The Walking Dead: Season Two Review

The Walking Dead: Season One in 2012 marked the beginning of a trend of games about dads and daughters. From dystopian fiction like BioShock Infinite to the post-apocalyptic followers of The Road like The Last Of Us, games explored parental (biological or adoptive) relationships.

Season One was about what you as protagonist Lee would do to protect the little girl Clementine, how your choices were judged by her, and the relationship you formed as a consequence.

In Season Two, you are Clementine. Lee is gone, and so is that protective parental relationship. Few games dare to force players out of the comfortable shoes of a healthy adult  man and into those ofa child. Ina typical action game, the difference would be stark, but given the simplicity of interaction in Telltale’s adventure games much here is the same as in Season One.

Clementine walks just as awkwardly as Lee, in straight lines and into invisible walls. With fewer of the superfluous puzzles of Season One, much of the action outside of conversation involves walking around, clicking on highlighted objects until you trigger the next event.

 For more involved action, there are still basic quick-time events. They look a little different but work the same, more loyal to the  narrative than to the concept of fair play, with some made unwinnable to increase the tension. Sometimes this rapid button pressing is effective as when Clementine fights offa walker ina flickering light and sometimes it’s boring.

So far so Season One. Sometimes the player must hold down a button and move in a direction at the same time, which makes events like stitching up a wound feel closer to life, like a lighter version of Heavy Rain.

Even life-or-death situations are countered with simple controls, red arrows telling you which direction to tap to dodge a walker’s outstretched arms, text prompts reading things like, “HoldA to escape!” The latter can pull you out of the moment but do make it easier to avoid the instant death and retry, which of course would do the same.

Given that Season One’s trickier moments were frustrating rather than an interesting challenge, it’s good that Season Two feels easier, though it does sometimes feel at odds with Clementine’s ability. She can’t push heavy objects or reach high ones without help, or shoot a rifle without falling over, but she can dodge multiple assailants and carry out several successive headshots.A similar conflict underlies Clementine’s interactions with other characters. As she can sometimes remind people in dialogue, she’s just a little girl, and yet multiple characters treat her as though she’s more mature than any of the adults.

Though it often feels more natural than it did with Lee to use the option to stay silent and let others argue among themselves, it usually eventually falls to Clementine to take responsibility for solving their problems and to face their wrath if and when she fails. The end of Season One suggests that Clementine will find new parental figures to replace Lee, but Season Two makes that seem impossible, leaving her instead stuck in the midst of never-ending arguments that are more stressful than any antagonists either alive or dead.

Of course, that stress is nothing new. By the end of Episode 1 the writers have already laid out the narrative formula that tells you this series will echo the last. There’s death, distrust, and discord. And no matter what choices you make, the overarching story plays out in the same way.

Because this is a second season, however, as with episodic television the story is escalated. The characters are used to watching people die, and so is the player. Unfortunately, attempts to raise the stakes don’t always pay off.

A firefight in Episode 4is a messy inclusion without any of the usual subtlety around character motivation. The pacing seems off too: the biggest event culminates at the end of Episode 3with the resolution of a conflict with an extreme villain.

While Season One was great because of its characters, Season Two has a less well-developed cast. Clementine meets so many new people that you barely get to know most.

The slower moments do allow for some great character moments, with one scene arounda campfire particularly resonating, butmoreoften characters just seem to argue like children who knowa lot of swear words, helping Clementine one moment and turning on her the next.

That internal inconsistency of these characters pervades right through to the end of the season, with one affecting a twist that beggars belief and leaves Clementine witha drastic decision to make. Unlike Season One, Season Two has distinctly divergent endings, which might seem like a good thing after the disguised linearity of Season One were it not for the fact that which you get depends on that one moment, and that they differ wildly in narrative strength. It also fractures the canon, which should have interesting consequences come the arrival of Season Three.

Season One of  The Walking Dead  was so noteworthy that it didn’t really need a sequel, but Season Two will be enough to satisfy many of those left wanting after the first series, even if it doesn’t have the same impact.

But its best feature is still its protagonist, whose personal growth stands out against the inconsistency of the other characters, and if there has to be a Season Three it’ll be all the better if we see more of this element that works so well.

While your choices throughout The Walking Dead: Season One didn’t affect the way that story ended, they do pop up in small ways as you play through Season Two, though generally only in conversation. Since most of the characters Lee and Clementine encountered in Season One are dead, you won’t be reunited with many old friends, but keep an eye out for familiar faces just in case. Those who have also played the extra episode 400 Days will definitely recognise characters
in Season Two, with one in particular playing a significant role in this new story. Since that episode only takes about an hour and a half to play, anyone who hasn’t already should give it a run through before starting Season Two.

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