The Walking Dead Season 2 Ep. 1 Review: Clem’s Ghosts

Nearly 24 hours after having completed the first episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 2, my lasting impression was that this has the potential to be really something special.

Yes, like the first season of The Walking Dead, this new episode, dubbed “All That Remains,” is hard on the heart. It puts the series’ new protagonist, Clementine, through some incredibly traumatic and intense situations, and is fairly relentless. Though it is populated by other characters, it’s thin on information about them. And yet, “All That Remains” has a very clear idea of what story matters: Clementine’s. A year and a half after the events of Season 1, we’re seeing a culmination of everything set up by Telltale’s stellar first game, and all those antecedents are incredibly important.

Season 2 is the story of Clementine’s life when her innocence and her safety net are gone. It’s about how she, and you, internalize the things she gained from those who tried to protect her. In an unforgiving world where death is everywhere, Season 2 is about not only whether Clementine will survive, but who she will become through that process. In Episode 1, the specter of Lee and his influence looms large, and if Telltale plays its cards right, Season 2 could be wind up being a remarkable, unusual game.

The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 1: All That Remains
Platform: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: Dec. 17, 2013
MSRP: $24.99 (all episodes)

Though Telltale has set up “All That Remains” to support new players who didn’t work through the first game, having a history with protagonist Clementine is key to this first episode. Now about 10 years old, Clem is a much more capable character than she was when Lee cut her hair and taught her to shoot at 8. She spends much of the episode alone, dealing with keeping herself alive in the face of her hardships. Telltale builds this new, older Clem specifically on the foundation of the younger version we knew last year.

It’s hard to overstate what a foundation that is. Clementine is an established character, a full-fledged personality, and while she might be growing up and changing, she’s still a rounded individual. That changes what it means to play as her: she serves both as an avatar for the player — a conduit through which you’re projected into the game — and a character who you influence but who is independent of you. That’s reflected, at least somewhat, in Clementine’s dialog options, as Telltale presents various possible answers and responses, but they all feel uniquely Clementine, where those belonging to Lee were more about providing players with multiple potential outcomes and personality choices.

And Telltale throws no shortage of situations for the half-character, half-player Clementine to deal with, although as far as Zombie Story Plotting is concerned, this might be one of the developer’s weaker episodes. Characters are still among the most believable in games, but there are a number of occasions when “All That Remains” slips into the familiar zombie genre trap of Characters Doing Stupid Things For No Reason. These include: Failing to check a closed room for potential threats upon arrival; leaving key weapons and equipment unattended; going off alone; failing to adequately check for threats again; allowing children to go off on their own; failing to teach children necessary survival skills; and failing to enter potentially life-threatening situations with full and adequate preparation. By this point, these people have been dealing with the zombie apocalypse for years, and yet many characters act as if this is Week Two of the end of the world.

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6 Comments on The Walking Dead Season 2 Ep. 1 Review: Clem’s Ghosts

Panther

On December 24, 2013 at 6:36 am

Anyone know when ep 2 is out

Resurgence

On December 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I really enjoyed this! The walking dead has really thrown me deep into this genre of game. The closest I’ve been able to find so far are Wolf Among Us, Overlive, and DayZ!

lorettalow

On December 24, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Just only windows 7 can play? :O

R.J.

On December 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm

This has been rather interesting so far. In the dialogue, I constantly find myself wondering three questions, “What would I say in that situation, What would I, as Clementine say, and What would I, as Lee, have taught Clementine to say?” One thing that I’ll say Telltale has going for it is that no answer is really the correct one. A lot of times that is because you end up in the same place, but they have an amazing ability to make it not feel that way at the time.

Cueball Noggin

On December 28, 2013 at 5:33 am

Hmm, a GameFront review of a game with a female protagonist that doesn’t make a pretentious, gymnastic intellectual leap towards gender issues or sexism. Written by Phil “games are no good if they don’t have enough black people and lesbians in them” Hornshaw no less. I hope this doesn’t mean there’s going to be balance and objective reporting instead of blinkered political paradigms and liberal guilt, otherwise I might have to start visiting Cracked again when I want to be insulted and condescended for not thinking white men are the root of all evil in the world.

(Read’s Ross’s column about disappointments of 2013)

Ah, good. The ideological masturbation is still present. I can rest easy knowing that this isn’t just a website about games.

Phil Hornshaw

On December 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm

@RJ

I’ve been thinking a lot about that point, and I think Telltale could potentially really be onto something if they work with Clementine and our history with her, instead of just making her Yet Another Game Character. I’m hoping they’ll challenge us about what it means to “play” a character and think of interesting ways to shake up the idea of characters in games being just extensions of the player. It could be very interesting from a game narrative perspective.