It's been a wild, weird, wholly disturbing, but altogether wonderful ride with Lee Everett in Telltale Games' The Walking Dead. Does the season finale offer a satisfying sense of closure? Or am I just glad that I finally get to stop making weak zombie puns? Shamble in and find out!
We've come to the end of a very long journey. Our pal Lee has been through some hard times. Players have seen him through everything, guiding his path every step of the way. In the beginning, he was a man with nothing to lose and everything to gain. But what really motivated him to man up and find a purpose in post-apocalyptia? The answer, of course, is Clementine. Lee did everything humanly possible to keep that girl alive and safe. So when she gets taken away by the mysterious voice on the walkie talkie at the end of Episode 4, it's no surprise that Lee will go through hell or high water to get her back.
And boy, does he go through some hell. This is the episode in which he faces the ultimate consequences of every choice he's ever made. Lee can either go it alone or accept the help of the remaining survivors in his quest to rescue Clementine. Of course, the latter depends on who's still sympathetic to Lee's cause after the last four episodes of interaction. Will Kenny join up even if you've done very little to support him or his family? Will Ben be added to the search party if Kenny's present? Hell, will Ben even be alive at this point in order to help Lee? The answers all depend on how you've played the game.
This is probably the darkest of all the episodes too. It seems that with the start of every chapter, something truly unfortunate happens to our gang. If you thought they couldn't catch a break before, just wait until you play through No Time Left. You'll also have to make the toughest decisions in the series yet.
Should you leave Clem in Chrita and Omid's care, should the worst happen? Or maybe in Kenny's care? If you're separated from the group, do you send them to the docks or meet up by the train tracks? Or maybe most importantly, do you kill or spare Clementine's kidnapper? Just like with eating a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, there's no wrong way to play The Walking Dead.
I've always enjoyed that the game never had any "right" or "wrong" choices. Every option is valid and almost always ambiguous. There's no Light Side or Dark Side here. A choice you make could save a life while at the same time sacrificing a friend. The only thing that bothers me is that sometimes the results are canon, regardless of what you picked. This kind of breaks the illusion of choice, but it isn't enough to truly sour me on the series as a whole.
Every episode has been fantastic in terms of story, graphics, and sound. The only things that mar the experience are some technical glitches scattered through the releases. Episode 5's biggest glitch? One chapter begins with an action sequence that has you tapping repeatedly on the screen in order to push an object. If you tap too much, the sequence will overlap with whatever scene is supposed to follow it and you won't be able to interact with the screen. What ensues is a chaotic mess of disembodied voices, gunshots, zombie moans, and fixed camera angles that result in a symphony of audio-visual WTFery.
Besides that one unnervingly jarring glitch, the rest of the game is a bittersweet thrill ride. Some players might see the ending coming, but that doesn't stop it from being any less enjoyable.
I've done everything within my power to not post any spoilers, but it's safe to say that given everything that's happened and the series' dark source material, everyone should expect what happens in the end. But the good news is that it's already been announced that Telltale Games will be releasing a second season next year. Whether or not we'll continue Lee and Clementine's journey in the sequel is another story, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.