The initial undead odyssey ends as Telltale Games
bring us the finale to season one of The Walking Dead
. And what a finale it is.
Based on the past efforts of the developers, I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Walking Dead
when I got caught up with the first two episodes back in July
(it kicked off in April but I was late to the party). As generally episodic developers, I’ve had fun with some of their titles – mostly the new take on Monkey Island
and some of Sam & Max’s
adventures. With decent writing and simple art and puzzles, they were enjoyable diversions.
From the off, The Walking Dead
seemed like a different proposition. Based on the novels by Robert Kirkman
, it’s an unremittingly bleak world where survival is far from a certainty as the world is gripped by the forces of the undead. Graphically violent and possessed of a pared back control and inventory system, the series saw Telltale
reaching for a new audience in terms of the maturity of their subject matter.
This streamlined approach actually leads to the greatest asset of the series – story. With basic puzzling and traversal gameplay, the potential for an involving story is opened up and The Walking Dead
presents one of the best around.
The set up is perfect – a man (Lee) with tragedy in his past who gets a chance at redemption when the world ends. His potential saviour a young girl called Clementine who comes into his care when he finds her hiding out and alone after the dead walk. Other characters come and go in The Walking Dead
but it’s the relationship between Lee and Clem which keeps you going, constantly striving for one good and positive thing in a world gone to hell.
The story so far has brought us across the country, though supposed safety in a motor inn and a sinister stop over at a dairy farm to the city of Savannah. It holds the possibility of safety in the form of a boat but also, importantly, is the place where Clementine’s parents were last heard from and the source of mysterious messages the young girl hears on her walkie talkie.[Some spoilers follow]
As Episode 5: No Time Left
begins, a series of events have conspired to see Clem kidnapped and Lee infected. These two elements make this final chapter more fraught than ever before – with a clear revenge plot and a series of pitched battles with the walkers which make the pace more desperate than ever. The few remaining survivors must band together to give Lee a chance to save the girl, while Lee himself battles with the bite which is slowly taking over his body, literally killing him an inch at a time.
The faster pace actually suits Telltale’s
streamlined mechanics very well, with Episode 5
working in a more cinematic presentation and a few more action packed scenes. It’s without a doubt the most linear (and shortest) helping yet, drawing the player from one set piece to the next before the final confrontation.
At times things feel barely interactive which might irk some players but after many hours with these characters and so many important decisions already made, your course is already essentially set. And if you find yourself dissatisfied with the early scenes, stick with it as the closing moments are well worth the wait.
I won’t discuss it directly here but No Time Left
ends on a note which might seem predictable but is invested with so many hours of care and emotion that it left me quite devastated. An element of extreme tension mixed in with this moment of distress proves Telltale’s story-telling ability, adding up to a powerful denouement which will bring tears to many.
As strange as it may seem to some, I’m immensely proud of the character I created in The Walking Dea
d, of the attempt to do right by Clementine at every step of the way and the lessons I taught her along the way. Truth and consequence are intimately twined into the narrative of this particular episode, which naturally makes me wonder about the other possible Lee’s I might have crafted. Telltale’s commitment to player choice in a story-centric title is impressive and it’s nice to know those other strands are there, waiting to be played. I just don’t think I’m ready to dive back into the game just yet.No Time Left
may not be the best episode in the series but the ending scenes are among the most powerful I’ve ever experienced. Taking into account the consistently high quality of the other entries, I can’t but highly recommend the series for anyone who considers themselves a fan of storytelling, in any medium.
Consider the score below a commendation for the series as a whole and stop at nothing to experience The Walking Dead
for yourself – it’s going to be on plenty of end of year lists for the best games of 2012.For Clementine…