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I put more effort into writing the title of this review than Telltale Games put into this season.
I feel like I should like Telltale Games more than I do. Plot-driven adventure games where your choices affect the story? Characters live or die based on your actions? That sounds awesome, and it is; at least, the first time you play any of their games. But when you know all of the tricks, the cracks start to appear.
Season 2 of The Walking Dead begins with Clementine and two of the survivors from Season 1. One immediately dies, and you're separated from the other. Then you meet another group that make up the main supporting cast of this season. Luke, friendly. Carlos, group doctor. Sarah, Carlos' sheltered daughter. Nick, hot-headed. Pete, Nick's uncle. Alvin, nice guy. Rebecca, Alvin's pregnant wife.
Unavoidably, every single one of these characters dies.
I didn't want to put (spoilers) in the title because if that ruins the game for you, I've done you a favour. And I want you to imagine a meter showing how invested I was in the story, and how quickly it fell when every character anti-climactically died one after another. Game of Thrones kills off tons of characters because there are tons more to keep us interested. The Walking Dead kills off tons of characters because they literally don't know how to write any kind of dramatic scene without pushing the and then zombies show up and kill someone!!1! button, which loses its edge when it's happening for the 87th time.
The railroading is abysmal. In Episode 2, Nick does something dumb and someone wants to kill him. You can talk them out of this, or Nick can die. This is the bread and butter of these games; a character lives or dies based on you. Except writing a story that accounts for an important character being alive or dead is really hard (moreso if you're shit) so in Episode 3, Nick gets two lines, and then he dies offscreen. Brilliant. I really feel like I made a difference there.
Most of the choices are just as bad. You can rob a guy who has medicine, but if you do, he shows up later with a gang to ambush you! Whereas if you don't, he shows up later with a gang to ambush you! But remember, your choices matter, and the story is tailored to how you play. So if the story is garbage and your choices don't matter, what is there to keep me interested? The gameplay?
This is one of the few games I sincerely hate. I hate the insulting, patronising way that the talentless hacks who wrote this expected me to feel genuinely saddened or shocked every time someone died, because that's all they knew how to write. The characters don't matter; everyone dies. The journey doesn't matter; everyone dies. The game has five different, equally-unappealing endings, and if you play Season 3, whoever you ended up with dies in a flashback to justify how you end up, once again, alone and in the exact same situation.
Telltale, tell a better tale next time.
I only watched the final scenes of The Walking Dead Season 2 because I was genuinely hoping there’d be an option to commit suicide.
There wasn’t, because screw you for trying to make choices in TWD 2.
The theme of the entire game is Clementine fighting against/trying to cope with the idea that every person might be a ticking time bomb only looking out for themselves who’ll only hurt you in the long run. The game looks at characters and says “Should you help them?”
By the end of the game, every person you tried to save is dead, your friends have abandoned you and got you shot and the only two people left are trying to kill each other right in front of you – a young girl.
The Walking Dead Season 2 doesn’t care about people. It introduces them so that it can kill them off for shock value. It doesn’t matter how much characterisation it has to undo or how many of your decisions it has to ignore, it just wants you to keep playing it and it never gives you a reason why.
It’s funny, before the last episode I would have told you it’s a bad game mechanically with very little intelligence, but with good enough writing that you don’t notice or even mind. The power of changing from a passive mediums “Does this character trust them?” to a games “Do ‘’you’’ trust them?” was almost enough to make you not realise how bad or lazy the game is, but the ending even spites you with that.
There are no real lasting choices you can make and it doesn’t even ‘’feel’’ like your decisions are going to make a difference. There’s not a single moment of mechanical ingenuity. There’s no scene where you have to divide rations amongst your group or where you can punch a man again and again until you realise you should’ve stopped.
No-one treats you differently depending on what you say to them, no-one ‘remembers this’. TWD 2’s version is a conversation which goes “Do you remember when you [hit me/said you liked my hair]? You’re a great person”.
