Ryan’s Late Review: Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 2

Walking Dead Season 2: B+  An excellent continuation of Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 1

Before considering playing this or any other Telltale game, it is important to note that is an interactive drama game.  Interactive dramas are a unique drama that focuses on storytelling over standard gameplay.  Instead of focusing on excellent shooting or fighting mechanics, or grand spectacles or cinematic action sequences, interactive drama instead focus on presented a well-crafted story.  This is not a game where you sit on the edge of your seat rapidly pressing buttons as you attempt to conquer that final irritating boss.  This is not a game where you shoot 15-45 terrorists with your realistic SMG then watch a cinematic action cutscene. These games are not like Call of Duty or Halo, and if you play with that mentality you will not enjoy yourself.

This is not meant to be a criticism of all other video game genres and a snobbish endorsement of interactive dramas as the “future of video games.”  I have my own criticisms of this genre as you can see here https://doddthoughts.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/interactive-drama-wasted-potential-2/ .  It is necessary to understand how different these games are than most other games.  Minor spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2 cannot be avoided in this review.

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The story picks up right where Season 1 left off.  In the conclusion of Season 1, Lee, Clementine’s protector, shows Clementine basic survival skills before ultimately succumbing to zombie virus.  Clementine begins with a woman from the former group named Christa but is quickly separated by bandits.  In her attempts to find food, she is attacked by a rabid dog and passes out from blood loss.  Fortunately, she is rescued by another group of humans and taken back to camp.  They don’t believe that it was dog bit, not a walker bite.  Clementine is locked in a shed in order to prevent her from attacking anyone if she turns.  She is forced to sneak out and steal medical supplies from the group in order to prevent her bite from infecting.  This proves to the group she’s not a zombie and that she has survival skills.

Without spoiling any more of the story, the rest of the season focuses on the choices and survival of this group.  They are searching for a place to stay and are on the run from a man named Carver (excellently voiced by Michael Madsen).  As the group focuses on survival, they are faced with tough decisions.  Clementine must help make sure the group stays together and determine who can and cannot be trusted.

You play as Clementine, a twelve-year-old girl.  Clementine was the second main character in the first season.  In the first season you played as Lee and spent a majority of your time protecting Clementine from the walkers and trying to preserve her innocence.  I was a little apprehensive at first of playing as a twelve-year-old girl in this horrid world.  It was fine in the first season as an adult male, but I wasn’t sure about it playing as Clementine.  I was worried it’d either be far too depressing or completely unrealistic.  Fortunately, my fears were quickly relieved.  Clementine is both well acted and well written.  Her character arc from scared little girl to hardened young adult is phenomenal and realistic.  The whole story hinges on Clementine and it succeeds exceptionally.

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The other characters are also written and acted well.  Michael Madsen is excellent as a reoccurring villain.  His deep gravelly voice fills every sentence with menace.  A character from the first season, who I won’t spoil, reappears unexpectedly and provides a lot of intrigue with him.  Everyone else in the group, from the pregnant woman to the wild loner girl, is realistic and heartbreaking.  They commit both heroic and heinous acts, but they all stem from realistic choices and feelings.  I found Sarah to be the most heartbreaking character.  Sarah is a young girl like Clementine, but that’s where the similarities end.  Sarah has not had to go through the hardships that Clementine has.  Her father sheltered her from all the horrors of this post apocalyptic world. As a result, she is innocent and youthful.   My first instincts were that she needed to grow up to survive, but then I just felt sorry for her and Clementine.  This giggly, bubbly girl is who Clementine should be at this age.  She shouldn’t be this hardened person, she should be an innocent girl.

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Like the TV show, this season focuses on the question of what it means to be human and how much of that humanity would you sacrifice to survive.  Would you abandon a pregnant woman because she’s slowing you down?  Would you save one person at the risk of many?   The great thing about this game is that the answer is different for every person.

Unlike the first season, which ended with a passing of the torch moment,  the second season culminates in a tense struggle between two very different people and viewpoints.  I can’t say much more without entering spoiler territory, but it is ultimately much less satisfying and left me wanting more.

There’s not a whole lot to say about gameplay.  Most of the game is choosing dialogue and watching your choices unfold.  There are a few puzzles, but much less than the first season.  The action occurs through QTEs.  Your reaction to these QTEs show your immersion in the game.  My wife and I both winced as Clementine was forced to stitch herself up without pain medication.  The hard part is not just watching it but also having to repeatedly press the buttons to make her do it and hear her cry out in pain.  My heart beat rapidly and my breath even slowed as Clementine and the group walked slowly through a herd of walkers.  It’s moments like these that make the game really stand out.

The only minor complaint is that the puzzles take away from the immersion.  During the game, Clementine will be tasked to look for supplies, which means you as the player have to click on every object until you find the right one.  Spending fifteen to twenty minutes (I’m bad at puzzles, ok?) searching for a random key or item, really takes away from focusing on the story and your group dynamic.

The graphics are the same as any other Telltale game.  The facial animations are excellently done, the mouths sync to the words nicely, and the comic book style is as good as ever.  The music is gorgeous, mostly low strings to highlight the dark mood.

To conclude, if you’re a fan of Telltale games then you will absolutely love this game.  It’s an excellent, if somewhat depressing, story with realistic characters.  You are forced to make heart-wrenching decisions.  More than once, I made a decision and immediately second guessed it.  Clementine is an engaging lead character and she is supported by a fantastic well-rounded cast.

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