The lights are on
Beginning Anew, Remembering the Old
Quality Continues with Clementine in the Lead
Hey there folks. It's been a little while since I wrote an actual review here, so I'll start with this one, an appropriate place to start as any on the first of a new year. I've had my time to play through the start of Telltale's second season of their The Walking Dead series of episodic storytelling, and Clem manages to hold her own- which is great characteristically and for the title as well. It leaves me looking forward to a hopeful remainder of a second season of episodes, and to what else may come. We've dipped our toes in the water with season one, so Telltale is pulling even less punches this time around, as should be easily recognizable from the beginning episode of season two "All That Remains". Seriously, no punches are pulled this time around- as if many were last time anyways. I was interested as to how they would manage to do it, but so far Telltale has, as far as I can see, managed to incorporate the "Clem will remember that" moments from last season's antics, as well as any other people you encounter from that season here. So, the narrative continues, even if it is picking up where Lee's tale left off, sad as that was (*spoiler!).
Now, I'm going to try to do this review without spoiling much, or anything- if at all possible, so try to cut me a little bit of slack if I seem to be getting vaguer and vaguer as we go through, as there is much to be discussed and hopefully not thoroughly spoiled for those of you who have not had the pleasure of experiencing and playing just yet. Though mainly due to procrastination I have not completely finished my anthology-ish review of the complete first season, as I have left off its episode five, my overall score for that season was a highly commendable 8.75 and I also gave the 400 Days epilogue/season bridge an 8.5 as well. This having been said, while you may think I am giving this first episode a relatively "weak" numerical score in comparison to the others of the strong first season and fine interlude, I have thoroughly enjoyed this episode and been harsher with my grade of the same problems that I was able to concede were "rookie" first season mistakes, that also appeared here in some instances. All in all, this is the Clementine roadshow now, and although she was a focal point and character of importance in the first season as well, she truly begins to spread her wings and fly this time around.
I suppose this particular episode could have very well been titled something ironic along the lines of "Growing Pains" as that would be true both in terms of Clementine's bid for survival amongst her fellow companions and the zombie apocalypse, as well as her evolution as a young girl and character. Twisted ironies aside, the zombie apocalypse is no cake walk- particularly for a girl barely striking double digits. Clementine, as with but on a somewhat slower-paced and smaller scale than Carl (Chandler Riggs) from the television counterpart, is forced to grow up much faster than normal. "All That Remains" finally gives players the full reins of control over Clem in her fight for survival, and bold though that is, it works just as well to their advantage- if not more so, than Lee's control ever did. No longer quite so naive and gullible as she once was, in no small part thanks to the horrors she has already witnessed- multiple zombies feasting, cannibalism, and much, much more, Clementine finally stands on her own, mostly without the support of a father-like figure, and fights for herself and her new-found companions. It's good to see that she can be her own person, small though she may seem, and a larger than life character in her own right. I can only hope, in a paternal type of way, that Telltale doesn't have the guts to kill her off in the near future as well, though sadly I wouldn't put it past them...
Players who purchase this particular episode are finally able to see what we've all been speculating deliriously about since the ending of season one and the hints added by 400 Days: just what Clem's been up to and where she is at as well as how she is faring on her own. New and returning faces make appearances (two guesses who, on the returning side, as I am sure it has already been spoiled for you here or elsewhere), and new problems arise because of these and other encounters. The characters remain similarly shaped to the archetypes of the first seasons' but also allow for some more room to grow and some more multifaceted growth and change in the ways they will interact with different players' choices as well along the way. This only improves an already gripping and replayable experience, even at the expense of starting off virtually the same as many characters from last season (Larry, Kenny, etc). The plot twists and turns in some great ways- bringing to mind some of the highlights and most questionable moments of season one, while retaining the sense of despair (not always overwhelmingly so, but close), and seeming brutally realistic and fresh at the same time.
