Oh my darling, oh my darling…
Title: The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode One – “Done Running.”
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows PC (Steam)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Price: Please note these are digital season pass prices:
PS4 and PC: £19/$20
Nintendo Switch: TBC/$20
Xbox One: £19/$20
TL;DR: Telltale’s back on form.
Family Focus: Click here for more information
After A New Frontier, I wasn’t sure what was happening with this series. Telltale’s The Walking Dead had two solid seasons, followed by something that felt more like an episode of Eastenders that a grim struggle for survival in a zombie apocalypse. Upon the end of A New Frontier, which left us with no AJ, Javier Garcia, and Clementine in a stupid haircut, not many of the fandom were optimistic, especially when the details of the last season were announced. “Set in a school, with a bunch of teenagers?!” they cried. “It’ll be dreadful, awful romance tropes all over the place!” and I’ll admit, I was in the same boat.
On the other hand, I am very happy to report that in the first episode of the last season, they’ve managed to outclass anything and everything done in A New Frontier. Characters, horror, and general all-round badassery – we’ve got it right here. Has Telltale managed to pull it back from the brink? I hope so.
To get you up to speed, we’ve jumped forward three or four years, and come back beautifully sans-Garcias. Clementine and AJ are still looking for safety, travelling around the country and trying to scrape out an existence. After a car crash, they wind up being taken back to a school inhabited by a bunch of former “troubled,” teenagers, who, due to their isolated location and smart reinforcements, have managed to survive alone since the outbreak. However, secrets are quickly coming to light, and Clem’s got to juggle finding a safe place for herself and AJ, and trying to make sure her kid doesn’t grow up to be a complete monster.
A lot of the negative feedback from last season seems to have been taken on board. Lack of Clementine, AJ being offscreen or silent and not able to be interacted with for most of the time, lack of meaningful dialogue choices, lack of hubs, and bland characters – all of these have been addressed. The whole thing feels more stylised, more… showy, without the negative connotations. They’ve put a lot of love and thought into the design of the characters and the environment, and it feels like the characters are actually characters again rather than dull archetypes. There’s a lot of stuff to examine and small things to make you stop and ponder; it feels like all the love from Season One has come pouring back into the first episode, and it’s so refreshing to play.
The writing feels much stronger than anything I played in A New Frontier; right from the get-go, we’re dropped into a plot we want to see – what’s going on with Clementine, and what’s going on with AJ. We’ve had three seasons to get attached, as opposed to one with Javi and co – people are invested and want the final season to bring closure, rather than shifting focus over to new characters. While, as of Episode One, we’re not seeing any other returning characters (as of yet), the introduction of the kids at the school doesn’t feel like it’s detracting from Clem and AJ’s story; rather, they’re bolstering it. Clementine is being woven into the narrative rather than shoved to the side, and thanks to the (so far) lack of huge overarching goals for the duo rather than just “survive,” it doesn’t feel forced. My one gripe with the choices for this episode (though not the big ones) is that there are certain actions highlighted in orange, which the game informs you to think carefully on, as they’ll have consequences; all the ones in Episode One are mandatory. Whilst I presume this will change in the later game, it’s a tad bizarre.
I also wanted to mention that the voice acting and graphics are top-notch, even from this early on. The janky lip sync is completely gone, and the graphics have still retained their comic book aesthetic, but have become a lot smoother. Melissa Hutchison has the voice of a world-weary Clem nailed down, and Taylor Parks as AJ sounds both realistic and pleasant to listen to. Special mention has to go to Ray Chase voicing Marlon, who has a fantastic, believable vocal range, but truthfully, everyone sounds great in Episode One. There’s also a lot of diversity in character models, and the kids in the school are from various different backgrounds and ethnicity – it’s nice to see.
The final thing I wanted to touch on was the horror. Season Three was bland of everything, including what makes The Walking Dead so scary – the complete crapsack world around them, zombies or not. The first couple of seasons weren’t scary because of the Walkers, but because of the small moments; Clementine’s parents in the pack of Walkers. The boy who was left to starve to death in the attic. Christa’s baby, and the fact we never found out what happened to it. The Final Season, without delving into spoiler territory, has given us that back; this is a grim world where there’s no doctors or other help coming. Things can and will go wrong, fast, especially in a group of kids that have known very little other than a Walker-infested world.
To conclude, I love it. You’ll recall I said before that “there is nothing positive I can say about A New Frontier,” but this is the strongest The Walking Dead has been in a long time. The second episode, titled “Suffer the Children,” will release on September 25, 2018, and I’m of the opinion that it’s too far away.
- The episode is roughly 2.5 hours long, as opposed to last season’s incredibly short ones.
- The characters feel nuanced and human.
- They made the “Oh my darling Clementine,” joke I’ve been sitting on since Season One.
- No physical edition upon release.
- The orange consequence choices were all mandatory.
- I can’t play the next episode right now.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season is rated PEGI 18 for “strong violence and sexual expletives,” and ESRB M for Mature for “Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language.” Considering the nature of the deaths, the probable fate of the twins, and AJ’s “helping,” don’t give this one to the kiddos – not appropriate.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game purchased for the purposes of this review.