Okay, Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Opinion on the first season? Delightful little gem that I think should be played if you happen to own one of the dozen devices it was released for. However, following up on something that was lightning in a bottle and very much stood on its two legs several playthroughs in, and doing that while also making another title is a feat I would dub insane regardless of the pedigree. So it is a bit sad that I have to say that I did not find season two to come notably as close as season one did in just about any of the factors that would place it highly on my favorite games list. Yet I am one to provide reason for claims, and here is my review claiming why by dissecting season two to the best of my ability after one playthrough. I originally intended two, but then Danganronpa went on sale and I wanted to play it in order for a semi-timely review… over a week after the sequel comes out.
The Walking Dead Season Two Review
Platforms: …Pretty much all of them aside from Wii U, I played the PC version.
Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games
As is clear just by glancing at the title, Season Two places the player in the likely gross smelling shoes of an eleven-year-old Clementine who, two years after the events of Season One, finds herself separated from all she has previously known and must both make her way into a new group with a fluctuating head count. Chaos naturally ensues, as Clementine and a group of others need to deal with a threat on top of the world having ended 2.3 years ago. Now, the idea of a greater threat being present was only a matter of time if you look at the source material, but its path seems to be far less… tightly constructed and almost a bit bogged down in its own complexities. If I may provide a loose explanation, the storyline deals with an introduced antagonist about a third of the way through, but then feels the need to inject a roaming gang whose existence is felt for all of twenty minutes, if that. It’s not that the lot comes across as poorly constructed, it is more that the writers set out to offer a very different storyline than the first season as their primary goal, one I would say they succeeded in, but one that I would also claim hindered whatever story could be told as well.
Oh, but I would easily say the strong suit of the predecessor was more in the characters, so the comparison likely should be fixated more closely in that regard. I’ve spent quite a lot of time pondering the cast of characters in the title, and no matter how I slice it by recalling their personality traits, notable actions in the group, and the manner in which most of them inevitably bite the dust, I’m struggling to do more than shrug with about half of the cast. The other half or so I found to be compelling characters in themselves who I ultimately enjoyed, found to be well crafted, and was upsetted by their departure. Now, even those I would be hesitant to rank above the former group, if only for one very important detail I can understand omitting due to the story’s pacing being what it is, but there are not enough player character and other character conversations.
Season One offered many opportunities for Lee to ask questions to the other character he was partnered with, and I feel that gave them a much stronger relationship to the player, as they were by some stretch directly talking to them about things that were not exactly relevant to survival or what the characters should do next, making those decisions feel all the harder s the player has a better grip on how the characters work by hearing them respond to certain questions or comments. This does happen in Season Two, obviously, but I couldn’t help but feel as if there was one character who I would be hard pressed to assign a meaningful trait to before the final of three episodes they appear in. Another’s offscreen demise lessened the impact only slightly less than fact that I don’t recall them getting any development for the previous episode and a half. Number four just leaves me puzzled as to how the hell they managed to stay alive for two years on top of making me question the decision to not make a certain important trait be more obvious. While number five does the most when she gives birth to a character who I was genuinely surprised people cared about, although such a decision would likely require the story to go in a very different direction.
It just doesn’t have the same level of punch I honestly don’t feel foolish for expecting, but at least they received a better treatment than character who I assumed were created in the 400 Days add-on to be a big part for at least one episode of this season, but instead get, at best three lines per character. It comes across as lazy, even though I do believe that time was limited, and they had to fixated on the core, cutting the small touches if they needed to, which neatly summarizes the storyline in my mind. While not intentionally, it strikes me to lack the same level of care and development the first season had, even though I will say it is admirable for attempting to be different with its story, which is still of very high quality.
Now, the gameplay aspect of this series is something I always felt was very integral to the series, and much like the conversations that served as breaks in the action, I felt as if this was minimized in favor of telling a story. With basic things like the encounters with the undead often feeling as if they exist more to remind the player the game has QTEs, or the movement across a linear section of a map. Minor puzzles are almost completely absent from the game, as your biggest hindrance to progress are remembering to check everywhere the fixed camera will show you and the often yawn inspiring pace Clementine walks through the environments at. I was actually curious if I could determine a formula for how these events are inserted into the game, as the determinant to whether or not a scene will require player controlled movement certainly felt like that when I was more or less plowing through the first eighty percent of the title.
It was also during that plowing, with the first season a few months fresh in my mind, where I began to note the visual improvements, which there are overall as the environments certainly do look more detailed a better as a whole. Animations seem to be a bit better utilized rather than improved from a technical standpoint, while the character textures do still occasionally hang off of the body whether it be clothing or clumps of levitating hair. Although, the game’s comic book influenced art style very much does allow it to look good despite looking like it is from the seventh generation even with the highest settings, likely because investing the money into higher quality textures just for a few platforms would not be worth the extra costs, as the game still is very visually appealing.
In fact, while I can very much criticize the minor details of the game, especially seeing as how it is a continuation of a story driven title of such a high caliber, the great majority of the title is still very high quality stuff that I would recommend to anybody who enjoyed the original. Yes, I have issues with the story and characters, but that was partially due to how critically I examined the title and I felt as if I may have missed a few important details because of that. It is a game I am uncertain of in regards to its overall and easy to state quality, but it is a game where you play as a prepubescent girl and build relationships with around you as the world gradually falls apart. And you’d have to bonk the donkey pretty hard to mess that up.
Applaudable efforts that do get hung up on a few too many branches, but very much deserving of a recommendation despite possibly not being astonishing.