In the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, the characters felt real, the interactions felt genuine and and the adventure felt personal. You didn’t save the world, but you mattered immensely to Clementine and shaped the person she has become in the second season. Lee doesn’t make the return trip for season two, and instead of giving Clementine another caretaker, Telltale has taken the gutsy move of making a young girl the player character.
Going in, I was afraid that Clementine would be just along for the ride. Lee made decisions in his group in season one, but as an adult he was given the chance to show his intelligence and usefulness in combat. Clementine is smart (you’re controlling her, after all), but she is only 10 or 11, and she isn’t a physical powerhouse. Nobody is going to give her the reins in deciding where a group ought to go. And they shouldn’t. I’m not going to ten-year-olds for life advice, and there are no zombies here. If they show up, I doubt I’ll change my stance on the matter.
What Telltale didn’t do was take agency from Clementine. She decides what she is going to do, how she is going to do it and whether manipulation or honesty is the best approach to all of life’s situations. Since she’s small, though, encounters are, as well. They’re still tense, but what Lee and Kenny could have handled in a single prompt, Clementine works at through an extended sequence.
It works, too. The fights feel more immediate and the threat more real, because while Lee could casually take out walkers with a cleaver, Clementine has to kick repeatedly to knock them down, search frantically for tools and use her environment to win the fight. She’s fighting less often, but she’s fighting harder every time it comes up.
The upgraded combat feels great here, and serves to make fights and evasions feel even better. Taking a page from The Wolf Among Us, combat is much more fast-paced, and flicking the stick to avoid walkers has been added to the standard “mash A to fill the meter” encounters from the first game.
We’re only one episode in, but everything I loved about Season One is back in full force. New characters feel like real people, complete with baggage that we can see of which we aren’t privy to the details, and interactions all feel genuine. I desperately want to know what happens next, how (if at all) the vignettes from 400 Days will factor into the story and whether we’ll see any familiar faces or locales this time around.
While the numerous save bugs from Season One don’t seem replicated here, at least one of my choices didn’t carry over properly, and the episode length is on the short side. There are four more episodes coming, but I was surprised when my time with the first episode ended. I like that I can see my choices at any time now, and all of the upgrades make up for the first episode’s short length.
Pros: Interesting scenarios, realistic new characters, upgraded combat
Cons: Save import issues, episodes feel a bit shorter