The Walking Dead Ep. 5 Review: The Way It Had To End
So there’s a degree to which I found Episode 4 more compelling than Episode 5, if only because the former managed to be much more surprising, and even a little more dangerous. The stakes are high for Lee in Episode 5 as he goes looking for Clementine, but one wonders if he’s actually saving anyone, given his situation. After all, he ended Episode 4 by being bitten by a walker, his friends have managed little in the way of positive motion or safety throughout the course of the story, and Savannah is now overrun with the undead. Does Lee really have much to offer Clementine anymore?
Even still, there’s something … wrong about the guy who has grabbed Clementine, and the personal connection we’ve developed with her throughout the game is incredibly strong — another area in which Telltale has excelled. We players are drawn forward to help her just the same as Lee, in a way he can’t shake. In fact, Telltale conveys that feeling to players by removing a lot of our capabilities in these final moments. There are several sections of the game that act as simple corridors, in which Lee can move in only one direction and at only one speed, driven as he is toward his goal.
While the story of Episode 5 remains great, from a gameplay standpoint, it’s the weakest entry in the series. Though The Walking Dead has been light on puzzles all the way through, Episode 5 has none of which to speak. There are a few harrowing set piece moments, but primarily your job in Episode 5 is to click on key areas of the screen at key moments to slam a cleaver into a zombie skull, or to notch a headshot before a walker gets over a barrier. There’s not a lot of skill involved — it’s mostly twitch reaction but without any need for aiming, and it’s hard to screw that up. In fact, I found the lack of challenge in the gameplay, and really, the lack of any real role in the episode except to click as directed and to push the W key, rendered the whole thing a touch anti-climactic (except at a few key moments I won’t spoil).
But there’s the story, and it can’t be oversold, and what you lose in agency you make up in conversations and Lee’s relationships with his friends. Episode 5 is the perfect end to The Walking Dead’s first season, and while at times it feels like autopilot, it’s only because Telltale has done such a tremendous job creating its characters; everything that happens feels right. Episode 5 is heart-wrenching, but it’s also a joy to play through (although it is significantly shorter than previous episodes).
I mentioned above that The Walking Dead is ultimately a story about how people hurt one another, and it is that. It’s also a story about redemption, and about love, and in seeking Clementine, we, and Lee, find both. You should absolutely play it, because, minor weaknesses aside, The Walking Dead may well be the best game of the year. It’s certainly the one with the best story.
- Phenomenal conclusion to the story; Telltale really stuck the landing
- The emotional power of the story can’t be overstated — a brilliant, sad, heartbreaking concluding episode
- Does a great job of keeping the past episodes important and poignant
- Some great set pieces, and some of the biggest zombie-fighting moments
- Gives players the feeling of having a real effect on the characters and relationships, if not all the events
- Feels somewhat like autopilot, with several areas in which the player can’t do much but walk forward in a straight line
- No puzzles to speak of
- Very little actual challenge, which renders things a bit anti-climactic
- Shorter by about an hour than other episodes
Final Score for Episode 5: 80/100
Final Score for all episodes: 90/100