Season Two of the critically acclaimed TellTale adventure game, The Walking Dead begins several months after the end of Season One and finds Clem surviving with Omid and Christa. In an attempt to avoid spoilers, the extent to which I’ll discuss the plot is to say zombies attack and hijinks ensue. The game doesn’t drastically take a left turn into another genre, so if you’ve played season one, you’ll know what to expect in season two.
That being said, Season Two makes an important distinction of feeling like a different game. The gameplay is there, the voice acting is as top notch as it was in the first season, and the art style remains as engaging as ever. The difference is drawn from the shift in protagonists. In less capable hands, switching perspectives from Lee to Clementine could have easily been whitewashed with no discernible differences. That isn’t the case.
TellTale has created a benchmark in personality and emotional development that establishes the subtle differences between characters that exist in real people. Because of this, the game you play as Clementine, particularly how you play, is inherently different from the experience of playing as Lee.
In Season One, I came to the realization that playing The Walking Dead in the similar fashion as other games with a typical karma system, wasn’t possible. I couldn’t simply align myself with one side or another, or more likely, try and play nice with everyone. The choices I made as Lee while trying to keep everyone happy, not only affected me, but had a profound impact on the safety of Clem. To this extent, I soon realized that it didn’t matter how other characters interacted with Lee, so long as the actions resulted in Clem’s safety.
This time around, I can no longer play as Clem in the same manner in which I played as Lee. I have no idea who might be an ally and who is a threat. I can’t afford to trust anyone that comes along because even when having strength in numbers and someone to rely on, that trust could potentially be a liability.
That reckoning of gameplay is what makes The Walking Dead stand out from similar titles. Yes, the gameplay is engaging, the voice acting is top notch, and the story is moving. But what The Walking Dead does better than most, is make you question the fundamentals of survival and how to manage life altering decisions in a focused amount of time.
It’s more than just having a choice between right and wrong. It’s the choice between life and death and the decision to do what is necessary to survive, even if that means making the morally wrong choice. What can your conscience justify, if it means living to see tomorrow.
Those choices and the emotional turmoil that comes entangled with them, are what makes The Walking Dead a stand out title. In an industry populated with overly dramatic war themed shooters and fantasy driven epics, it seems almost ironic that one of the most outstanding titles of this generation, will be a game about protecting a little girl, not so much from zombies, but from the harsh nightmare presented by the other humans. Least we forget, the Walking Dead isn’t a reference to the zombie threat, but to those left behind, struggling to survive.
This season, I’m playing the episodes as they are released. I played season one after all five episodes were available, back to back, over the course of a few days. It remains to be seen if this will alter my opinion of the game, however I do feel waning interest that wasn’t present when I was able to move directly onto the next episode in season one.
The second season can never be what the first season was. That discovery and shock of how intense and emotional the game was, is no longer present for those of us coming returning for season two. We know what to expect and are prepared for it this time. In many ways this new season has more to prove in what it can accomplish on its own, even in a world that relies on previous installments as a foundation.
All That Remains is a worthy successor to an outstanding Season One.