The Walking Dead: Season Two Episode 1 – All That Remains
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: 04/22/2014
Previously on Telltale’s The Walking Dead….
Telltale hit the mother lode. Not only did the first season of The Walking Dead sell like crazy, it was also a critical darling. Some sites even gave it game of the year. A second season was inevitable, but potentially tricky. You see, almost the entire cast from season one died a horrible death. Whether it was eaten by zombies, shot by other humans, or even eaten by other humans (as a fun twist), they’ve all bought the farm. Even Lee, the main character, didn’t get out alive.
Undaunted by the lack of characters, Telltale has decided to focus season two on Clementine, the little girl that stole the hearts of so many during the first season. This means you’re now directly playing as an eleven year old girl in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. While she might not seem like the typical hero, Clementine has the potential to make season two an even more gripping experience.
The first two episodes have been out on other platforms for awhile, but now it’s the Vita’s turn.
All That Remains is an apt title for the first episode, seeing as Clementine and a couple of others are all that’s left from the first season cast. The game starts off with an introduction sequence to remind you what kind of world this game takes place in, and then skips forward a bit. Over a year after season one ended, Clementine finds herself alone and unarmed. The story is one of character growth. Whereas before she would hide until an adult found her, now she scavenges and explores like a seasoned pro. When meeting new people, Clementine stays guarded and alert. If she sees a zombie in her path, she’ll take a hammer to it. Our little girl is growing up.
Episode 1 is mostly about setting the season up. After getting us reacquainted and having us make a few tough decisions, it focuses on meeting new people. This new group is fairly small, but interesting. You’ve got the good old boy, the angry pregnant lady, the doctor, the doctor’s clueless daughter, and others. Like I said, it’s all setup, so the big moments are down the pipeline. As a setup, the story does quite well. These new people never overshadow Clementine, and the focus is on how she interacts with them. While the consequences of your actions are often overstated, it’s certainly interesting to have Clem react in different ways to the various scenarios. Of course, the smart money is that most of these new relationships will end in disaster, so it’s a little harder to get attached this time around.
Visually, season two looks noticeably better than season one. Character models are cleaner and animate better without losing that comic book feel that serves the series so well. The color palette has also been upgraded. Each location and character feels richer and pops off the screen. It almost makes the first game seem dull by comparison. The framerate on the Vita version is still stuck in the old ways though. It often dips and even stalls during specific scenes. Usually this can be attributed to the game struggling to save and/or load. Either way, it’s no less distracting and annoying when it pops up. It’s a shame, because the technical issues were less prevalent in other versions of the game. The Vita has gotten the short end of the stick.
When you have a game like this that relies so heavily on voice acting for its exposition, it’s important that that voice acting be at lest tolerable. A bad voice actor can kill a character far easier than a herd of blood thirsty zombies. Fortunately, the cast here is up to the task. New and old voices alike do great jobs of bringing their characters to life. Clementine, as the star, is the lynchpin. As the character has grown up, so has the voice acting. She sounds more mature and more confident, while still keeping a child-like edge that keeps you from thinking she’s completely grown up.
Musically, the game is a hit. Between dramatic slow songs and fast paced strings, there’s a good song for each event in the game. Additionally, there are plenty of moments that have no music at all, which is a valid option more often than not. Combine that with a smart suite of sound effects, and the audio is pretty top notch.
Mechanically, the game is identical to the first season. Things are generally separated into one of three different types of gameplay sections: conversation, exploration, and action.
Conversation in the game sticks to the standard. When Clementine has a chance to speak, there will be up to four different options. Picking different options will steer the conversation towards a different direction or tone, even it doesn’t always affect the overall story. You can also choose to remain silent by not choosing an option before the timer runs out. The story will move forward either way. These sections are generally more about playing Clementine the way you want her to be. For example, a more cold-hearted Clem might tell someone to keep their sob story to themselves, while a more timid Clem might play up the fact that she’s “just a little girl”. It allows for a bit of role-playing, which helps keep things interesting.
Exploration sections are pretty laid back. You aren’t on a timer and you’re free to walk around a small area. These sections have you trying to figure out what you need to do in order to progress. It might be restarting a fire, talking to the right person, or finding something to eat. In these areas, there are usually several different objects you can interact with. While many don’t directly affect your forward momentum, they do offer more depth to the story or setting. There’s no penalty for skipping them either. They’re completely optional.
Mechanically, the way you interact with objects and people is straight forward. Moving the right stick moves your cursor around the area. Move over an object you can interact with, and a series of icons will appear in your cursor. These icons correspond to the various PlayStation buttons. Generally, the cross button is for interact, triangle is for observe, and circle is for talk.
While Clem does have an inventory, you don’t have to worry about it too much. If you need to use that knife you picked up, you’ll simply be able to press a button when you’re in the right spot. There’s no inventory management here, which helps keeps things moving along.
Action sequences are incredibly simple. They’re basically quick time events where failing to input the correct buttons results in death and a quick respawn. These are generally well done, with the actions you’re asked to do logically following the action. For example, if your character needs to duck to the left, you’ll need to flick the left stick in that direction. If your character needs to duck to the right, you flick the stick to the right. It’s functional and gets the job done.
It’s a pretty straight forward and simple. They figured they were better off keeping the gameplay intact and focusing more on the story and events that make up the game. While this style of gameplay certainly isn’t for everyone, it allows them to tell the tale they want. Function over form.
Episode 1 is all about setup, and that setup is potentially leading us to something quite interesting. The new characters are just becoming known to us, and it’s likely we’ll get to watch most of them die before things resolve in episode five. If you liked the previous season, than you should definitely get this one. It keeps the parts you liked intact while still moving the story forward.
On one side note, it appears there isn’t all that much carried over from the first season and DLC in terms of choices you made. You can find a couple of conversation trees where events are alluded to, but that’s it. It will be interesting to see if more stuff is included as the season progresses.
Short Attention Span Summary
All That Remains is a fitting start to the new season. It sets things up nicely for an interesting story arc, play reasonably well, and manages to boost the production value a bit. If you liked the first season, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t like the first season, it’s unlikely anything here will change your mind. One thing is for certain, this is an entertaining ride for the mere five bucks you have to pay for it.