The staggering first season of The Walking Dead went on to win more than 80 game of the year awards last year, now the games developer, Telltale, is left in the unenviable position of following up one of the most acclaimed games of the generation.
The tendency for a lot of studios, both in games and elsewhere, is to feel the need to ratchet things up after a successful release; to try and outdo themselves, often to ridiculous ends. While All That Remains certainly isn’t lacking in brutality, it displays Telltale’s prowess in powerful, engaging, story telling.
The story of Lee and his quest to protect Clementine ended…less than ideally…for our hero, but things quickly spiral into even darker territory as season two begins. While season one chronicled a Clementine who was defenseless and vulnerable, now she must utilize the lessons that Lee taught her to survive.
Without delving into complete spoiler territory, suffice it to say that the first episode of season two features some of the most cringe inducing moments the series has offered up so far. The kind of moments where you agonize over the controller, knowing what you have to do, but still unable to hit that last button to make it happen.
The new group introduced in All That Remains presents more interesting facets to the apocalypse scenario, and highlight the brilliance of the episodic structure for a game like The Walking Dead. There is always a sense that the story is natural, and logical conclusions lead to logical questions. What is the deal with Sarah, and why does Carlos want us to remain distant? Who is the father?… Sure the game could be played through in one sitting after all the episodes are released, but there’s something supremely satisfying about getting 90 minutes of entertainment that tells a self contained story, and leaves you eagerly anticipating more.
In addition to story telling, Telltale’s stream-lining of the adventure genre continues to be one of the great strengths of this series. Take for instance the scene where Clementine is foraging through the cabin looking for supplies. Rather than having the player trudge back through the forest and return to the shed, the scene cuts to Clementine back in the shed. This may seem like a tiny thing, but its this kind of elegant choice, to move the story forward and do away with superfluous segments, that elevates the series above other games in the adventure genre. Its the kind of choice that TV and film editors make all the time, and should be made more often by game developers.
While I played season one on xbox, I moved to pc for season two. The big downside to this is that my choices in season one won’t carry over to season two. In lieu of this, the game made random choices in my place. I wish there were an option to tell the game which choices I made. For anyone who may have lost their season one save, or decides to change platform as I did, this is a bit frustrating.
Other than that, I’m happy with the change of platform. On a higher resolution monitor running the game in high settings, season two looks visually fantastic.
Here’s hoping that Telltale can continue to deliver on the promise of season one, and keep things this strong throughout season two.