The first episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead adaptation in Season One was met with general scepticism. The adventure-game studio didn’t exactly come into the series with a stellar track record when working with big-name franchises. In all honesty what Telltale were offering seemed to be a budget option in regards to taking the hit American television show to console gaming.
How wrong we all were. The tale of Lee and Clementine scooped ‘Game of the Year’ at the VGA’s and was voted 2012’s best Action-Adventure title by our community, and is cited not only as a great release of the current generation, but also as a hallmark for the development of interactive drama.
Please note that there will be some spoilers for Season One from here on.
All That Remains
Lee’s role in Season One was not merely to ensure Clementine’s survival, but to teach her to survive in a dangerous world, and this theme is explored heavily in Episode 1 – All That Remains. We’re no longer controlling a strong, agile and cunning man anymore – Clementine is wise beyond her years, but she’s still a child in size and Telltale make you feel her lack of bodily strength.
Each fight in this opening episode feels cagey, tense and tough – a far cry from the axe-swinging heroics Lee showed off in previous episodes. The pacing this time around is brilliant – you’re never far away from jeopardy, but there’s enough time spent quietly to make danger feel impactful and potentially avoidable. The game’s writers seem to love lulling you into a false sense of security, and, time and time again, All That Remains’ tense moments take you by surprise.
It’s devoted to introducing Clementine as a new protagonist and engaging with a new cast of characters. Thus, you’d potentially be forgiven for questioning this season’s potential to build and crush relationships, offer up an all-encompassing story arc and deliver on nail-biting action.
Considering how much ground this opener has to cover, however, it can only be viewed upon as a resoundingly strong start for Season 2.
A House Divided
Arguably Telltale’s best Walking Dead episode yet, A House Divided is an utterly engaging two-hour haul that sets up the season expertly. Once again it’s paced perfectly, but the intricate subtleties of relations with your fellow survivors drives the narrative brilliantly. The Walking Dead remains at its best not during the action sequences – which are often let down by issues with frame-rate – but you’re choosing how you interact with the people that surround you.
This time around in particular, choices aren’t as maddeningly black and white as choosing who to save and who to kill. A House Divided sees you choose who to warm to and who to ignore; Clementine is held back by her innocence no longer and has become every bit as saintly or cold as you want her to be.
The events of Season One certainly don’t feel insignificant either. Choices made from when we were in control of Lee don’t appear to affect the narrative in any grand fashion yet, however, the events of the first season hang heavy on Clementine. With that said, the second season doesn’t feel held back by the fact that it has to adhere to and reference past events.
A House Divided is an experience that will make you terrifically excited to see what Telltale have to offer with the rest of this season. It’s character studying, nail-biting action and tough choices make for a gripping ride.
The Story So Far
Two episodes in and Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season Two is, in the opinion of this writer, the best it’s ever been. The writing on offer far surpasses that of The Walking Dead television show and is perhaps only bettered by The Last of Us in recent gaming memory.
What excites me so much about what Telltale are doing with this series is that The Walking Dead: Season 2 feels like a sign of where the gaming industry is going. Gameplay takes a back seat and this type of ‘interactive drama’, for me, has the power to re-imagine how the general public views the industry as a whole.
The Last of Us remains perhaps the only game to perfectly marry gameplay and narrative in one experience, but Telltale prove developers needn’t have the technical mastery possessed by Naughty Dog to construct a narrative that takes priority over gameplay.
Telltale feel like one of the most important developers in the world right now, and Season Two of The Walking Dead, on the evidence supplied thus far, will be up for Game of the Year awards aplenty come the end of 2014.