The Walking Dead: Season Two Episode 1 – All That Remains PC Review

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While the first season of The Walking Dead didn’t get Game of the Year on DarkZero, in my own personal list, the title was the number one game of last year. This was actually a surprise for me, since, before that game arrived, I had zero interest in The Walking Dead after being bummed out on the poor Jurassic Park adventure game from the same studio.  All I can say is that it was good to be wrong, because Telltale really hit the nail on the head for video game storytelling. The characters were fleshed out, decisions felt liked they mattered and it was a roller coaster ride of emotions as you soon figured out that no one is safe in this horrid world.

A good feature of the first season was that the player was asked to create a persona in Lee, the main character, by answering how they would see fit for the situation presented. There’s also the fact that most people had Clementine in the back of their mind while deciding – wanting to protect her from the harsh reality. As a child in a video game, Clementine was superbly written, to the point she was a kid I cared about, mainly because she wasn’t one of those annoying brats that seem to infect the digital space with stupidity.

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With Season Two now upon us, there’s no question that Telltale have big boots to fill. It must be nerve-racking to follow up for a game that earned over 90 Game of the Year awards from various publications. There’s also massive expectations from fans, and it seems Telltale know this, as the first half of All That Remains is one depressing moment after the next. It’s like Telltale are trying to remind us that this universe is a bastard.

The player is now in the role of Clementine, 16 months plus from the events of Season One’s closure. This is a rather smart move by the developers, since we’ve already grown attached to her in the previous game. We know what she’s been through and how she was taught to survive, and it’s fantastic to be able to see her again in a more independent and mature state. This time, the game is about her story and how she’s surviving, although, with no bodyguards, Clementine is no longer immune from some of the horrendous situations that occur in the world of The Walking Dead. The player will have to sit through and watch Clementine in some very gruesome dilemmas before the first episode finishes.

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Story is one thing I don’t want to speak about much, because like the last game, experiencing what happens in the episodes is one topic that should be kept under wraps, so that players can see and experience it all for themselves. Spoiling what happens would remove that sense of suspense and surprise, along with the drama, sadness and whatever other emotions Telltale like to toy with. I can say that while this is certainly coming off as an introductory episode, building up Clementine as a solo survival and throwing new characters into the mix, it’s using the time well, since we only need to learn about the new characters, and that’s what the game does for the latter half of the episode. All that you need to know is that this first episode of the second season continues to be well-written and comes across as a solid follow up to the end of last season.

Season Two takes data from your save file from Season One and 400 Days. It’s not ultimately clear what it uses from those episodes, but Clementine mentioned something relating to a decision I made in Season One, so there’s clearly some data being used. I would guess that it will be used further into the season; well I hope so, because there are things I want to see answered, such as why we were asked to play 400 days.

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Gameplay remains identical, which I guess is something that was to be expected. There are improvements, such as Telltale taking the mechanics and interface from The Wolf Among Us, which I thought had a better presented user interface than in the original The Walking Dead. This means those action scenes with quick time events are now presented with a nice, clear button to tap, with a metre circulating around it to show how close you are to succeeding. On top of that, the body targeting that was present in The Wolf Among Us, along with using RT to activate the hit, is also used here, and just like in Telltale’s other ongoing series, it works just as well. This mechanic offers a sense of tension and desperation, as the player struggles to aim for the reticule to succeed in overcoming a life-threatening situation.

Choices still matter, too, as you can make Clementine a tough little girl or a softie, who uses her age to get a sense of guilt out of people. It’s something that I wouldn’t want to change, as even though it’s a bit silly seeing text pop up letting you know that “X will remember that,” it’s great to know that decisions still matter and it can affect how people act towards you. Players can make Clementine act with some serious manipulation on the characters, such as able to tell someone to be nicer to you, coming across with blackmail intent, as Clem stares down the opposition with a look that could kill.

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The overall presentation for the game has slightly improved, using the advancements learnt with The Wolf Among Us and fitting that into this game. Voice acting remains strong across the board, and the models look better, especially the facial emotions, but there are still some wonky animations that crop up from time to time. One of these issues with the animation had a person, who, I might add, was walking into the room with a shocked face, sliding across the floor with his feet. It sure made the whole situation come across as dumb and funny, rather than the tense scene it was trying to portray.

First episodes are always going to be hard to evaluate to see where the season is going to go, but as an opening episode for Season Two of The Walking Dead, I feel that it gives a strong first impression. It doesn’t waste time with setting up people we already know about – going straight forward at full speed into complete depressing territory for nearly 40 minutes at the start. It’s been over a year since I felt so down at what was happening on screen, but I’ve missed that sense of feeling from a game. Telltale have shown that they aren’t letting Clementine get away with anything this time, and as you can probably guess, being a young girl in such a harsh world is chemistry for complete and utter nightmare scenarios. If this is what we can expect going further into the season, then it’s going to be a frightening and exciting ride throughout 2014.

8/10

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Version tested: PC

Also available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Vita, Mac, iOS, Ouya

Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

Genre: Graphic adventure