The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 1 reviewed: An awkward new beginning

walkingdeadclementine01

By on January 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm

It was with a heavy sense of trepidation that I launched episode one of The Walking Dead: Season 2 (TWDS2). While I felt that enough time had passed since I last gazed into the grim reflection on humanity that is Telltale’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, I was concerned that seeing the world from Clem’s eyes may once again cause me more anguish than I can bear. What I found, though, was that taking on the role of Clementine didn’t make the experience as uncomfortably personal as I had expected. In fact, it removed one of the most interesting things about the game.

In Season 1 of The Walking Dead, the player was in control of Lee, who was followed around by young Clementine. Clementine was Lee’s reason to survive, and acted as a pole guiding his moral compass. Every decision made was weighed against the effect it would have on Lee’s ward, and ultimately—in a series proven capable of killing-off major characters—whether it could possibly lead her into harm’s way. In episode one of TWDS2, the player is acting as Clementine and has direct control over her. This means that if Clem dies, the only ramification is the restoration of a checkpoint.

The primary fear that the player could fail to protect Clem is removed by her elevation to protagonist.

The following video contains spoilers for the first eight minutes of Episode 1.

Couple this with what seem to be severely reduced quick-time-event timers, and the steady pacing that the drove the first season is shattered. Episode one of TWDS2 provides multiple opportunities for Clem to meet a quick and grisly end, resulting in a jarring checkpoint restart. Normally, deaths in The Walking Dead universe teach the player something about the nature of humanity. In TWDS2, Clem’s many and varied deaths teach the player nothing more than which button they should have hit during that quick-time-event.

TWDS2’s first episode sees Clem turn into a young adult whose childhood was stripped from her by the harsh reality of the post-apocalyptic setting. The innocent young girl that used to cast a disapproving eye upon Lee for mistreating others is gone, replaced with a teenager who doesn’t seem to know who to be, but does know how to take down a zombie. Every now and then we catch a glimpse of the Clem we once knew in her reliance on, and blind trust in others. Twice throughout episode one of TWDS2, we see Clem attempt to connect with others, and twice we see well-trodden stories of mistrust and dissent that seem to have been lifted right out of the Zombie Movie Playbook.

Episode one of The Walking Dead: Season 2 isn’t a strong start, but that should really be weighed against the perhaps insurmountable expectations left in the wake of Season 1. I hope that this merely represents an establishing episode for the new Clem, and that the human drama and truly uncomfortable and thought-provoking situations that the series has become known for will see a return in future episodes.

Good:

  • More The Walking Dead!
  • News on the fate that befell Clem since the end of Season 1
  • Save data from Season 1 carries over and affects Season 2
  • New characters to fear/befriend

Bad:

  • Playing as Clem removes the delightful fear of keeping her safe
  • An increased number of checkpoint restarts break pacing, increase frustration
  • Tired zombie film tropes: mistrust and dissent

The Walking Dead Season 2 is available on Steam for $25.
The reviewed copy of The Walking Dead: Season 2 was provided by the publisher.

10 comments (Leave your own)

I don’t know if it’s that my reaction times are better than average… But I got through all of episode 1 without a single restart… Probably because I REALLY didn’t want to see Clem munched on by zombies… But I found the first act of Ep1 rather jarring since they had to kill off everyone she once knew… (Or so we believe anyway)

 

dashfire,

Pretty much.
Haven’t died yet, and only died a handful of times throughout the entirety of season 1
Not sure what the reviewer is doing wrong, and I’m not sure I quite understand the critique since dying in the first season had the exact same quote unquote “jarring checkpoint restart”
I usually go back for a second play through or watch a youtube video of all the death scenes in these type of games just because you barely see them.

 

While I see where you’re coming from with Clemetine, in regards to losing that fear of her demise just by hitting the reload button. I honestly don’t think we should be viewing her as the weak little girl anymore. To me thats the whole point behind putting her as the protagonist, we as the player are helping her become stronger.

We need to stop looking at Clem as she was, that part of her life is done.

This is, of course, all my own view of the series thus far, not a statement of truth.

 
Ralph Wiggum

kinkykel,

I agree, with Lee gone the tone of the game has changed. As an adolescent Clementine would be going through the trials and tribulations of establishing her own identity, made moreso difficult in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

And it’s still early days; I imagine the story will continue to be fleshed out.

 

Great start to Season 2.

If you haven’t played TWD, don’t wait any longer. Game of the Year for me 2013.

 

stoibs, dashfire, kinkykel,

What I was shooting for (and perhaps a little unclear about), is that throughout Season 1 there was a fear that Clem could die, and that Lee could be forced to go on without her. In Season 2, if Clem dies we restart a checkpoint and try again.

I think that fear will return to some extent as the series progresses, and we gain new characters for Clem to grow to know, care, and fear for.

 

I thought overall it was a great start to the season.

 

Really, really enjoyed it and only just finished playing it – I died a few times, but then I’m really not used to using controllers. Even better my wife wants to play Season 1 now!

 

I thought they handled it quite well.

One thing that bothered me though was the way they introduced cliché plot devices early on, only to then take them away from the story moments later. It felt like a cheap/forced way of telling the player they won’t know what to expect.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed season 1 it was a fantastic story. In the end the game is just an interactive DVD movie but it was very enjoyable and did a great job of pulling you in and gripping you with it’s story.

I find that the focus on S1 was really on Clem anyway. Sure you played as Lee but in the end it was all for Clem – well at least in my play through it was :P So the feel of actually being Clem wasn’t that big of a change for me from that perspective, I want what’s best for Clem and my playstyle was to, of course, protect Clem.

Given that it isn’t a day after sequel there has obviously been a lot happen between when we left Clem and when we rejoin her, in the opening minutes it is readily apparent that there are many questions unanswered. Like all “opening” stories you again have to set background and establish the basics to have things make sense to the player/reader.

I guess the overriding problem with this first episode of season 2 is that it simply continues what we have come to expect – QTE events (much slicker this time though) and the obligatory who lives, who dies choice. Also the imported save I had from the previous games showed an event that didn’t happen in my choices, if that ends up having a larger than intended bearing it would be annoying. Zombie games are evidently about either A) Mowing down hordes of zombies with hypergore or B) The study of humanity in an apocalypse, TWD again focuses on choice B).

 
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