The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 1
Telltale Games has set themselves apart in recent years with a variety of well done, emotionally gripping point and click adventure games. The Walking Dead, now on its second season of episodic goriness, is no exception.
I'm not a fan of the television series, so I can't speak to the possible connections in either tone or content that exists in the game.
A few years ago, Telltale revitalized an industry that many thought dead with the first Walking Dead game and it has a lot to live up to. For now, let's settle into some of the particulars.
Like the first season and the Wolf Among Us series, Season 2 has a distinctive style somewhere near the Borderlands franchise. It's an interesting combination of real-ish expressions and styles, but with a hand drawn aesthetic.
Telltale Games is not a big outfit, so the decision to use a style that doesn't require complete realism was wise especially in a game populated with blood & gore, as well as woods and decrepit buildings. Colors are slightly more over-saturated, lines drawn out with thicker strokes than in real life. The effect gives the game a comic-book like appeal, which is true to the source material. (The television series is itself based on a graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman).
At first, it would seem like this sketch-like style would detract from the game's serious tone. While there are occasional jumps in the animation, overall it was a realistic experience. I would say that it was helpful, while watching some of the gorier and more uncomfortable scenes, to have it done in a more artistic style than having to sit through something like GTA V's much more realistic torture sequence.
The Walking Dead , like most of the games from Telltale, is a point and click adventure. However, they're managed to create a few systems that allow the game to rise above it's dated style.
Combat has been greatly improved since the first season, and from the Wolf Among Us as well. Previously there were a lot more precise button presses and motioning across the screen to grab some distantly highlighted object to smash your opponent across the face with. While to a certain extent these things still exist, the amount of potential buttons appeared to be less than previous games and there was enough time to think through decisions.
One of the more jarring moments in the game involves your character sewing up her wounds with a needle and thread. This scene was far more uncomfortable and jarring than it had any right to be. Most of the reasoning for that is because it allowed the player to control Clementine's actions -- you were the one sticking the needle in her arm. You couldn't squelch away from an uncomfortable situation. Mechanically, this was one of the strongest moments.
Otherwise, the game features fairly standard "look" and "grab" manuevers, and you can navigate with mouse controls or WASD/arrow keys, whichever is more comfortable to you. Overall, the game doesn't flex too far from the standards of the medium, which makes it easy for a novice or an experienced adventure game player to get into.
With a point and click adventure, one of the strongest parts of the game needs to be the story. Mechanics are important, but unlike an FPS, they cannot be the brunt of the game.
The Walking Dead Season 2 features a couple of emotionally charged sequences interspersed with lighter fare -- attempting to find medical supplies or searching through a camp, for example. These searching missions are a decent way to balance out the overall horror of the game.
You play as a young girl named Clementine. Previous players of the series will remember her as the secondary character to Lee. Playing through Season 1 is advised before getting into Season 2, as they inform each other (both mechanically and emotionally). However, if you don't do that then there is a short prompt that randomly assigns the decisions from Season 1 to your Season 2 characters.
Unfortunately, the Walking Dead brings back one of my least favorite conventions, which is the "you have to choose."
There are two people and you must decide if you want to save one or the other. It's pretty black and white, and it's also pretty frustrating. More so thematically because Clementine is like 9, and making that many important life-altering decisions is bound to make her catatonic. You could argue that in a world overrun by zombies, there would be a certain level of cruelty, but it's still pretty over the top.
Emotionally, Clementine gets bounced around like a ping-pong ball at a Chinese championship, and there's a lot of people placing blame on the doorstep of a pretty young child.
Overall, the game is a solid example of the genre, and fans of the series certainly won't be disappointed. You can find the Walking Dead Season 2 (as well as Season 1) on Steam or on your console of choice.