Clem Is Back
The Walking Dead, by Telltale, is one of the landmark accomplishments in recent years. It heralded the return of the adventure game, and told a story that could stand toe-to-toe with anything in a book, comic, television show or movie. Its ending caused some players to cry, and it created a sense of unprecedented affection—and protectiveness—for the young girl Clementine who was forced to fend for herself at the end of the series. Now, with season two, Clementine returns, except that rather than being a strong supporting character, she’s the star of the show. And it works about as well as you’d expect if you have doubts about the wisdom of this choice.
There’s little to say about the actual mechanics of the game. This is the same engine and design used in the previous season, right down to the stuttering graphical performance on the PS3. For traditional adventure game fans, the series is still light on the puzzles and focuses more on the drama and characterization with a few QTEs scattered about during hectic action sequences.
So the only real question fans should be asking is, “Should I buy this game if I loved the first one?” And the answer to that is still “Yes.” But that yes comes with an additional, “Just don’t expect this to blow you away emotionally as the first series did.” The characterization is still compelling, but the same tricks the original game used are in evidence here as well, only without the unexpectedness, surprise, and novelty of experiencing them for the first time. Characters will suddenly die off, but now you’re expecting it. Zombies will come to crash the party during dramatic moments, but you’ll be expecting this too. Conversations with characters and your responses will be remembered, probably even carry over to future episodes, but again, you’ve seen this all before. But the one thing that really takes some shine off the game is that now that Clem is the main character, her survival is no longer in question. You don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen to her because she’s going to endure right to the very end of the season, draining the game of much of its tension.
In many ways, this second season of The Walking Dead faces the same problems that Batman: Arkham Origins did when it released late last year. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the game, it doesn’t do anything that takes the franchise backwards, but this first episode does nothing to indicate it’s going to be moving forwards either. You’re playing this game because you want to see what happens next to Clem, but, thanks to the success of the first season, you’ve already got a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen next. New characters are being introduced, character conflicts will ensure plenty of arguments, and situations will arise with multiple characters being endangered simultaneously forcing players to choose who will live and who will die. Despite the fact that both The Walking Dead and the new game, A Wolf Among Us are both using the same engine, with same design ethics and even similar, comic-based art direction, The Wolf Among Us has the virtue of introducing us to new characters, an ongoing mystery, and even a little bit of variety in the way of Bigby being an investigator and sheriff, thus allowing players a chance at some detective work and suspect interrogation. All That Remains, however, will have to “coast” by on strong writing, good dialog and fan emotional attachment. It can and WILL succeed on these virtues alone, but people expecting season two to emotionally rock them the way season one did are in for disappointment. This will be a very a good series, there’s no doubt of that, but it’s unlikely to be a landmark achievement the way its predecessor was.