In 2012, Telltale started a narrative driven adventure series based in the universe of the popular comic book franchise, The Walking Dead. When the video games series launched, it would be the spark that the adventure genre needed to become popular with gamers. Telltale’s The Walking Dead wound up becoming their most popular IP, but sadly, that wouldn’t be enough to keep it and the company alive long enough to finish The Walking Dead: The Final Season. Thankfully, Skybound Games swooped in to make sure that the series could meet its conclusion, not only for the fans but for the developers who spent years of their lives telling these character’s stories.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season has concluded and so we’d like to put our thoughts and criticisms about this final adventure into one review, instead of reviewing the game one episode at a time. We’ll stay away from major story spoilers and mostly focus on the relationship between the main characters and the supporting cast.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season opens with Clementine driving A.J. who is bored and hungry. countless times throughout the adventure Clementine will be faced with teaching A.J. right from wrong, but also how to survive in this zombified world. These teachings will come up time and time again during conversations and confrontations where A.J. will reflect on something Clementine showed him. With that said, choices during dialog reflect multiple different ways of bringing A.J. up. This is to reflect how the player thinks A.J. should behave in this new world.
It was tough sometimes when teaching A.J. new things because I had to keep in mind that the world isn’t a happy place. In order to survive you need to play a little dirty. However, some players might think differently and that’s totally okay because the game supports that way of raising the child. Something else that is always in my mind is how Clementine is a child herself, which means her reactions and teachings are from things that she learned, but also things that she doesn’t really understand herself. Still, she’ll pretend to in order to lead A.J. in the right direction.
The story nails the hardships that come with bring up a child in the world of zombies. New rules are made up on a whim and every action deserves its own consequence. The story faces many of these situations, even though a few them are a little out of your hand. Some characters seem to be written in to die and there’s little the player can do about it. Still, the weight event does, in some way, affect the final outcome.
In terms of the environment, The Walking Dead: The Final Season sticks pretty close to only a few different areas. One of the main areas is a school that is run by a group of kids. Throughout the story, Clem and A.J. will get closer to these kids as they fight a threat that they don’t know is approaching. I would say that episode 2 is by far be the weakest of the four episodes given that it mainly takes place at the school and while it does have an epic few minutes of gameplay, as they all do, I think the possibility of romance in the game didn’t feel right in this atmosphere and the game’s pacing is hurt because of this.
Each episode introduces more about the supporting cast as well as slowly introduces new characters. With a large number of characters to interact with, Clem is faced with spending time with each of them. Interestingly, while the game does offer some moments of bonding with the characters there are times when it just doesn’t matter given the outcome of the story as a whole. Similarly, some characters are just so unlikable that I can of had to force a few interactions with them and lie just so I can make sure that I get the outcome that I wanted. Thankfully, the game handles these situations by giving you a chance to explain to A.J. if you really meant the things you said, which was a nice touch.
While there is combat in the game, it’s probably the weakest part of the game as a whole, but that’s probably because the story and narrative set the bar so high. During zombie encounters, players will be able to stun and kill zombies. However, when fighting hordes, the game forces you to just stun all the zombies in the group and then work your way back to kill them. While the act of killing zombies is fun, doing it in the same way over and over again gets a little repetitive.
Other aspects of combat can also work against the player, mainly the aiming. Throughout the game, players will need to take shots at zombies, but the system itself is haphazard, sometimes you just need to aim at a large circle, but other times you have to make an exact headshot which isn’t always easy. While dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen in the game because of the checkpoint system, it does get a little annoying the seventh time you have to face the same horde because you just keep dying.
As a last hurrah, The Walking Dead: The Final Season is the best graphically and emotionally impactful in the entire series. This is saying a lot given that Lee was such a huge part of the series. I think this is because Clem is still struggling to understand this world while taking Lee’s teachings, and relaying them to A.J. in her own way. However, some events that happened in Clem’s past will creep up on the group and she’ll need to address that together.
Character audio and sound design are consistently great throughout the entire Final Season. Since these are children, their reaction to events is often overdramatized as they learn to live without adults. It’s great to see play out as they truly try and hold on to their lives before the zombies came.
I am so happy that The Walking Dead: The Final Season was able to be finished. This series seemingly stood out on its own and was never overshadowed by the comic book or television show. Coming to the conclusions of Clem’s adventure was bittersweet, but one that probably needed to happen. Just being able to be a part of her adventure one was worth this Final Season.
While the game has a few low moments of storytelling, those are easily looked passed when you are sweating bullets staring in the face of danger. The season’s twists and emotional moments hit home for me in ways I never expected. I want to thank the developers of Telltale’s The Walking Dead for putting so much effort into delivering an ending to a series that I could easily say is one of the best narrative adventure games ever.
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