Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season, much like many of the zombies within, has suffered its own death and resurrection, thanks to the financial woes of Telltale Games and the rescue from Skybound Entertainment. After a few months of hiatus, the third episode of the final season has finally hit devices, and it turns out that it is juggling a few thematic themes, all of which end up getting in each other’s way.
This episode, named “Broken Toys” deals with the kidnappings of Louis and the other kids from the school. Clementine, AJ, Violet, and co. spend the majority of the episode devising a way to get their friends back. Through a series of choices made by the player, we find out some more about Clementine’s new friends and her role as a caretaker for AJ.
The first thing Clementine has to deal with is getting information from Abel, one of Lilly’s soldiers who was kidnapped by the kids at the end of the second episode. Encouraged to use brute force in order to derive my information, the game also allows the player to take the pacifist approach. Either way, as with most of these games, the game will continue regardless, as Clementine gets the information she seeks from Abel, not before having one final opportunity to show Abel some mercy.
The whole scene is set up in order for the player to have Clementine show AJ what kind of human being she is. Does she take on the lessons taught to her by Lee in the first season, and pass those on to AJ? Or does she take on the baggage from seasons two and three, and teach AJ to be void of humanity? This has been a central focus of the season in general, and it’s good to see that this hasn’t changed, despite the changing of publishers.
This episode contains a secondary theme — one that feels much too late to introduce in the second last episode of the series — the idea that the walkers still have something human within. The idea is brought upon by Clementine’s zombie-cosplaying friend James, who hates to see the walkers die. Clementine gets the opportunity to “be” a walker by donning James’ outfit and spending some time amongst the walkers, watching them listen to and enjoy the sound of a wind chime.
This is an aspect of the walkers that hadn’t been explored before, at least in the Telltale series. That being said, it feels like an overall missed opportunity, as it is such a huge concept to introduce right before the end of a series. I honestly don’t know how they will be able to run with that in the final episode when there is just so much else going on.
Where this season does shine is the focus on a new generation; a new generation of humans in this post-apocalyptic world that want a world filled with humanity. The adults of the world have closed off their hearts in order to survive, while the children seek to co-exist through companionship, fairness, and compassion. The adults in the episode push back strongly against the kids, and in classic Walking Dead fashion, the children don’t go too long without some casualties, despite overcoming the odds that have been stacked against them for so long.
This is exemplified in the scene where the children are having a party in the face of all the adversity ahead of them. Despite knowing that they are facing an uphill battle, Clementine and her friends sing, dance and play games. They also find the files of the students and talk about the reasons why they ended up at the specialty school in the first place. They discuss problems they’ve had in the past, and it ends up being quite an emotional ride listening to the tales of these characters.
Clementine also has an impactful dream wherein a figure from her past talks to her about what her life is like now. She discusses AJ, her new friends, and the big decisions she needs to make. Talking to this person is something the game tells you she has done for quite some time, especially whenever she needs to make a big decision and seek some clarification before forging onward with her life. It’s clear Clementine carries a lot of weight on her shoulders, and by dreaming up these conversations, she helps alleviate some of the stress she obviously has as a leader in this kind of world. This particular scene provided some additional character development for Clementine, adding an extra layer to what is already a very deep and complicated character.
The final act involves the children attacking the boat that Lilly is keeping all of her hostages on. With careful advance planning, Clementine is able to get herself and her friends onto the boat, though not without a few hiccups along the way. There are some truly horrific scenes thanks to the brutal nature of Lilly and her crew, and a final decision that the player has to make becomes one of the most important that Clementine has had to make across all four seasons of The Walking Dead.
While there are a lot of elements at play in Broken Toys, it sets up what is bound to be an epic finale. There are a lot of themes at play, but some of them feel as though they’ve been introduced far too late to make an impact. Nevertheless, The Walking Dead series of games have been quite the rollercoaster ride, both within and outside of the game itself. What is in store in the closing episode for the series remains to be seen, but if the episodes leading up to the finale are anything to go by, we are in for an absolute cracking end to a great franchise.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A review copy was provided to us by Skybound Entertainment.
The transition from Telltale Games to Skybound Games feels as smooth as it could possibly be. The themes in Broken Toys tend to get in the way of each other, but otherwise, this is a solid episode that builds nicely into the finale.