The Walking Dead is back—not the TV series, but the spin-off video game franchise by famous developer Telltale Games, who only became so well known after the highly successful first season. Their other games, like The Wolf Among Us, have also been huge hits, proving that Telltale isn’t a one-trick-pony. After such a highly acclaimed first season, everyone has been waiting eagerly to see if Telltale could recreate their successful formula for the second season. Once word got out you would play as Clementine, the hype only increased. So is the first episode, All That Remains, walking tall, or is it crawling on all fours trying to keep up with its predecessor?
There’s no real point in talking about the graphics, since they are the same as every Telltale game. Those ever-popular cel-shaded, cartoony graphics still persist. Not to say it’s a bad thing by any means, but like all their games, you aren’t going to find beautiful scenery or incredible detail. Also like all their games, you will find small technical issues like camera trouble and a frame freezing here or there. You look past all that when it comes to this type of interactive narrative genre, however, since the main draw for The Walking Dead video game franchise is the dark story and deep characters.
The graphics aren’t the only thing that stayed the same. The gameplay is identical to the previous titles. Nothing shocking here either, since Telltale sticks with the tried-and-true formula of having an interactive narrative style over a more conservative approach. You spend your time looking at objects or speaking with people—best compared to a point-and-click adventure game, but reminiscent of those classic “choose your own adventure” novels. Some of the tensest moments are when you need to give a very important answer in an extremely short amount of time. Even worse, you have no idea if you really chose the right answer or not. That is, if there even is a right answer.
Don’t misunderstand: All That Remains certainly feels like past episodes, but at the same time, it feels entirely new. After being a big secondary character in the first season, Clementine is now the main protagonist. The game takes place almost two years after the first season, and while it is possible to jump right in to season two, it is highly recommended you play the first season before this one. Sounds obvious, but worth stating, since there are many emotions Clementine is carrying that you won’t understand fully if you didn’t experience the first season.
Playing as Clementine is mainly why All That Remains feels so different. Playing as Lee in the previous episodes allowed you to control a physically fit guy. Lee wasn’t afraid to fight his way out of situations, and he knew how to handle himself. One zombie was nothing to worry about for Lee; he could out muscle them if need be, and if he had a weapon in his hand, there was even less to worry about. Clementine may be smart and know how to handle herself, but being a child is still a disadvantage. She is often left struggling against larger opponents—throwing rocks in desperation or trying to worm herself away.
Probably the most important difference between Lee compared and Clementine is that Lee was an adult, while Clementine is still a child (pre-teen we’ll say). This isn’t referring to their build when it comes to physical confrontation, but what really matters in this series: the character interaction. Lee was taken seriously, he was listened to, and he could even invoke fear if need be. Clementine is a small girl, so she isn’t taken as seriously, but at the same time, she isn’t as threatening, which could be used to her advantage. Right away you can see the difference in this season by the change in protagonists alone.
Telltale is clearly trying to show us how damaged and troubled Clementine is now, while simultaneously showing us how she can take care of herself. There is no need to go into spoiler territory, but there are definitely a couple scenes in the game where you know that Clementine has grown up. She’s a smart and caring girl that is still as easy to feel for as last season, but this time, she shows remarkable strength in sticky situations. This also invokes a sense of sadness watching this little girl feel lost and alone in the dangerous world—forced to grow up faster than any child should. She carries a heavy weight, one that you feel for if you played the first season and experienced it with her.
Saying that, there isn’t anything too emotionally draining in this episode, which is more than understandable. It is the first episode, and its purpose is to set the stage for future episodes. There are action sequences that don’t carry any real weight or worry, but exist more so to break up all the moments of walking around looking at items. Admittedly, there is one scene that will really make you cringe, but that’s what you expect in a Walking Dead game. Besides that one scene, this episode is primarily about setting up for the rest of the season. There are multiple characters introduced, all cliché as well. There is the nice young guy, the older father-figure male, the young man who apparently messes up a lot, a doctor, an innocent kid, an untrusting woman, and some others. Then again, this may only be the surface of those characters, since it is the first episode. You are introduced to them so quickly that you barely have time to understand any of them, which is the point in a way.
You are playing as Clementine, a girl surrounded by a bunch of new people that you aren’t sure if you can trust or not. That gives some weight to the decisions you make, even though you don’t see the fruition of those choices in this episode. Once again, this episode sets everything up by introducing characters and showing you how Clementine is now. That does mean this episode leaves a little to be desired, but it’s as good as an introduction episode can be. From what this episode brings to the table, there is a good possibility season two could be as emotionally addicting as the last one.
The problem with an episodic format for a game is the same when it comes to television. Some episodes are important and necessary, but that doesn’t mean they are wildly exciting. Judging something off the very first episode – one that is clearly introducing new characters and reestablishing old ones – isn’t quite fair. There are too many assumptions made on how the series will turn out. Nothing incredible happens in this episode besides a painful scene. In fact, one could argue the scene was a little forced even. Now that all the setup is out of the way, however, there is a very good chance the next episodes will be what everyone has been waiting for. That’s not to say All That Remains isn’t enjoyable, because it certainly is. Diving back into The Walking Dead universe feels great, but until we are fully immersed once again in the new setting with the new characters, people we care about as much as Clementine, All That Remains feels a little, well, lifeless.
This review is based off a review code of the PC version of The Walking Dead Season Two Episode 1 – All That Remains developed and published by Telltale Games.