We've had about a year to fully digest the events of The Walking Dead: Season One and try to recover from the emotionally turbulent ride that Telltale Games sent us on. Now The Walking Dead: Season Two has been released, threatening to send us into throes of depression again, clinging hopelessly to whatever vestiges of happiness we can find after experiencing the bleak realities found in the adventure game. This time, we follow the tale of Clementine after her the events of Season One. Are we ready? Probably not. Are we excited? You're damn right, we are. And if you haven't completed Season One, beware of MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.
When we last left Clem, she had just suffered through three of the most painful goodbyes she had ever experienced in her young life. Not only did the journey to Savannah to find her parents end in a total disaster, but she lost a lot of friends along the way and was faced with a horrible revelation: her parents had died and become walkers. To add some more sprinkles of tragedy to this ice cream sundae of depression, her mentor and surrogate father, Lee Everett, had been bitten by a walker and was slowing succumbing to the effects. In short, she lost three of the most important people in her world.
Depending on the choices you've made in the previous season, certain things will be different about your playthroughs in season two. Certain characters may or may not show up because of your choices and may in fact be relegated to the past tense due to some actions that Lee took. But don't worry if you haven't played for a while and have forgotten all of your choices, because Episode One does a fine job of recapping the action (using your previous save file, if you have it), while bringing newcomers up to speed. And while there are callbacks to Season One, few of the choices you made have that big of an impact. It's all about exposition for now, folks. But boy, do things get heavy fast.
The action really starts off when Clem is separated from her group of survivors and is sent sprawling down a river. She washes up near an abandoned campsite and finds a dog named Sam. This dog is the catalyst for a number of events that finds Clementine with a group of survivors who have taken shelter in a cabin. Unfortunately, they are not so trusting of this little girl and some members of the group even claim that she might be working for one of their enemies. They are made even more distrusting because of a wound she suffered while running away from a herd of walkers.
She's given a sort of probationary period in which she must stay inside a shed overnight. In the morning, the survivors will decide what to do with her and whether or not she can be trusted. However, our Clem has grown up since we last left her and she's not content to sit idly by while her wound is left untended. It is here that we start seeing a more grown up, resourceful and ultimately realistic Clem. She knows that not everyone will take care of her and that sometimes she has to take matters into her own hands. And then she becomes an incredible badass.
It's tough to write these reviews about The Walking Dead games because you have to tiptoe around a minefield of spoilers. You want to be able to tell enough about the game so that others can get a feel for what kind of content awaits them, while still trying to avoid major turns in the plot that make the series as great as it is. With that said, the narrative in the this first episode serves to remind you of how incredibly bleak this world is and how no one is safe. In fact, there are several parts that just hit you in the gut and destroy any kinds of expectations you may have had. It's only the first episode, but the ride is terribly bumpy.
The gameplay, for the most part, remains disappointingly unchanged. You'll walk around, press contextual buttons in the environment when necessary, and interact with people and objects. The only difference now is that you're doing it all as Clementine, a little girl who's alone in the world. And unlike Lee, who was a large adult who could do what had to be done, a lot of the time you're just reacting to things that are happening to you. The game can, at times, make you feel totally helpless. Conversely, there are moments that Clementine goes through that might prompt you to say, "Yep. I probably would have died during that part."
The best parts are the quiet moments in the game when subtle exchanges are made between characters or when Clementine looks thoughtfully at certain objects of significance. They help remind you that, while everything is going to hell in the world, there are still plenty of struggles and hardships to be found within. As young as she is, Clementine has grown to be a very complex character who is definitely the product of the people who have taken care of her. But she's no longer the scared girl in the treehouse. She's a survivor. And we can't wait to see where the next four episodes take her.
This review was based on a digital version of The Walking Dead: Season Two - Episode One for the PC that was provided by the publisher for review.