It even fails at being The Walking Simulator (Dead). The camera angles are awful, you can’t tell where the invisible walls are and the WASD is janky.
If you haven't played the game yet but is considering buying it due to all the positive reviews, I will highly recommend that you get this game ASAP. However, as soon as you finish the story, I will also recommend that you uninstall the program and don't watch any You Tube playthroughs of the game.
MAJOR SPOILER BELOW THIS POINT!!!
When I played the game for the first time, just like everyone else I consider it to be one of the best stories in video game history. As soon as I finished the game's last episode, I started regretting some of the more questionable decisions that I made and wondered how things could have turned out differently if I have chosen to act differently. Since I don't have time to do a full replay of all 5 episodes, I went on to You Tube looking for other people's playthroughs to see how different decisions will affect the story... And it turns out that absolutely nothing you do matters. With the exception of at best, a few different lines of dialog, everything will happen almost exactly the same way.
It doesn't matter whether you saved Carley or Doug, since the one you helped will still ended up getting killed by Lilly. It doesn't matter if you resist the temptation of taking the food from the car in the woods, since the stranger on the radio will still call you a monster and kidnap Clementine. It doesn't matter if you saved Molly's life during the raid on Crawford, since she never shows up again regardless. From the very get go, nothing you do or not do will change the fact that Lee will end up dead and Clem will be left on her own in the end.
I understand the technical limitations for implementing a way to reflect all the decision that you made. And perhaps it was the developers intention to make the game this way in order to reflect the grim, dark reality of the world that the game is set in, showing how Lee was never in control of his own fate. However, personally, that realization totally destroy the magic of this game for me and I have no intention of revisiting the story again. If you think a single playthrough of the story is worth the price (which I do think it kind of is), then you should get the game. Otherwise, just watch videos someone else playing it on You Tube for free.
Everyone knows how bad most video game adaptations suck. 80% of them are games that stay dusty on shelves, have laughable gameplay mechanics, and are either forgettable or an abomination.
Such is not the case with Telltales The Walking Dead. You can tell they put effort into it, you can tell this wasn't just some plaything that was made in only a couple of months just to promote the TV series or the comics. The devs cared for this.
I have to admit, when I first heard of this in game informer, I was skeptical. I had read the comics, seen some episodes of the TV series, and liked them. But I thought they would just make the game a first person shooter, which is the exact opposite of what makes The Walking Dead engaging. And considering that Telltale had made the below average Jurassic Park game, I had even more reason to fear for the adaptation. But it exceeded my expectations.
I played episode 1, and it was amazing. I felt like I was in the story, I had felt bad if I screwed up, and most importantly, I liked the story. Its the core opposite of Shaun Of The Dead, it doesn't make fun of its story, it takes itself seriously and wants you to judge it.
However, I wouldn't call it game of the year. Why? Its not really a game, its more of an interactive cutscene that has some interesting, if easy, puzzles. And it works almost perfectly.
A strong contender for video game art, along with Red Dead Redemption. Buy it, and I recommend reading the comics and checking the TV series out.
I'm going to spoil a good bit, so don't read any further if you don't want me to spoil the game.
This game has a great story, it has new characters and since none of the characters are mains on the show (though some cameo), it has both an "anyone can die" and an "anyone can live" feel. It actually got me to care a lot more than both the comics and the tv show.
Here's the main spoiler, yes the game has interactive moments, but the truth of the matter is most of your choices either don't matter, change a couple bits of dialogue or just make superficial changes to the story. This does NOT undermine the story the game is trying to tell. It DOES undermine the fact that this is a game. Yes you can decide who lives and dies, but the game eventually kills the people who you choose to save. It makes sense from a story perspective, but when I realized no matter who I save in the beginning, both still die, the game factor dropped for me. If I am going to invest my time in a game like this, I want some more interactivity. At the final episode, we get the same ending no matter what we do, so why should I invest my time in playing it when I could just watch someone else play?
