The Walking Dead: Season 2 - Episode 1 Review
A strong start to the sophomore season
It was always going to be a hard act to follow. The first Season of The Walking Dead series by Telltale was a sleeper hit, lightning in a bottle, and found itself on many game of the year lists (including my own.) A sequel was always going to be a tall order; how do you deliver something that stays true to the original whilst being fresh enough to hold the fans’ attention?
The first and most important thing Telltale has done right is the change in character. The first season’s protagonist Lee had a layered personality and his relationship with Clementine really helped drive the story in a way that kept you fully invested. Following his heroic death and a cliff-hanger at the end of the first game, Telltale have wisely put the player in Clem’s tiny shoes. With this decision, the possibilities are numerous, as Episode One of Season Two will demonstrate.
Picking up several months after the first game, Clementine is travelling with Omid and Christa, also both from the first game. After several shocking events almost designed to grab players by the neck and say “We’re gonna shock you even more this time around!” Clementine finds herself alone in this unforgiving post apocalypse.
Clementine then encounters some new and interesting characters and kudos to Telltale for making this meeting (which constitutes the majority of the gameplay in this episode and thus I will try not to spoil too greatly) outside of the expected. Needless to say, the events of the episode go to show the player how resourceful Clementine is as well as how much she has grown up since she left Lee chained to that radiator. It really does serve as a great re-introduction to a character that we grew with in the first game but one that has clearly done some toughening up in the meantime. She is both familiar and strange to the player as we see her deal with situations Episode One conjures. The events of the first game changed this little girl and Telltale have gone to great lengths to make sure the player both sees and feels it right off the bat.
Gameplay wise, playing as Clementine poses a different set of challenges than playing as Lee, whilst maintaining a familiar enough approach to keep fans of the first game happy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just polish it a little with some metaphorical Mr Sheen.
Of course, the main attraction to any Telltale game is the choice system and the idea that your choices affect not just the situation you’re in and the episode you’re on, but every episode that follows. In this new season, Telltale have continued this approach, while also allowing players to import all their choices from the first game and its DLC. After loading your save, the game will cap off pretty much every major decision you've made, which was nice as I had problems remembering what I’d chosen. How this plays out is an intriguing prospect and parallels to Bioware’s Mass Effect series can be drawn, as we start to see how choices will work cross-game. Hopefully way off into the distant future, Telltale will handle their finale better than BioWare, but that’s a different topic.
Visually speaking, the developers have stuck to the gritty cell shading that seems to be their trademark at the moment. Combined with the art style that made the comic book distinctive, it is the one thing Telltale were wise not to alter. The new UI is an improvement however, the inventory is now easier to manage in a pinch and the heads up for the QTEs during the action sequences are now much clearer. This now means less annoying sudden deaths and even more annoying reloads, which for me was the only problem with the first game.
Overall, Season Two Episode One is a strong start, probably stronger than the first episode of the previous season and slightly stronger than Telltale’s other big project, The Wolf Among Us (although the difference is marginal.) The episode ends on a pretty promising note and as the season plays out, we will hopefully see this story grow more and more engrossing.