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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Telltale Games' The Walking Dead S2E1: All That Remains.

Telltale Games' The Walking Dead
S2E1: All That Remains.

I've had the entire second series of this for a while and I've just never gotten around to playing it. 

It isn't even really that I didn't want to, just a lack of time. I didn't play the first series of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead until it had been out in its entirety for a long time, but I adored it when I did, and I devoured the whole thing in about two days.

But I'm visiting a friend this week, and we needed a video game to play, and I had The Walking Dead Series 2 around, so we loaded it up and entered the world of the zombie apocalypse once more, with some trepidation. Would it live up to the standard set by the first series? Would having Clem as a protagonist work?

Well, the first episode lived up to that standard, more or less, and Clem makes a pretty great protagonist. 

Sixteen months after an unfortunate and tragic event, Clem finds herself separated from Christa by an attack from raiders. Before long, she falls in with a group that has set themselves up in a lovely cabin, including gruff Peter, shooty Nick, and extremely pretty man Luke. Seriously, several times my playing companion just remarked in hushed tones 'God, he's pretty.' This new group is suspicious of Clem, though, forcing her to use her wiles to keep herself alive.

The graphics are all very atmospheric.

I'm not sure if this is the game leading me that way or me just thinking that arch-manipulator Clem was cool, but whereas I had always tried to have Lee be righteous and good and wonderful in Series 1, I found myself leaning towards having Clem blackmail, emotionally manipulate, and lie her way to survival. To be fair, there's almost always an option for that, whereas Lee tended to have a nice option and an angry option. Clem did work really well as a protagonist, though, especially as she's a more vulnerable protagonist than Lee. 

The episode is well-paced, and the new characters are all pretty well-established, including the two who will most likely take antagonistic roles towards you as the game wears on - the game is kind enough to provide you with blackmail material for one, so that will definitely come in handy. It did feel a little short, though. It took me a little less than two hours to play through it all, whereas I definitely remember several series 1 episodes that took me upwards of three hours, sometimes even four. 

There are some strikingly emotional moments in the episode too. One, involving a dog, actually managed to prompt me to make a very loud, very distressed noise, and I nearly considered stopping playing at that point (dogs, man. They're better than people). The second, involving a choice between two of your farmhouse-based group, had me wondering whether I had made the wrong choice. I was assured by the person I was playing with that I was not, because one of them had clearly been bitten. 

There are a few emotional moments that fell flat, too. Oh, no, I have to burn a drawing. What a shame. Never mind.

Nice cabin. Very survival horror.

Oddly, though, it didn't feel like there were that many choices. For a series that built its reputation and popularity in large part on 'this game will force you to make seemingly impossible choices', I could detect very few choices that were even difficult. Heart-breaking, sure. But not difficult. We might see that change in future episodes, as the first episode of the first series was also quite low on choices.

The conflict also seems a bit artificial at points. It requires that the cabin group be almost cartoonishly unreasonable, refusing to even use water to clean a wound, or Clem's own clothes as bandages, along with insisting she be locked in a shed instead of just tied up in the house (and waiting until morning when apparently just a few hours would have done the trick)? It's not a major gripe, but it was quite noticeable while playing.

The graphics are much the same as the first series, which is fine - it's Telltales' unique style which they've used not just for The Walking Dead, but also for The Wolf Among Us, and seemingly for Tales from the Borderlands too, and it's very distinctive. The soundtrack is excellent, the voice-acting is all very good, although Clem sounds quite stilted at times (it seems to be more due to direction than actual acting, though). 

No, not the Lee photo.

With the next episode, we apparently have the return of a character Clem believed to be dead, as well as the group moving away from the cabin. Perhaps it becomes compromised somehow? Either way, it looks like a good episode, and one that will hopefully build on the solid foundations laid in this one. 

Still, I'm looking forward to it.

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