Grab a bottle of whiskey and brace yourself for some emotional trauma, because Season 2 of Telltale Games’ thoroughly excellent “Walking Dead” adventure game is upon us. Season 1 was my game of the year 2012, and despite one major flaw its DLC “400 Days” was largely very good, so does this new season meet the same standards? Note that this review will contain spoilers for the ending of Season 1. If you haven’t played and finished it, go and do so now. It’s alright. I’ll wait.
Set a bit over sixteen months after the end of Season 1, Season 2 puts you in the role of Clementine- the genuinely awesome and lovable little girl you were charged with protecting last time around. Slightly older and far wiser than before, she is now tasked with surviving in the zombie apocalypse, both alone and with a new group, and that’s all I can say plot-wise without veering into spoiler territory. Clem is just as likable here, and the decision to change the player’s role from teaching Clem how to survive through another player character to directly controlling Clem herself is a great one. It does feel like a natural progression to the events of Season 1. The story is largely set-up but has some genuinely harrowing, horrible moments that give you a severe punch in the gut, and the whole thing works well as a bridge between the end of Season 1 and the episodes of Season 2 that are still to come. Clem’s character is, obviously, player determined but can be any mix of her Season 1 sweet, kind attitude and a colder, more serious tone. There are a few references to Season 1, mainly in regards to Lee’s death, how it’s effected Clem and their relationship in the first game. The references are nice, but there aren’t so many as to alienate new players and said new players should have no problem picking the story up here. Having said that, I haven’t seen how “400 Days” ties into this season, but I guess that’s still to come.
Gameplay wise it plays a lot like Telltale’s recent “The Wolf Among Us” (episode 1 of which I reviewed a little while ago): it’s a point and click adventure game with action scenes that use quick time events and contextual actions. The HUD shows what you can do and interact with clearly and, like Season 1, solutions to problems are often straightforward or at the very least logical. A new action has been added in the form of holding down a button and moving the analogue stick to perform certain actions, but it isn’t used much. The fighting system is more involving than Season 1, and overall it controls well. The graphics have had a boost, also, and the cel-shaded look is still gorgeous (in a bleak, sparse way given the setting) but with added sharpness. Of course the main parts of the gameplay are the conversations and choices you have to make, and they’re back with a vengeance. Conversations still provide a range of interesting options often set to a tight time limit, and the choices are still hard to make- harrowing and set to that same panic-inducing time limit. I will say, however that the choices in this episode did seem easier when compared to some of the ones in Season 1, but that’s not really a problem as such.
There was one main problem I had with this episode, and that was a distracting but not game breaking glitch. Long story short at one point Clem is sneaking around a cabin looking for certain supplies, being careful not to alert the occupants of said cabin. All of whom were downstairs. While searching the upstairs rooms I found said characters standing motionless in the rooms, staring into space. They couldn’t see me and I simply phased through them if I walked up to them, seeing as their models weren’t supposed to be there. As I said, this wasn’t game breaking, but it definitely pulled me out of the experience. Fortunately it didn’t last long.
Overall, “All That Remains” is excellent. The control system carried over from “The Wolf Among Us” is still great, the graphics are sharper and the great storytelling and emotional gut punches are still in full effect. That glitch was annoying but not nearly enough of a problem to seriously alter my opinion of this episode, and this is a must for anyone who can handle the bleak, brutal world and story shown here. Between this and the remaining episodes of “The Wolf Among Us”, 2014 is going to be pretty well covered for great stories told well.
Now if you excuse me, I need a sit down and a strong drink.
By James Lambert