The recent release of the Heroes of the Storm "Founder's Pack" raises the question of whether or not $40 is a fair price. Read more →
The Walking Dead S2 All That Remains Review: Clementine’s Coming-of-Age
There’s a moment about halfway through the first episode of The Walking Dead’s second season when Clementine has found an abandoned camp and begins rummaging around in boxes for food and supplies. After searching for several minutes, she happens across one box full of toys, picks up a doll, looks at it, and sets it down as she declares in a disappointed tone “Nothing edible here.”
Although quiet and relatively small, this moment alone serves to sum up virtually everything All That Remains tries to convey. Where so many ten-year-old girls might be inclined to play with or be interested in a doll, the ever-pragmatic Clementine instead views it as a worthless item that offers nothing to aid in her survival. Essentially a grueling coming-of-age story detailing Clementine’s necessary maturity and desperate will to live, the first episode of the long-awaited second season of The Walking Dead is a veritable gut punch that delivers some of the best character sequences ever seen in Telltale’s adventure game series.
The Walking Dead: Season 2 – All That Remains Audio Breakdown
Reading is fun, but if you’d like our own personal experiences in a more personable fashion then take a listen to our podcast about the first episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2!
Picking up almost immediately after the events of Season One’s dramatic finale, Season Two opens with Clementine having joined up with Christa and Omid as they continue to make their way through the South and toward the East coast. Of course, things don’t stay pleasant for too long, and Clementine eventually finds herself alone and forced to survive using the skills taught to her by Lee and Christa No spoilers will be discussed here, but it should be noted that Clementine will have to endure all number of hardships throughout the first episode including injury, separation, wary survivors, and the inevitable attacks from the ever-present danger of the living dead.
While no less intense, Episode One is relatively isolated and small in size and scope as compared to episodes in the first season, forgoing big set pieces to focus on the character and some of the painful realities she has to face. Some of the best moments in the entire episode were the quiet ones such as the aforementioned run-in with the doll, and these times were the ones that allowed us to sit and really witness Clementine’s evolution as she is forced to grow up fast in order to survive. It’s because of this necessary growth that the resulting dialogue she engages in and actions she takes are at times heartbreaking to witness.
Playing as Clementine is especially interesting, as it opens up different dialogue options and presents you with unique conundrums native to the character. Where Lee was constantly faced with the decision of lying in order to keep people from knowing his dark past, Clementine often feels compelled to tell the truth so the adults in her life will believe her. One never feels quite as frustrated as when they’re not believed or taken into account, and forcing the player to endure this firsthand was an interesting development that really served to change the dynamic of the main character and how we interact with the world through her.
Gameplay itself is indicative of Clementine’s abilities as well. Gone are the one-hit gruesome kills that Lee once delivered to his zombie foes, replaced instead by multiple hits required to make up for Clementine’s lack of strength. She’s no warrior princess or adept fighter destroying anything and everything in her way. Rather, Clementine is a resourceful and clever survivor who does what she must in order to maintain her own sense of well-being.
The focus on Clementine’s development is sometimes problematic, however, as it often takes precedence over deeper exploration of the other characters in the story. Where the survivors in the first season felt like complete and fully fleshed out beings, many of the side characters in All That Remains feel a bit stiff and archetypal. This could possibly be remedied in later episodes, but I found it a bit disappointing that I didn’t remember anyone’s name or why they mattered to me in this first installment.
The same minimalist gameplay of The Walking Dead returns for season two, although we do see some improvements that streamline the process and reduce the amount of times you’ll be spent playing through a quick time event sequence or searching an environment for something with which to interact. Larger button prompts and easier-to-notice objectives are much more visible on screen, and while they might be a bit frustrating at times, the majority of quick-time based action sequences felt much more interesting and dynamic than before.
The only new addition that bothered me was that of a “back out” option that allowed for a player to go back on a decision moments before the final action was taken. While it’s true that this option allows for players to have more freedom of choice, it often foreshadowed dramatic events and took away from the impact some of these moments might have had.
This was a somewhat minor complaint, however, that really didn’t have much bearing on my overall enjoyment of Episode One. Because aside from this and a few frustrating quick time events, the rest of All That Remains feels more polished than even the original season. The same cel-shaded graphics return with a refined look, animations have a great sense of fluidity, and although delivery can at times be awkward and not fitting of the moment, the voice over work is powerful and evocative when the game needs it most.
If there’s one emotion to take away from season two, it’s that of empathy: empathy for Clementine, for her condition, for her situation. No child should ever have to face the horrors Clementine endures every day of her life, but the fine sadists at Telltale Games insist on driving home how desperate her situation is by making us face the most grueling of choices and harrowing of actions time and time again.
But this is why we love The Walking Dead; it’s a wonderful tour de force that will leave you equal parts horrified and enthralled, pushing forward to face the next inevitable cruelty only this world gone straight to hell can offer. A fantastic follow up to the first season of The Walking Dead, Telltale has successfully avoided the infamous Sophomore Slump with All That Remains, and I’m already finding it difficult to wait for Season Two’s next chapter.