What we have is in my opinion five very well written TV episodes with interactive features. They have good characters and good drama, but in the end, I didn't feel like it was a game. This is an issue because, although I don't mind buying five episodes, I don't want to pay $5 USD for a TV episode (If the price permanently drops then feel free to laugh at me and disregard this entire review). If you want it, wait until there's a Steam sale or the like. It's a good story, but I felt like I didn't get my money's worth for the price.
The Walking Dead game is a fantastic emotional story, that using the medium fantastically to draw you in and make you care and really feel the pressure and guilt and uncertainty of the setting. It's completely story focused and character focused. The characters are very real and complex and change believable throughout the game. It showcases a game type about almost purely decisions and dialogue with a few adventure game style puzzles and it's unbeatable at what it aims to do. However the stress, whilst engaging, won't be for everyone and the ending made me well-up with tears, but it pointed a gun at my head to do so and in the end I felt it went too far and misunderstood that although the game had made me fantastically attached to the young girl who you serve as a father substitute to, I also care about the other people. This is in some degree a response to not being the sort of person who can handle stressful media pretty well (like The Road). I believe this is all someone needs to understand the game, the rest of the review will be a more retrospective look and whilst it contains no plot spoilers it contains something that will spoil the game for you much more. Please don't read on if you're new
The big secret of the Walking Dead is that your choices will pretty much always * amount to nothing and apart from small bits of dialogue along the way have almost no effect. However this is a deliberate decision, the game manipulates you into believing into the choice so that you really feel what it's like deciding between the lives between two people and that you feel the guilt of the events as if they're a consequence of your own actions. In the back of your mind you always think that if you hadn't done A, B might not have gone wrong and so it services the narrative brilliantly. In some senses it's a legitimate example of the potential of games to be art, where even the mechanics are there just to explore the key theme. But it's a dangerous tool and needs to be used carefully, it only worked because it's a zombie apocalypse and so most of the time you react to events rather than command them and it's understood people are helpless to decide their fate, whilst being a great setting for exploring character. And it relies on not knowing the trick, so it won't work, for example, for season 2. But it's undeniably powerful
I mean it.
This game is a great example of storytelling, not just in games but I think for all media. First off, all the characters are very well-developed. no two characters seem similar and nobody feels like they were an afterthought, each person is implemented in the story in a unique way. And your thoughts on characters will shift throughout the story. Characters you like you may grow to distrust and annoying characters will endear themselves to you. This isn't even getting into the main two characters. Lee is a realistic badass who can make any decision he makes seem like it fits his personality, as they give good reasons and explanations for his actions. He can be either nurturing, cold, a good leader, or a hypocrite, but it always seems to flow naturally. And then there's Clementine. Oh my god this is the sweetest little girl that's ever been invented. It's so ridiculously hard to dislike her, and whether you start the game thinking "I'm gonna help everyone" or "I'm only gonna help me", you're gonna get attached to her.
That's not to say there aren't some problems with the game. There can be quite a few graphical errors and weird twitching motions. Christa for example has a bad case of having black lines randomly hovering over her body. And I've had more than a few difficulties with loading saves correctly, or times where the game didn't seem to import a choice. And there's a choice you make in episode 1 that characters will not take to mean what you intended, and that's annoying.
But, the best part of this game is obviously the story. It's incredible. Each episode is self-contained and typically ends on a cliffhanger, but now that they're all out I doubt anyone will want to wait to continue after finishing an episode. You get a lot of decisions to make and a lot of choices, and the timer is a great effect, but it has been done before, and being able to pause it by opening the xbox guide is kinda cheap so don't do that. But, either way you'll be thinking a lot over decisions in this game and seeing how they impact you later. And as the game continues, you'll find yourself seriously getting into the characters. And yes, I did cry, multiple times throughout the game. It's awesome.
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