The Walking Dead: Season Two sees Telltale return to the franchise that made them famous. Prior to 2012 Telltale had a good reputation for developing fun point & click adventures based on TV, movie and retro gaming licenced properties. They however hit the mainstream big time thanks to their take on the grisly Robert Kirkman zombie comic (now also a popular television series.) Season one’s five-part adventure deservedly scooped up numerous game of the year accolades thanks to its mature storyline that focuses heavily on character relationships. It was the best game that I played back in 2012 and ever since then I have been eagerly anticipating the follow up. Well the wait is finally over. With all five episodes now released it is time to reveal if Season Two is another classic or a Romero style un-dead sequel flop.
Like with most Telltale releases, The Walking Dead: Season Two is divided up into five instalments. Players can purchase each part separately or buy the entire collection for a minor discount. The game is available to download for practically every current gen gaming system and is due to get a boxed retail release later this year. Warning! Although I will try to keep things vague, the remainder of this review may contain spoilers.
The second chapter in The Walking Dead saga has players taking control of Clementine, the young girl they fought so hard to protect back in season one. When it was originally announced that Clem would be the protagonist of this title I was apprehensive to see how her upgrade from support character to protagonist would work out. Could an innocent and softly spoken child carry the weight of a blockbuster game on her shoulders? Well as it turns out she can. Since we last saw Clementine the toll of growing up in a world plagued with carnivorous cadavers has forced her to toughen up. She’s matured into a more assertive zombie slaying veteran who isn’t shy about dishing out the occasional sarcastic quip whenever the situation demands it.
When episode one kicks off we see Clem reunite with a pair of familiar faces, from season one, but sadly the reunion is short lived. Things turn sour culminating with the cap-wearing heroine fending for herself in some dangerous woods. After a scrape with an unfriendly mutt, Clementine eventually finds a new party of travelling companions to band with. The group initially treat Clementine with suspicion (mistaking the dog bite she suffered previously with a zombie wound) but after proving her worth she is eventually welcomed into the fold. Travelling in a pack offers the benefit of increased security, but on the negative side it also means that Clementine inherits the group’s troubles too.
This soon becomes apparent in episode two when it is revealed that a ruthless psycho named William Carver is pursuing Clementine’s new buddies. Out manned and out gunned, Clementine and pals are eventually captured by Carver’s goons setting up the third episode. Titled “In Harm’s Way” players are tasked with helping Clem escape a life of slave labour by finding a way out of the Carver led compound she is imprisoned in. The final two episodes cover the group’s desperate fight to stay alive in the inhospitable wilderness, were freezing temperatures and a lack of supplies begin to cause friction within the previously friendly ranks. In the end Clementine’s biggest threat isn’t the horde of un-dead zombies hounding her, but living humans who are capable of committing the worst atrocities imaginable under the justification of survival.
My rating for The Walking Dead: Season Two is a four out of five. It’s another example of an excellent Telltale release that is arguably better than the source material it is based on. Once you start playing the game it’s hard to put down thanks to the solid writing and cliffhangers that signal the end of each episode. On average each part can be completed within two hours, but you won’t feel short changed as the writers pack a lot of drama into the limited running time (plus the whole package is very reasonably priced.) Visually the game’s comic book graphics are identical to season one given that the same engine powers both titles. On the audio sound of things I thought that the soundtrack complemented the tone of the story well and the entire voice cast did an exemplary job portraying their characters.
The game won’t be to everyone’s taste though due to the dark tone of the narrative, which features gruesome deaths and patchwork first aid that will make sensitive players squirm. Some people may also not like the limited gameplay on offer that boils down to quick time events, walking down linear paths and conversing with characters. For all intents and purposes The Walking Dead: Season Two is an interactive novel. Even the token puzzles seen in season one (fixing a radio, manipulating levers to start a train etc) are absent from this sequel. Overall Season Two is an excellent game, although as my rating suggests it isn’t on the same level as the original or even The Wolf Among Us, which Telltale recently released.
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but in terms of plot I think season one was better paced. Episodes two and three are captivating stuff, but once the conflict with Carver gets resolved it feels like the writers run out of ideas. The remaining two parts peter out into nothing more than squabbles and tackling a mentally unstable friend who is driven to breaking point by stress. It will be interesting to see how the recently announced season three fares. The comics and TV show were big hits until audiences began to tire of seeing likable cast members perish. With the shock value of unexpected deaths waning how will Telltale retain the interest of desensitized players?