I wasn’t one of the many that were blown away by the first season of Telltale’s Walking Dead. I thought that Telltale hit on to something great, but that their current technology didn’t match the vision they had for interactive storytelling. The season wasn’t always sublime, but Telltale showcased some great writing and retained enough gameplay elements to make a standout title in the 2012 landscape.
It was also quite a big bonus to have a game where female characters were written as actual characters. Clementine is also the first real example I can find of a child in a video game that isn’t a liability. So much social progression from a game about people killing each other over food and shelter. Now I get why Tool sounded so somber with their song, “Right in Two.”
Upon seeing the initial trailer for Season Two, I figured Telltale was going to improve. The only vision I had was that Clementine would be alone, lost and sorrowful. That is pretty much how the season kicks off. Placing players in control of a character they tried desperately to save the first go around is genius. Now her safety relies squarely on you, instead of being a mediator with another human.
OH MY GOD! MEDIATE BETTER!
Depending on the choices you make during Season Two, Clementine can become the very epitomose of a selfless hero. She is courageous, observent, kind-hearted and always willing to help. Even when the adults cower in fear, Clementine can hold her own. All those lessons from Season One definitely paid off.
The story is much darker in Season Two. Every event is nearly like treking through the Valley of Death. That so much emotion can be wringed from a simple premise shows how well Clementine was written. Gamers are willing to see her tale to the end and would never wish anything bad on her. That is quite the accomplishment for a character who isn’t even real.
For all the strides that were made in making the narrative more dramatic, Telltale took a step back in gameplay. Focusing more on QTEs and action, Season Two pretty does away completely with puzzles. There is one instance where Clem has to turn off a turbine and it just stands as rather silly. How can adults not figure out to take the key and twist it?
There also aren’t any hub areas to redezvous at. Some gamers may enjoy the brisker pace, but I liked having centralized areas to gather my belongings. It was also nice to take a break every now and then and learn about the characters you were helping. You get stripped of that in Season Two, making most of your decisions based on logic rather than emotion.
Logic dictates you return the bag. You’re also not a douchebag…
This leads to the game feeling more fomulaic than before. You do make snap decisions, but only get around 30 seconds to let anything sink in. Then you’re quickly running to the next area where you get a few minutes to breath and are thrust into more action. I suppose there is something to be said of Season Two not wasting any time, but people need time to ingest what they have done.
The big trade-off is that Season Two is far harder to put down than the first season. Since you can finish every episode in a little over an hour, you end up not wanting to stop. You’ll never hit a brick wall or get stuck and you can quickly bang this out in a day after work (or school).
But that also leads to the side characters getting little to no extra development. Clementine is the most well rounded of the cast and a returning character from Season One adds some truly difficult moral dilemmas to the mix. All of the new characters feel mostly forgettable and don’t offer much in terms of sympathy or weight.
I won’t say that a life is worth wasting, but if I only met you 20 minutes ago and I’m tasked with picking between two people, I’m going to go with the one who seems more beneficial. It would be the only way to protect my sanity in such dire straits.
The final episode’s conclusion definitely stands taller than the first season. Instead of having one set-up finale that everyone will play out, you now get to make some actions that will determine who you end up with (if anyone at all). They are all confined to that last scene (which seems to be an ugly trend in these types of games), but your actions are now more of a reflection of your inner concious more than your ability to follow a script.
Hasta luego, amigo.
As for the other individual episodes, none really stand out. Episode Two is perhaps the most meaty and exciting, but everything just moves so fast that the events begin to blur together. With some more time dedicated to fleshing out the supporting cast or some tougher moral choices, I feel like Season Two could have surpassed the first in every conceivable way.
Hopefully with Season Three, Telltale will remember that human interaction is more important than drama. Even some puzzles would go a long way to making my actions feel more worthwhile. As in real life, everybody just wants to be heard. There are more stories and emotions to cover than simply death.
Instead of sticking strictly to inflated drama, maybe we can get an episode where nobody dies next time? How about a big puzzle that takes the entire episode to finish. I like the idea of that.
Something like this was perfect. More of these scenes.