Thursday, October 1, 2015

Choices-and-Consequences Game Review: The Walking Dead Season Two: No Going Back

The second season of Telltale's The Walking Dead has been an uneven ride, but the final episode manages to be one of the better episodes. The fact that it finally gives people a definitive story arc leaves for a semi-satisfying conclusion.  However, the main arc is left unresolved, leaving the third season the task to follow those threads.

The tension among the remaining members of the group is brought to a head here, and what appears to be the theme of this season is at the forefront. The people are falling apart around her, and Clementine discovers whether it is possible to keep what remains of the good in her humanity among the chaos of the zombie apocalypse. The remaining party members put this to the ultimate test, and this episode actually does a really good job of making the decisions of how much humanity to keep up to the player. Unfortunately, most of those choices are left open at the end of the season, leaving the task of resolving the choices up to the third season to tackle. This is a double-edged sword, as this openness is certainly a good thing, since this is the first Telltale season that hasn't had a story that was self-contained, and your choices feel like they might really matter in later seasons. However, on the other hand, this extreme of choice deviation has only come in the final episode, so it makes the season feel even more lopsided than it had before. It also remains to be seen if Telltale actually makes these alternate paths have any real significant meaning in future seasons, or if they continue to converge all the paths into one direction as they have done in their seasons in the past.

The music managed to complement the excellent voice acting of this episode.  The new locations were all interesting as well.  There wasn't a lot of free exploration, and most of the action was in quick time events, rather than direct action or use of items, but the events were well choreographed, and fit the tension of the story well.

On the subject of the tension of the story, the voice actors have done a tremendous job bringing the tension of the remaining members of the group to life. The performances here are among the best that the series has to offer, and the performance of the sole remaining character outside of Clementine from season one in particular really shines. I didn't care for him too much up to this episode, but the vocal performance of his voice actor managed to make me change my opinion of his character in every scenario. I was moved to tears by his speech in every choice available. This episode has brought to the forefront that this season is really about his redemption more than about Clementine's story, even if she was the protagonist. This decision is definitely divisive, especially since the situation leading up to his appearance in the second season is never properly explained. I felt that since this episode finally managed to have a cohesive story arc for the season, and since it managed to tie up his character arc pretty well, it worked for what it was. Hopefully, the third season manages to successfully carry on with the theme of losing your humanity in the zombie apocalypse, as, even though it appeared to be the theme of the season, that sadly became the secondary, unresolved, arc of the season.

The finale of the second episode managed to finally give the story a definitive arc, which was lacking in the rest of the episodes.  However, that arc focused on what appeared to be the second arc of the rest of the season.  This left the season's overall arc, that of losing your humanity among hopelessness, unresolved.  On the other hand, this season is the first of Telltale's seasons to have multiple endings, making the choices and consequences appear to have a little more weight than they had before.  The season still remains Telltale's most uneven venture to date, but the non-linear ending coupled with the interesting new locations, stellar voice acting, and excellent music manage to elevate this episode to one of the best of this season.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

Episode Four Review

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