Is it safe to say at this point that no one could have predicted just how good Telltale’s episodic adventure game based on the mega-popular The Walking Dead franchise ended up being? I enjoyed plenty of the company’s previous titles, but I didn’t go into the game expecting that by the end, I’d walk away with it being my favorite title of 2012. The story of Lee Everett and Clementine was brutal, unflinching, and compelling, and naturally, we were left wanting more.
Enter The Walking Dead: Season Two and its first episode, All That Remains. A direct continuation of the first game’s story, this sequel aims to recapture the tension and trademark tough decision-making that have become franchise traditions, while putting a bit of a new spin on things with its choice of playable protagonist. And despite some initial skepticism I had with that choice, as well as a few minor quibbles that I’ll get to, this first episode earns its place in the series easily, and sows the seeds for interesting directions that the rest of the season could possibly take.
Taking place over a year after the last game’s conclusion, former protagonist Lee Everett is out of the picture for this story, with the focus shifted entirely to former co-star Clementine, a preteen girl who Lee found himself protecting in the early stages of a zombie apocalypse. Now fending for herself with some other returning characters, Clem soon finds herself separated and on her own for a bit, before eventually stumbling upon another group of survivors, where the second half of the game takes place.
I will admit, that when the initial announcement and teaser trailer went up for this game, I wasn’t sure what to think regarding Telltale’s choice of Clementine as the new protagonist. While I certainly found her endearing in the first season, I couldn’t help but think that shifting the focus to a child would result in some sort of noticeable watering down of the series’ well-done heaviness.
I am happy to say that, if All That Remains is any indication, my fears were not warranted in the least. Not only has Clem noticeably become more hardened in between games, but the story pulls no punches in putting her through some terrible situations, hardships, and decisions. These range from tense conversations to intense action sequences, along with probably the most cringeworthy scene I’ve played in a long time. You thought that controversial torture scene in Grand Theft Auto V took the cake as far as making players squirm? Play through this episode and you’ll feel otherwise.
Much like the first episode of the initial season, All That Remains has a lot of establishing and setting up to do in terms of its plot and cast, and there are numerous interesting elements that are introduced here. It’s hard to guess who among the new group of survivors will stick around, given the numerous deaths the franchise is known for, but the degrees and reasons that some characters develop strained relationships with Clementine caught my attention. Also, though it’s definitely too early to know for sure, there were small hints at what seemed to me like a setup for an actual human villain, which I think would be a very interesting direction to take, so long as they don’t repeat the first season’s method of keeping the antagonist offscreen until the finale.
Gameplay is still technically in the style of a point-and-click adventure, but much like Telltale’s other current game, The Wolf Among Us, puzzle solving has basically been eliminated entirely. There’s still an element of collecting items to use in context-sensitive situations, but it’s extremely straightforward. Telltale’s new modus operandi is still more about character interaction and plot progression, and as someone who has always loved adventure games but struggled with more unconventional puzzles, I welcome this approach.
If there are things that hold back All That Remains from true greatness, I’d say that the biggest offenders are the length and conclusion. It took me somewhere between two and three hours to play the whole thing, which feels like less compared to the average four to five hours every episode in the first season took, bar the finale. And if you saw the new Hobbit movie or Catching Fire, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say the ending comes way too abruptly, and will leave you feeling like there should be at least one more scene. Cliffhangers are nothing new for the series, but this doesn’t even have anything like that. With luck, the following episodes won’t fall victim to either of these drawbacks, but only time will tell. Also, as with previous games, things can chug and slow down for a few seconds when loading a new scene. Thankfully, things run fairly smooth otherwise.
Despite these issues, All That Remains is still gripping, intriguing, and captivating to play. As brutal and unforgiving as the world of The Walking Dead is, I still consider this a welcome return, and am eager to see what happens to Clementine and company next. While I’d say that the first episode of The Wolf Among Us is a slightly stronger start, we’ll still have to wait and see whether it or The Walking Dead: Season Two emerges the better overall game. Either way, I can’t wait to see what comes next.
This review is based on the Playstation 3 version of the game, which we received for review purposes.
Despite some problems with its length and conclusion, All That Remains is a dark, harrowing, and effective experience that is worthy of the Walking Dead name.