Friday, 14 February 2014

Review: The Walking Dead - Season 2: Episode 1 (PC)

At the close of The Walking Dead Season 1, developer Telltale Games could have been forgiven for moving on to other stories, to shift the focus from Clementine, the small girl that escaped Season 1, to other people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. After all, The Walking Dead series -- in the comics, the television show, and the games -- has no compunction about killing off major characters to move the story along.

Season 2 makes Clementine the focus and introduces many new characters, accompanied by an oddly upbeat sensibility. At least, if one were to define "upbeat" by horror, horror everywhere!

Mechanically and stylistically, the game is precisely what players got from Season 1, though for some reason, at least in this first episode, the game is less about adventuring and feels much more akin to an interactive story, where Clementine's dialogue choices are about the only interaction allowed to the gamer.

Or she's forced to do awful things repeatedly. For example, Clem's tasked with killing a zombie with a hammer. It's only after (agonizing) repeated blows that the zombie stops squirming. It highlights the fact that Clem's still young but the repetition is not really what I'd classify as an essential part to a good adventure game, where a single mouse click is usually all that's required. It made me uncomfortable for sure, as did an essential act of first aid later on, but the game is more about moving through the story rather than overcoming any real puzzles.

Besides Clem's weak hammer work, the game goes out of it's way to drop the perspective many times so that the player sees the proceedings from her point of view. The fact she's a kid is what the game basically hangs on because due to her age and her involvement with a completely new batch of survivors, she's excluded from a lot of information being discussed and decided by the adults. It'll be interesting to see what TellTale does with point of view in the long term but in Episode 1 it didn't grab me as much as the opening of Season 1.

And just why are there still technical problems with this game? TellTale has been using and refining the same engine over multiple games and there are still some really awful bugs. Not game breaking by any means, but when non-interactive character models appear, stock still, in the middle of a room it breaks my focus on the story. Rather, I stroke my chin, and chide the developers, and say, "Oh, c'mon!"

Then wait for Episode 2...

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Clementine may just be the most believable game character ever
- Has all the makings of a good story
- Looks great

The Bad:
- Some really off-putting bugs

Score: 8.5 / 10