Having played through the first season of Telltale’s incredible Walking Dead series – as well as the interlude episode, 400 Days, it was only a matter of time before I moved on to the second season.
It shouldn’t be a spoiler that you’re in control of Clementine – one of the few survivors of the first season – this time around, especially as she’s featured on the cover artwork.
Following the devastating events of the first series, Clementine is travelling with two other familiar faces when tragedy strikes again, more than once, leaving her alone and needing to fend for herself in an incredibly dangerous world. Happening upon another group of survivors, it’s not long before they’re all thrust headlong into a very deadly situation with someone they’ve been hiding from – and the group, including Clementine, are soon on the run and fighting for their lives against not only the zombies, but also a terrifyingly power-hungry leader looking to reassert his authority over the escaping group, viciously and uncompromisingly.
As with the first game, the second Walking Dead title is mostly narrative based, with very basic puzzles involving items found in the environment as well as quick time events during most action sequences. The narrative will diverge slightly at points in reaction to the choices you make in terms of dialogue (or who to save, help or hinder at some stages) and characters will refer to prior conversations and events depending on how they’ve played out thanks to your input.
Brilliantly, the game reads your save file from the first season (and 400 Days, if you’ve played it) to build the ‘previously’ montage at the beginning, as well as having characters refer back to the first season and the choices you made along the way. Though ultimately the divergence can often be quite minimal, even throwaway lines of dialogue referring to the events that you’ve influenced really do give the impression that you’re experiencing a completely unique version of the story.
As for the story itself, Telltale once again put together an incredibly compelling and at times moving – gut-wrenching, even – narrative that wrings every last drop of drama from its premise and setting. Clementine feels noticeably more mature by the end of the series; though the ending doesn’t have the same impact as that of the first game, it’s still quite the emotional rollercoaster even getting to that stage in the first place. A familiar face makes a surprise return and becomes a major character once he’s there, deeply involved in many of the difficult decisions you’ll be forced to make. The characters from 400 Days all appear, though it’s extremely disappointing that, in many cases, their appearance is so fleeting – given that there was such promise in getting them where they are in their own title to begin with. Only one is truly fleshed out and given a major role, unfortunately – unless you count the major antagonist of this season. There’s a lot of characters that weave in and out of the narrative – and they’re all very well written, with believable motives and reactions, as well as superb voice acting by all involved.
As there was a lull, narrative-wise, in the first season as the characters reached a train, so too does it slow to a little too much of a crawl in the second season, losing some momentum at a museum. However, given the fact that events really go to eleven towards the end of that sequence, it is perhaps understandable that we’re given a little time to build back up to the incredible drama that unfolds.
I wasn’t keen on the change of coloured arrows during quick time sequences from white to red; it’s a little less easy to realise what’s happening when the colour isn’t quite as obvious during what can be pretty intense action scenes, that you’ll have to react swiftly to. Replacing button prompts with icons works to tell you what you can do with an object, but also took a little getting used to.
However, neither issue can detract from the fact that The Walking Dead: Season Two is another stunning story, delivered brilliantly and feeling like it’s yours, in the way that I’ve only ever seen done properly by Telltale. The save file carrying over your choices from season one and the consequences that leads to is a brilliant touch; there’s so much here that really works from a narrative point of view to create near-unparalleled drama. It’s a fitting continuation of the series; grim, exciting and full of near-impossible moral choices – yet ultimately optimistic, at least for those that survive. I can’t wait to check out the third season and continue my story once more.
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