The Walking Dead Game: Season Two [Review]

So, as any zombie aficionado should know, the final episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Season Two came out earlier this week. Way back in 2012, I positively reviewed the previous season and its 400 Days DLC, so you can probably guess I was pretty excited when Season Two was announced. I originally planned to review it as soon as I was done playing the first episode, All That Remains — an entry that left me a little disappointed due to how much of a departure it seemed to be from the masterpiece that was Season One. Instead, I decided to hold off until the season was complete, to make sure I didn’t do it an injustice with a pre-mature negative review. “This is The Walking Dead“, I told myself. “It’s probably just a slow start. It’ll pick up. It’ll be as good as Season One.”

How very wrong I was. Now that the final episode is done and dusted, I can come out and say it: The Walking Dead: Season Two is not a worthy successor to the masterpiece that came before it. It’s barely a successor at all. Hell, it’s barely even a good game. While it’s a good addition to the Walking Dead universe, most of the charm that made Season One so memorable has sadly been stripped away.

The Walking Dead: Season Two is a direct sequel to the previous game. With Lee Everett out of the picture, players now find themselves controlling Clementine, whose story picks up 2 years after the emotional ending to Season One. The basic setup is almost exactly the same as the previous game (or any Walking Dead media, for that matter): Clementine is alone and desperate in the zombie apocalypse and must appeal to a group of fellow survivors to stay alive. The problem is that this time around, Clementine’s journey has been made far more linear and cinematic — the story is always pushing forward, no matter whether the player is ready for it, which unfortunately means you don’t have much of a chance to just take a breather and get to know the game’s characters or reflect on what’s happened so far.

Characters often appear simply to die in an "emotionally-stirring" scene a few hours later.

Characters often appear simply to die in an “emotionally-stirring” scene a few hours later.

The characters themselves aren’t much of a replacement for Season One‘s memorable cast. As mentioned before, the story is much more linear, so the hub based areas of the first game where you could just walk around and talk to other survivors have been removed. This means that most of the conversations in the game occur at scripted points only, which makes the characterisation feel a little more forced. While there are some standout characters (such as everybody’s favourite, Luke), most of the characters don’t feel as fleshed out as anyone from the previous game. Worse, they often get killed off or leave the group before the player really gets a chance to get to know them, which removes the emotional impact of the first game and makes the death scenes meaningless.

The main thing wrong with The Walking Dead: Season Two, when compared to the previous game, is that it just feels a lot more rushed and unfinished. While for the most part the gameplay is pretty much the same as in Season One (walk around, collect clues, solve puzzles, do quick-time events to pass action scenes etc.) it seems to have been watered down. Outside of the action scenes, there isn’t much of a “game” to speak of: the occasional puzzles that were scattered throughout the previous episodes are gone, along with the hub based item collecting. Objects you collect rarely have any relevance to the gameplay (most often, they’re used automatically during cutscenes) and — perhaps worst of all — your choices don’t really have any impact on the game. In Season One, your choices had far-reaching consequences. In Season Two, your choices determine whether a character dies at the start of an episode, or if they die half an hour later.

The only redeeming element of The Walking Dead: Season Two is its story, and if you’ve come to this game expecting nothing more than a bleak, desperate look into the Walking Dead universe, you’ll find at least that much. The story in Season Two is pretty good, filled with shades of morality and a genuine sense of dread. You’ll encounter bestial, psychotic killers and plenty of death and misery. There are a lot of memorable moments in Season Two‘s story, but thanks to the more linear structure of the game it doesn’t quite flow as well as Season One. The main antagonist of the season is dead by the end of the third episode, leaving the fourth episode and most of the fifth without any obvious conflict or logical goal. Nevertheless, it’s still an effective portrayal of just how hopeless the Walking Dead world is, and the depths people will descend to in order to survive.

So, the question you probably want to ask is “is The Walking Dead: Season Two worth my time?” Well, it depends. It’s not a bad entry into the series, not by any means. Compared to many other zombie games, Season Two is still an emotional, thought provoking experience. Its just not as good as the previous game and fails to capture most of the things that made the original season great. If all you’re looking for is a simple continuation of The Walking Dead, and you’re not bothered about your choices ultimately meaning nothing, then it’s still worth checking out. I just hope that Telltale Games returns to their roots for the third season that will no doubt be announced soon.

About dgrixti

I develop games and I write. I'm studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and I've been published in a number of literary journals all over the world, and my first actual book is being launched in July 2012 by Disposable Fiction. I like writing speculative fiction, horror and literary fiction, sometimes all blended together. You can find elements of my writing in my games, because I consider my games stories that happen to have gameplay.
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