Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2 Review

“We’ve all made mistakes. Done things that we regret. It may not be perfect, but we look out for each other.” 

I had intended to be finished with both seasons of Telltale’s Walking Dead game, as well as the Michonne spin-off entry, before the first two episodes of season 3 were released. You know what they say: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I mean, hopefully I’m not going to hell just because I took too long to beat a video game. That would be an embarrassing reason to be subjected to eternal damnation. Anyway, I finally got through my playthrough of season 2 on the Playstation 4, so now it’s time to talk about it. It wasn’t as well-received as season 1, but it was still SO much better than the TV show.

How much better? Well, pull up a chair, hit the jump and I’ll explain it to you. There will be no spoilers for season 2, but if you haven’t played season 1, I would tread lightly here. Spoilers are hard to avoid.

Picking up right where the end of season 1 left off, we rejoin our dwindling group of survivors as they continue to try and make a life for themselves in the zombie apocalypse, but this time there’s a twist. Instead of playing as Lee Everett, the game has you take the role of Clementine, everyone’s favorite virtual child. However, things jump forward a bit and suddenly Clem is on the verge of being a pre-teen, the wonderful time when adults still treat you like a little kid and everything in your life is totally confusing. Of course, the physical disparity between Lee and Clem makes for an adjustment. You are no longer a lethal walker killing machine, and at first that can be a bit unsettling. Once you learn that what Clem lacks in strength she makes up for with smarts and speed, it all starts to feel pretty natural. The most jarring difference becomes how people in this world react to you, and the role that you carve out for yourself.

If that sounds boring to you, then I would encourage you to look elsewhere for your next video game binge. There’s nothing about this that will change your tune if Telltale didn’t pique your interest in The Walking Dead before, and in my opinion the most memorable moments come during moments of quiet reflection and Clem’s observations. An action packed thrill ride this is not, but what’s so fascinating to me about it is the freedom you are granted to mold a kid who grew up in this world. Is Clem frightened and weak of will? Hardened and self-sufficient? Or has the level of trauma that she’s endured led her down a path that is truly horrifying? These are the questions that you answer in how you interact with others, and as always the decisions that you make.

Folks don’t expect much from a little girl, so when you call them out on their bullshit and take drastic measures to prevent a threat or protect someone, it shocks the hell out of them. Even more so if you do something particularly violent or unethical. It’s a terrific character arc and even though it only lasts five episodes (about 10 hours of playtime), the journey itself left me feeling satisfied and eager to see what Clem will look like in season 3. Most of the complaints aimed at the game are centered around the lack of control that your choices seem to have on the main story, and while it’s true that keeping someone alive tends to delay the inevitable more than it alters who is still around at the end, those decisions can have very different effects on Clementine’s soul.

It’s so frustrating to me that writers with a small budget can create a story that is worthwhile and leaves you wanting more, while their counterparts working on one of the most watched shows on television seem like they are always going in circles without ever delivering a satisfying payoff. Maybe that’s why this game works so well though: it is mainly out of the public eye and doesn’t need approval from a bunch of executives.

Whatever the case, I’m happy that this exists. And if you are a fan of The Walking Dead but the TV series makes you hate your life, for a mere $25 you can head back to season 1 of the game and witness the potential that the show leaves mostly unrealized. It would be well worth your time.

Jesse’s Rating: B+ 

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