The first season of The Walking Dead was an incredible piece of interactive storytelling from the get-go, which cemented Telltale as the company for video game adaptations of franchises, after many attempts at properties including Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. They followed the undead success with an excellent stop-gap episode, 400 Days, and then a brilliant pilot for their take on the Fables comic book series, The Wolf Among Us. Now, it’s for them time to return to the infested world of walkers, as they continue the story with a second season.
Be warned, the following contains spoilers for the first season of The Walking Dead, though is naturally spoiler-free for the episode in question.
All That Remains is a bleak tale, intentionally and at times overly so. Following the conclusion of the previous episode, where Lee met his demise and Clementine was left alone, we see a small time skip and a battle-hardened youngster, who against all odds is surviving in a world with no hope.
It’s a game which is difficult in a very different way from others on the market. Where others may have hope, All That Remains replaces it with despair. Even the similar The Last of Us – which is a clear inspiration – has its uplifting moments, but this first episode of the second season is almost entirely devoid of happiness. And where any semblance of joy may be found for Clementine, it’s soon replaced by further pain and suffering for not only her but you, as a viewer.
That’s both a strength and a weakness of the game. While it paves the way for some downright excellent and truly harrowing set-pieces, it makes the adventure at times feel a little pointless and depressing. You genuinely miss having Lee around, and playing as Clementine doesn’t have the same feeling of purpose or excitement at first; while the change in gameplay is welcome, she doesn’t make a good job of carrying the metaphorical player-character relationship torch.
It does manage to sell the world very well however, and immersion in that world is key. There’s no denying that Telltale achieve that, but questions may be raised about how Clementine survived so long if her life is full of the multitude of attacks, scares and general encounters which permeate the episode. Otherwise, it’s a very well written narrative throughout that manages to keep you emotionally invested and engaged.
She’s still a young girl, after all, and the developers are all too keen to point out the lack of brawn when compared to controlling Lee. It’s tougher, but Clementine’s quick wits are her greatest advantage, and although she falters at times, there’s always a solution to the problem at hand. There isn’t always the result you’d have wanted however – there are some points where the much revered choice system feels as though it’s completely against you, and you’re forced in the time limit to select something other than the clear solution in your head.
Although a solid new cast of characters are introduced, you can’t help but feeling somewhat underwhelmed at their lack of development in the episode’s two hours. Perhaps it’s not too different from engagement with secondary characters in the pilot episode of the first season, though the bond that Clementine shared with Lee was explored from that season’s very beginning and anything similar is missing.
Style remains quite unchanged from the first season, so as to not change the feel of the world around Clementine. It still has a very unique art style, and voice acting is on par, but it’s not as fully realised as Telltale’s efforts with The Wolf Among Us, which is absolutely sublime in its execution.
While the controls and pacing are both very similar to the first season throughout, there are some quite tedious sections which don’t live up to the greatness of the frantic action found elsewhere in the episode. There’s nothing truly bad, just a bit too much unnecessary padding where something better could have ben found.
The true crux of All That Remains is the lack of hope. It doesn’t set up the second season as well as the pilot episode did for the first, and overall it’s the weakest episode yet. It’s still a good, engaging and emotional experience, just one which doesn’t quite get the ball rolling enough and misses the mark at points where it could’ve been truly brilliant.
Fans will really enjoy this – and it looks as though it will only get better – but there simply isn’t enough payoff for past episodes or setting up for future episodes for it to stand alongside the first season quite yet.