Captain Falcon has finally been executed for his crimes.
In my review of The Wolf Among Us’ premiere installment, I mentioned both the impact of Telltale’s The Walking Dead and what the studio had to do in order to stay relevant. Simply put: going forward, Telltale has to capture a different bolt of lightning in the same bottle for as long as the studio exists. The studio was in a difficult position…and then they announced a direct follow-up to The Walking Dead, starring beloved sidekick Clementine. Now, the public is all but crowded outside the Telltale offices, roses in one hand, pitchforks and torches in the other. Anything less than exceptional work would be met with violence. We saw it with Mass Effect 3. Telltale would meet the same fate if they failed to iterate on their beloved first installment.
Thank God they pulled it off.
The Walking Dead Season 2 (could’ve used a subtitle) Episode 1: All That Remains initially picks up around 8 months after the first game ended and gives you a fairly good idea of where the surviving characters from Season 1 ended up. It then skips another 16 months after it quickly reminds you that people are horrible and everything you love inevitably dies. Tonally, not much has changed.
It’s difficult to talk about the events of the game — and what about them works so well — without getting into specifics. The best parts of this game deserve to be seen blind, preferably without someone’s voice narrating the whole thing. Do note that if you choose to watch a Let’s Play before purchasing Season 2, you won’t see the game at its best. The quiet moments and interactive elements add to the game’s thick, soupy atmosphere; I can’t imagine hearing someone cracking wise over the whole game adds to a first-timer’s experience in any way.
There’s a new group of survivors in All That Remains, but it’s hard not to see a couple similarities between the Motel Gang and the Cabin Posse (as they will be known for the next four episodes). There’s New Larry, New Kenny, New Duck, and Other New Kenny. However, Other New Kenny isn’t as immediately obnoxious as his namesake, to the point where I didn’t want to dump him at the first opportunity. In fairness, these comparisons are more than a little reductive, and All That Remains has a lot to establish in terms of plot. Each character has room to grow, and that’s the important thing.
My biggest worry going into Season 2 was how much ownership players would have over Clementine’s development. I didn’t want control over this character. As far as I was concerned before playing All That Remains, her story ended on that log. But those fears were swept away by the opening credits. If you want to suddenly change Clem’s development, it would make sense within the story. Two years have passed since the first game, after all.
Personally, I played Clem differently than I would Lee…but not too differently. Clem is her own person, but the things Lee taught her stuck. I’m quite interested in seeing just how far Telltale pushes the both of us.
There are still just a few too many sequences where you’re forced to click on everything in the environment hoping to find the one item that will let you progress. Moments like that were the nadir of Season 1, and they’re not as prevalent here, but they need to be excised from the product entirely. Take a cue from The Wolf Among Us in that respect.
One design aspect All That Remains took from its sister is improved quick-time prompts. Now, the prompts are stylish, and easily visible. The in-engine action is still a little clumsy, but as with Season 1, you’re not playing a fighter. Clem is tough, but she’s still a kid. There was one failure I can blame on the game, however. During a fight with a zombie, a prompt appeared for a split-second on the zombie’s head before disappearing. That glitch successfully mislead me before I noticed a pertinent item off-camera. This is a one-off issue, but it’s emblematic of the problems this particular combat mechanic can encounter.
Technically, All That Remains is a major step up, at least on OSX. Checkpoints happen without major hitches, the game runs smoothly, and it had no problems recognizing my save. We haven’t been able to test the console versions, but if the least popular gaming platform on the market can run this game no problem, I’m willing to bet the console versions are fine too.
I wish I could talk about the moments in All That Remains that grabbed me; that had me reacting in ways I haven’t since…well, since the first game. The highs experienced here are dizzyingly high, and it pains me to keep my mouth shut. But that would require spoilers, and like I said earlier, you need to go in blind. Season 2 comes out swinging, and although it doesn’t land every punch, it has a better record than its predecessor’s first episode. Cautious optimism has given way to genuine excitement, and I can’t wait to see what Telltale does next with this series.