Some of the new characters aren't as accepting as others of Clem or other travelers and survivors they come across, but with time, that is made a little more clear- and may be made more so in the future as well. I did like that, while some seem to be cut from the same mold as characters from season one in more ways than one, they aren't direct copies as there is a lot different and broader array of folks this time around- from pregnant women on. Ironically, instead of pitying this particular pregnant woman, I disliked her the most initially of the new group Clementine interacts with, hormones or not- her actions were just plain unacceptable at times, and cruel to boot. Most of the more action-packed moments are recycled from season one, though in different tropes and settings thanks to Clem's journey made between seasons as well. Killing zombies, attacking survivors, talking to the more unstable members of the cast, and scavenging for supplies make up the bulk of the non-story related gameplay. Because of Clementine's vulnerability and youth, she is both gifted with the ability to appeal to older folks more readily at times, and also at their mercy when it comes to being trusted with weapons and defending herself. Not that she's as gung-ho about murdering folks as the borderline sociopath Carl is becoming, but you catch my drift I see...
There's a little bit more riding on your (rather, Clem's) shoulders this time around, as- instead of further developing Lee's mysterious character, you are deciding just how Clementine is going to grow up, and whether she's going to be a cold, calculating character, or a respectable survivor. It's good to vary your tactics in speech however, and not follow one complete path, as Telltale realistically weaves a narrative where it is impossible to feel satisfied with every choice and to always choose one response type each time. No matter which direction you go- sassy or polite to your elders and peers, they will react mostly to your looks and age more so than your experience- though in the apocalypse, ironically enough you have the same or more so even than the adults in your group. Thankfully, one of the biggest sticking points of the first season has been improved, though not completely remedied and fixed- by which I am of course referring to the action sequences. These feel a little bit more fluid, and take their cues from the successful action of The Wolf Among Us this time around, instead of the first season's brand of button pushing. As a small girl, it is unrealistic to be able to force your way out of situations, so most encounters are made more harrowing by the fact that you must constantly be on your guard and ready to flee from your attackers. Oh, and don't think that just because Clem is a poor little girl in the apocalypse means the punches are pulled either, as you can get her killed just as easily- if not more so than Lee, and it is ten times worse to observe the pains she has to go through just to survive as well. At least she still has her hands for now though...
Aside from a few smaller moments that have obviously been remembered, Telltale is mostly tight lipped in this first episode in regards to your consequences and decisions carrying over from last season's episodes, however, that only leaves more room for what comes later on in this season- so I'm not too disappointed as of yet. I'm more interested in seeing what the future holds for Clem and her companions than dwelling on the bloodstained past as it is. New obstacles and foes are on the horizon and are slowly being discovered, and I loved that thus far while many questions have been somewhat or totally answered, others are just now rearing their ugly little heads as well in classic The Walking Dead form. We may never know why the zombie apocalypse happened in the first place, but hey- some things just never change anyways... The biggest letdown and simultaneously interesting point is that the first episode of this second season relies a little too much on the foundations set by the successful first one, without having as much to spread its own wings as a result. However, it does usher in new faces and new content, and therefore is a success in my mind regardless of score due to this.
At the very least, being able to see things from a fresh, younger perspective keeps this otherwise overly similar moments more tense, exciting, and new- even if they are inevitably cut from virtually the same seasonal cloth as the first encounters. I'm loving that it's still The Walking Dead, it's still quite up in the air and unsure just who will live and die, and it's still as tense as ever though. That's all a fan can ask for. I am also equally eager to see and getting ready to cringe at just what is going to continue to happen to Clem especially in the coming episodes, and just how dark these days might get as well...
Concept: Take control of the darling Clementine this time around, with no Lee to save you or otherwise spare you from the horrible reality that is the zombie apocalypse from the mind of Robert Kirkman and the folks at Telltale weaving this new tale.
Graphics: The dark tone, yet comic look is much the same as the original season and the 400 Days episode without much change aside from some lighting and angled effects.
Sound: The tense and dreary tones continue to inspire and instill fear and anxiety in the hearts of even the most ready zombie apocalypse survivors.
Playability: The controls work a little bit better in action sequences, but are largely the same as their season one counterparts in handling and layout.
Entertainment: Although whether or not it is entertainment or moral torture is not clear, even now, the captivating world and continued cast of colorful characters astounds.
Replay Value: Moderately High.
Overall Score: 8.0
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