The lights are on
Over a year ago, Clementine quickly catapulted to fame as one of the most beloved characters in gaming. Players tensely advanced in Telltale’s The Walking Dead fearing for her safety, trying everything in their power to make sure this magnetic little girl could survive the harrowing zombie apocalypse. Through Telltale’s five-episode first season, Clementine grows up quickly, holding a gun for the first time, watching the most important people in her life perish, and most importantly, finally having to face the zombie-infested world alone. The experience was more than just sad, it was unsettling, but that made it such a memorable experience.
The Walking Dead has no boundaries, and cruel outcomes lurk around every corner. The biggest and scariest question players now have to face is a simple one: Can Clementine survive on her own? Telltale is boldly placing you in her shoes, allowing control of her every move for the second season. So what exactly does that mean? Telltale recently gave us some insight into this transition and what to expect for season two.
Note: Some spoilers are present regarding the end of season one.
All the staples that we’ve come to expect from The Walking Dead return in season two: relationship building, decision making, and living with the consequences. However, playing as Clementine is going to be a much different experience than controlling season one’s Lee Everett. Clementine faces a grim, vicious world without Lee as her safety net. “The stakes feel way higher,” says director Dennis Lenart. “[You feel like] she’s in danger all the time. It’s a lot more dark and stressful experience than season one.”
She doesn’t have the strength to fight zombies with her fists, and because of her age, she can’t just convince people to rally behind her. Lee might have taught Clementine the basics, but she can’t confront situations the same exact way he did. “Clementine has to be a lot more evasive,” Lenart says. “You feel a lot more helpless, which is actually one of the coolest things about the game. It forces you to work harder in action scenes and find other ways besides just punching [someone] or chopping [their] head off.”
Some of the biggest trials revolve around getting others to trust Clementine and her to trust them. “It’s going to be about how Clementine deals with the people in her world,” says writer and designer Mark Darin. “It is about you as a little girl just trying to survive and trying to keep those relationships, and what those relationships mean to you. That’s still the core of what these stories and games are about.”
Season one ended with Clementine alone in the world, but Lee’s impact and your other choices are hardly forgotten. Season two makes callbacks to season one and the bridging episode, 400 Days. This especially extends to Clementine dealing with the aftermath of losing Lee. “Lee is definitely a huge part of her life and the way that you played as Lee is going to leave an impact on her,” Darin says. “That’s definitely going to be something she carries with her all of the time.”
Telltale is also adamant that just because Clementine is a child and fan-favorite doesn’t mean she gets a free pass from the cruel occurrences of The Walking Dead world. “The thing that we repeat around the office is the world doesn’t give a s--- if you’re a little girl,” Lenart says. Clementine isn’t off the hook in the danger department, nor is she shielded from the realities of her world. Her age also can’t be ignored when it comes to creating an authentic experience. Telltale had to consider it in every decision regarding the storyline, asking what responsibilities would be realistic for others to trust with a young kid and what she can do. “She definitely has a different set of strengths to get her in and out of situations,” Darin says.
Clementine’s age allows you to manipulate situations in ways you never could as Lee; consequently, it also means people won’t exactly be handing you guns without some serious convincing. Part of the battle is getting people to listen to you. After all, would you trust a girl off the street with life decisions? “Because she’s a little girl, and in this world with zombies and adults in it, it’s so much harder to be heard, but you can also get away with so much more,” Darin says. “It’s fun to push on those boundaries like Lee never could when dealing with people.”
Telltale is looking forward to finally putting players in Clementine’s shoes, but most importantly, the writers aren’t making this a journey merely about zombies and survival. The story is also about Clementine growing up, and the player having a hand in how she does by shaping her with choices and decisions. That means making sacrifices; constantly choosing between survival, keeping alliances happy, and trying to do “the right thing.”
While Telltale wants to keep the majority of the second season a surprise (teasing only that she will interact with some familiar faces along with new names), one aspect speaks loud already: just how different taking on the role of Clementine will be. “How dramatic and tumultuous of a time is it growing up, learning who you are, what your place is in the world, who your family is, and what that means?” Darin asks. “Everybody goes through growing up, [but] you’re doing this as Clementine in this world that is just horrible.” Lenart sums it up simply: “A coming-of-age story in a zombie apocalypse is awesome.”
Telltale hasn’t put an exact release date forth, except to say that we can expect the game by the end of the year. Steam and Xbox 360 listings hint that the first episode may drop next week. What are you most looking forward to about taking on the role of Clementine?
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
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