Price: £20.99 Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform(s): PC, X360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
Note: While I have made efforts to avoid spoilers in this review, both the general storyline and some specific plot points are discussed herein. If you want to go into the game cold, we recommend you avoid reading or skip to the concluding paragraph on page two.
There’s a moment in the fourth episode of this latest series of the Walking Dead where Clementine is patrolling through the woods with another character. They’re discussing the other members in their group, and one of the dialogue options for Clementine reads along the lines of “This group isn’t as good as the last one I was in.”
This, I feel, encapsulates the central problem with The Walking Dead: Season Two. While it remains a sharply written and frequently gripping virtual drama, in a lot of ways it feels very similar to Season One, albeit featuring less interesting characters.
It does have one big plus over Season One, however, and that’s its new protagonist. While Lee was a wonderfully drawn, highly endearing personality to control for the first season, it was his unerring bond to and shaping influence over ten-year-old Clementine that made the narrative sing. In this series, we assume the role of Clementine herself, grown and hardened by twelve months surviving in the post-apocalyptic Georgian wilds.
Clementine alone makes this series worth playing. Telltale negotiate her personality, balanced between adolescent girl and toughened survivalist, with both delicate grace and unflinching honesty, lending her a significant amount of narrative agency while not forgetting to occasionally remind you that she remains, ultimately, a child. To a certain extent they allow you to decide the course yourself, whether you rely on larger, stronger individuals to perform certain tasks for you, or whether you take the burden on yourself. Yet even if you choose to take help where it is offered, Clem is no hanger-on. The older members of the group rely on her as often as she does them. She can fit into gaps the adults cannot, climb obstacles they would be too heavy for, and negotiate certain situations that may spark conflict if an adult attempts to handle it.
The first episode, as we’ve previously discussed, sees Clementine largely alone, and it is used to reintroduce us to her character and the harsh realities of The Walking Dead’s world. But soon enough she joins up with another group of survivors, and it's here the series encounters its first difficulties. Previously we were introduced to characters one by one, or in small, sensible groups such as families. Here we have a good five or six characters dropped on us at once, and it’s difficult to keep track of those sudden and multiple threads.