Posted: January 24
This game is a unique offering that has combined originality with the old-fashioned art of good story-telling, mirroring the formula that made Season One so effective. The game is not without its faults, which are often easy to look past as we are so engrossed with the main narrative arc, however the overall gaming experience is fresh and enjoyable.
The main narrative is driven at a perfect pace, compelling us forward when needed and pulling back teasingly when we wish to discover more about the characters that inhabit the game world. There aren’t as many intricate back stories, or developed background characters compared with Season One, however there’s just enough depth to peak our interests. As the gamer progresses through the five episodes, there is a conflict between a devastating reality and a desire to keep together the integrity of a world we once knew, embodied in the preservation of a young girl’s innocence. As we make real-time choices in the game, they reveal our natural urge for self-preservation, evoking many difficult emotions that few other games have managed to match in the past.
Much like RPG’s that encourage ‘choice’, there is an element here of ‘are my dialogue choices really making a difference, or is it just one or two choice options in reality?’ Although I’m sure that there are only a couple of ‘choices’ that drastically affect the narrative in the entire season, you do genuinely feel like you are driving the characters’ responses and play an active part in the story. There isn’t an element of charade over your dialogue which there has been, at times, in games such as Mass Effect, which makes us feel like the outcome is preprogramed no matter what. This is a real achievement in making us feel we are making a real difference, which is essential in a narrative-driven video game. Choice or no choice, we feel an emotional tie to Clementine and try to rationalise every decision, with her fate in mind.
The decision to continue with cell-shaded graphics is also a well-informed one. It manages to maintain some authenticity to the original Kirkman comics while also adding to the surrealistic nature of the Walker apocalypse. I would also suggest that, being a game that focuses purely on narrative over gameplay, it is fine for the graphics to be limited in this way, as the suburban streets and snowy hills don’t need to be rendered in graphical realism in order to drive the storyline. In many ways, high-end graphics would have only served to distract the gamer from the humanistic choices they must make throughout the game therefore the cell-shaded approach focuses the narrative even more.
If we look at the gameplay, there really is not much here to talk about that’s new in Season Two. Stripped to its core, it’s largely a mix of old-school real-time event button mashing and a little bit of ‘find the blue key’ to progress. The gamer enters rooms or new environment, picks up what they need to develop the story, engages with the characters, and moves onto the next narrative section. In this form, it sounds terribly archaic and limited, and maybe it is, but I rarely felt that the gameplay tasks were tedious. When we enter a new room for example, the gamer wants to check every nook for items that might possibly aid their cause for survival. In the back of our mind we know that this is probably a pointless task, but the atmosphere of the game is set so that we genuinely feel the need to check and recheck shelves and cupboards that might hold water or batteries, just in case they help us a little further down the line.
However, I do think the limited gameplay affects the replay value of this title. Once we have completed our journey and we know many of the plot twists, the gameplay does become tiresome the second time round as we are no longer as driven to discover the next part of the plot. Granted, we could play through again to choose all the options we didn’t choose in the first play through, but this feels unauthentic as many of the choices we make are in ‘real-time’. If we play through knowing what these real-time event options are and predetermine our choices, the whole enjoyability and possibly the playability of the game goes out of the window.
A quick mention of the ‘serial’ format of the game, the idea of releasing a new episode every few months. Does this work for The Walking Dead Season One & Two? Yes. Would I like to see more games adopt this approach? No. The reason being is that playing an episode, waiting 60 days and playing another episode does disjoint the experience. It’s not like the TV series which is released weekly or bi-weekly, but months after, and this does affect our thrill of playing a game week to week. *a note on the TV series, I actually felt that these five episodes and the first season too, compliment the show perfectly in its tone and in many ways the stories here surpass the TV show, which is on occasion, laborious to view, this game does not suffer the same fate*.
Although this game is a one trick pony in the sense that we are almost just playing for the narrative, I think this can totally be overlooked if the narrative is this enjoyable. The unexpected real-time events keep you on your toes and keep the adrenaline flowing without ever feeling tedious. It’s far from faultless, but overall this is a fresh gaming experience that will more than likely spawn many copy cats. It’s not as satisfying as the first season, but TellTale have another provocative winner.
Many thanks for reading, comments and feedback is welcomed as always.