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.