. There are times in episode 2 and most of episode 3 that are just drawn out too much. I lost focus more than I should have. Towards the mid-to-late portion of episode 3, the pacing picked up considerably and I couldn’t wait to binge through the rest of the season like a new favorite Netflix show.
Despite the challenge of the choices to be made, I felt they ultimately didn’t hold as much weight as they did in season 1 and as time went on, I was proved right. What I did find interesting was the end of episode decision recap, which shows your choices in major events versus that of all others who played the game. For example, you might have chosen option A along with 50% of players, while 50% of players picked option B. In season one, I was in the middle frequently. I was surprised to find out that I was in the vast minority in a lot of cases (sometimes making a choice only 20% of players had), particularly in the latter parts of the season, when decisions really counted. This goes right along with what I wrote about earlier in the review and seems to show that most players played the same way they did in season one, while I experienced a complete 180. Make sure if you talk to a friend about the game that you aren’t spoiling anything, but look forward to comparing your choices with theirs, launching a sure-to-be interesting debate on who was right or wrong.
The Walking Dead: Season 2 fails to live up to the high precedent set by its predecessor, but is still a remarkable game and one that is worthy of your time. It stands up nicely, whether on its own or as a strong sequel to a game that many outlets had pegged as their Game of the Year.
+ Gorgeous, colorful, cell-shaded glory.
+ Though the relationship of Lee & Clem is the highlight of season 1, Clem is a good lead character on her own in season 2.
+ Despite seeming lack of weight or long term effects of decisions, the ending will certainly make you second-think your last choice.
– Game engine is still a mess at times.
-Slow pacing at times results in lack of engagement.
-Supporting cast of characters not as strong or memorable as first season.
Josiah LeRoy is The Host of The Geekiverse Show. He is SO excited for Telltale’s upcoming Batman game. Today marks the debut of The Geekiverse Show, check it out on our official Youtube channel – please like and subscribe!
The Walking Dead – Season 2 was reviewed on the Xbox One. It is also available for PC, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, Playstation Vita, and iOS.