Review: The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 1 - "All That Remains"
By Frank Hartnett on January 8th, 2014 (7 comments)
In 2012, Telltale Games released a game that would become one of the most beloved titles of this generation. Telltale surprised most of the gaming industry with their dark, emotional, and character driven take on the zombie apocalypse based on the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman. The first episode left many intrigued by the setting, but each subsequent episode blew audiences away with media outlets gladly handing Telltale awards by the truckload. With the resounding success of The Walking Dead, a sequel was sure to follow and, at last, it is in gamers' hands. Can The Walking Dead Season 2 live up to the expectations set by its ground breaking predecessor?
Season 2 properly starts 18 months after the events of Season 1 with a desperate Clementine forced to fend for herself. There was some concern as to how Season 2 would fair with a child protagonist, but most of the core elements still remain true. If anything, using a child protagonist is actually to the game's benefit as there are several situations throughout the episode that would be far easier if Clementine was simply an adult. This isn't used by Telltale as some arbitrary method of dumbing down the game or adding difficulty. Playing as Clementine is meant to invoke memories of Season 1. The game never wants the player to forget that first group and how much safer Clementine used to be.
Visually, the game still takes after the first season and retains its “comic book” style. The gameplay also remains largely the same with the exception of the interaction controls now becoming similar to The Wolf Among Us.Thankfully, Clementine did not inherit Lee's insistence of pointing out what an object is once the player selects it for interaction. Typically, when prompted to “look at object x”, Clementine will briefly examine the object and then determine if it is significant to her survival. As per any Telltale title, the voice acting is very well done. In particular, Melissa Hutchinson continues her fantastic performance as a Clementine who has definitely matured between seasons.
I wish I could say this episode was perfect, I really do. Unfortunately, Telltale's first episode into Season 2 does suffer from many glaring flaws in the most important category: writing. Simply put, the writing for this episode seems like a downgrade even from the first episode of last season. Several characters in the episode make idiotic or illogical decisions when they really should know better; especially after living in the apocalypse for approximately two years. The first hour of the episode, in particular, is filled with moments that made me facepalm every two minutes. I can see what the writers were trying to do, but their ideas are so poorly executed that it's almost as if this wasn't developed by Telltale. The hour of poorly executed scenes are made even worse by the fact “All That Remains” clocks in at only 90 minutes.
I can say there is one scene near the end of the episode that is fantastically executed in every aspect. Even now that one scene is playing over and over in my mind and will, probably, be the one stand-out scene many gamers remember from this episode. The final choice is also quite well done if players are able to fully grasp the situation and the many facets surrounding it. The finale could have been better; however, if the episode had just been as long as any previous episode. At least then, more time could have been given to the new characters that appear. As it stands, the new additions to the series are barely memorable and the finale fails to be a satisfying conclusion as a result.
Sadly, Telltale's follow up to their critically acclaimed The Walking Dead is off to a rocky start. Telltale may have improved upon the series technically, but the writing seems to have really suffered as a result. If there are only two good scenes in a story driven game, then there are definitely issues that need to be worked out. Perhaps Telltale has spread itself too thin with the multitude of projects they now have in development. Perhaps Telltale is just seeing dollar signs and trying to cash in on their most successful franchise. Whatever the reason may be, it is difficult to recommend a 90 minute episode that pales in comparison to anything from Season 1. If you haven't picked up The Walking Dead: Season 2 yet, my recommendation is to wait. I sincerely hope Telltale can improve with the next episode and that “All That Remains” just becomes a bump in the road.
Final Score: 6/10
Frank (Seisan) is a blog contributor and chat moderator over at 4Player. He specializes in analyzing the story telling, immersion, and consistency aspects of video games and also enjoys writing Fiction in his spare time. His favorite genres are RPGs, MMOs, and RTS'. Frank also specializes in having a chat name no one can pronounce correctly; nicknamed Seesaw as a result.
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