Telltale Games second trip into the massively popular zombie riddled world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Telltale’s first season was one of a handful of titles released in 2012 that really helped set a high water mark for story and scripting in video gaming. The shadow it casts is still a large one. Keeping that in mind, there’s no surprise that Season 2 suffers from a sophomore slump.
Clementine, the young survivor from season 1, is still on the road eighteen months after Season 1’s final episode, No Time Left. Rumors of a safe haven called Wellington are drawing many survivors north. Falling in with a new group who are on the run from despot Bill Carver. Tragically for Clem there are still hundreds of miles, thousands of walkers and nearly as many bandits between her and possible salvation.
Season two’s gameplay is just like Telltale’s other release so far this year, The Wolf Among Us. Gone are the puzzles but remaining are quicktime action sequences, one or two in each episode do provide a nice break from the handholding and near endless dialog sequences. Controls are not nearly as responsive as they should be for quicktime. It’s not a deal breaker, even if it doesn’t register as it should on first attempt you get more than enough time to do it again… and again when necessary. What could be a deal breaker is how there’s no variety in the events. It only consists of two types. Type one is Zombie Action!!!, in it you dodge zombies and occasionally kill one. These should be tense moments but they aren’t. At no point does it feel like Clem is actually in danger. Type two is a normal button jam, but again, even if you are pushing through a tightly confined space with a biter right on your ass… there’s just no feeling of immediate danger, you can stop and take a couple deep breaths, maybe even get yourself a cup of coffee and a quick catnap, before hitting the final input if you want. I don’t expect this series to turn into a hard core action title, it’s the last thing anyone playing it wants, but at least some sense of urgency would go a long way.
The other half of the title… I really can’t call “gameplay”. While there’s a great number of dialog options and some of the response times are really short, it’s too passive to be immersive. There’s also the fact that the constantly morphing group around Clem just aren’t very interesting. Where Season 1 really shined was in the character depths and story arcs for every member of the group, without losing site of the main relationship between Lee and Clem. Season 2 just keeps saddling you with disposables. While some have a good moment, it’s nearly impossible to care if they live or die. Ultimately, like all things in this franchise, it comes down to people acting like children and making the dumbest calls possible for cheap drama. The whole narrative relies on already caring about Clementine and if you go in without that, I don’t see it holding anyone’s interest for very long.
While Clem has some great dialog throughout the season and a couple of actual choices in the finale, everything else leading to it feels meaningless and artificial. There are more variables in play this time around but the majority of them don’t really affect anything. For example, there is a character who can die as early as Episode 2- A House Divided. His death or survival at that point has no consequence to later episodes outside of a line of dialog or two. Events are pretty much static. While Telltale’s thing has always been a single narrative that’s only slightly modified by the player’s responses there are just too many moments where it simply doesn’t matter.
The Walking Dead Season 2 suffers from far too much been there, done that. Honestly, the game pretty much boils down to just redoing highlights from Season 1, the TV series and the comic. There’s another pregnant survivor, there’s more guts smeared herd strolls, a violent dictator antagonist, characters acting like children because it’s easier to make drama by having everyone act like a bitch to each other instead of trying to survive. I do have to give Telltale credit for the ballsy move of putting us in Clem’s eleven year old shoes, as well as having us be largely ignored by the rest of the cast like a kid’s input would be, instead of casting players as a new protector/guardian for Clem. I can’t say that the whole short trip is worth it for the ending. Telltale seems to have made sure that this is the end of the road for Clementine’s tale, though I have no doubt she’ll pop up in someway in Season 3. No matter which of the three main variables you play out all have a nice finality to them and feel fairly fitting even if not truly satisfying. While it’s a rough patch in the series, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Season 3.
The Walking Dead: Season 2
Episode 1- All That Remains- 8/10
Episode 2- A House Divided- 7.5/10
Episode 3- In Harm’s Way- 5.5/10
Episode 4- Amid the Ruins- 6/10
Episode 5- No Going Back- 6/10