We are finally here, the final season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. It has been a rather tumultuous ride for those that have been through the first three seasons, plus the unrelated Michonne side story. After an award-winning first season, The Walking Dead dipped severely in its sophomore season before redeeming itself somewhat in A New Frontier. Thus far, it looks as though The Final Season is going to be a slow-burn, hopefully with a satisfying conclusion.
The Final Season focuses once again on Clementine, and is set sometime after A New Frontier. Between this season and last, she has found AJ, the toddler whom Clementine cares for after the death of AJ’s parents. After searching for some food, the two wind up in an accident, and are rescued by a bunch of children around Clementine’s age and taken back to an abandoned school in order to be kept safe.
Choices carry over from previous seasons, but since my previous save was made with an Australian copy, it seemingly isn’t compatible with the North American version of The Final Season. I also couldn’t recover my previous choices after logging into my Telltale Account, though this could be due to having reviewed it before release. Thankfully, any choices that influence this game can be made again at the start of the first episode thanks to a narrative recap by Clementine. One must assume that the main protagonist of A New Frontier, Javier, makes no impact in this final season, as none of the narrative choices made during the introduction involve him whatsoever. Any choices related to that season pertain to Clementine only.
This first episode runs in at around the three-hour mark. This is somewhat longer than most Telltale episodes, but the negative here is that the longer running time isn’t used to further the plot. There is a lot of filler, such as helping AJ make friends with every single person in the school before he will apologize for hitting the leader, as well as hunting for food, which drags out with only a minimal amount of important discussion.
Compared to previous entries in the series, this season appears to be much more interactive. In many instances, I made use of varying strategies in order to take down and kill zombies. I even had the chance to use a few traps. There were times where I needed to explore entire areas in search of items to use later on, which required solving a few (easy) puzzles to solve. I hope that this trend continues, as most Telltale series aside from Batman have started leaning more on the side of an interactive television show as opposed to an actual game with player agency.
The world of The Walking Dead has featured a number of interesting characters, though unfortunately, at the beginning of The Final Season, the cast are introduced just as slowly as the narrative. Like every zombie apocalypse trope, every group Clementine has come across has your typical leader, some comic relief, a badass, and a quiet character with a secret past. This game is no different, and offers a number of personalities that fill in each of your bog-standard characters. The one redeeming quality is that they are all teenagers that have (somehow) survived in the school since the beginning of the apocalypse, all on their own. By the end of the third and final act, the characteristics of some cast members are slowly fleshed out, and it becomes apparent who will make the biggest impact throughout the rest of the series.
Children are absolutely capable of amazing things, so it is very refreshing to see how Clementine’s dynamic changes when she is confronted with people of her own age, as opposed to the constant stream of adults in her life. While they still have the same responsibilities as their fully-grown counterparts, seeing how they have accepted their responsibilities, while at the same time arguing over petty stuff and trying to gross each other out — in a manner that is very characteristic of teenagers — is an interesting take on The Walking Dead universe.
The graphical elements of this season really stand out. Much of the focus is put upon characters in the foregrounds, and much of the backdrops are limited to four or five colors, with bold black lines outlining objects in the environment. It feels a lot more like a page out of the graphic novels than a video game, and it is pretty remarkable how Telltale have managed to capture this feel.
Despite its slow start, I’m still looking forward to seeing how The Walking Dead: The Final Season pans out. While it (for whatever reason) ignores most of the plot from A New Frontier, Episode One: Done Running sets the stage for the remaining four episodes, even though its pacing falls a little short of the mark. Moving forward, I can only hope that the ragtag group of young adults differentiate themselves from the formulaic roles the series has relied on in the past.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by Telltale Games.
As it turns out, episode one of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is very much a slow burn. While it fails to maintain the pacing of previous seasons, and seemingly ignores much of what took place in A New Frontier, the game is indeed heading towards something special for the finale.