The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 1 – All
And here we are again.
All That Remains isn’t a
beginning, but a continuation, and it expects that you have played
Season 1. If you have, you will be at home; if you haven’t, you really
shouldn’t be here.
It isn’t a straight
continuation, as Season 1 definitely ended (as opposed to stopped), but
it hinted at more to come. Which is what we now have, several months
later and with a few assumptions being made about how we got here.
It does though begin some new
things, and in that respect is very much an Episode 1. A set-up for the
next four episodes, with some new plot lines and people to introduce and
settle down. This is reflected in the pacing, the violent punctuations
Lest you had forgotten what sort
of a world this now is, you are very quickly reminded that it is mean
and arbitrary and self-interested. You can make it less so through some
of the choices you make about what the characters should do, or you can
do something else. Some choices are obvious, some less so, and I
continue to try to do what I think I might do in the particular
situation. Which can be downright mean and completely self-centred.
Not. Bitten. Yet.
One of the things that remains
is Clementine, and she is both the playable character and the fulcrum
for the story. She is what you would expect a 10 year old survivor of
the first season to be – hardened yet vulnerable, grown up before her
time but still a little girl. We have learnt not to get too attached to
anyone in this game, but here’s hoping Clementine hangs in there.
New characters are prominent,
although as yet they remain unknown. Inklings of their back story pepper
the events, but by and large we know their names but not who they are.
One whose name we know remains unseen, and there are hints at something
being not quite right about him/her.
Everything else is as it was in
Season 1 – the look, the gameplay, the way your choices influence how
things play out. Saves happen automatically (and frequently), so wait
for a save to have occurred if you want to exit without replaying a
portion of the game.
Death also occurs, or perhaps
not if you are quick to respond to the on screen cues as to how to avoid
it. It might take a little getting used to, but if you have played
before you know what to expect. I did however fail to read the on screen
instructions when it came to using the lighter, so pay attention or
prepare to be frustrated.
“This is gonna suck”
There is, as you would expect,
violence, as well as language and a squeamish moment or two. Four
actually, which is how many times I had to push the needle through the
All That Remains is very much
about the story. Some might say, especially given the pacing, that is
only about the story and that gameplay is so straightforward that its
more an interactive novel than a game. Certainly the puzzling in this
episode is almost non-existent, but I don’t actually care. Stories told
with as much class and pathos as these stand on their own, and too much
traditional puzzling would undermine the “realism” that has been
In my recent review of Fables, I
mentioned I didn’t care yet. There is none of that here, having been
established in the first season and continued through Clementine. How
many of the new characters I come to care about remains to be seen, but
I did feel sorry for one of them even as I chose to end its life.
All That Remains tantalisingly
sets the table for what is to come. There is nothing here to suggest
that fans will be disappointed by what is still to be served.
Dead Season 2: Episode 2 – A House Divided
Starting where we left off,
things take a while to get going in this house, some early zombie
evading notwithstanding. We get to know more about the group that
Clementine is with, developing likes and dislikes as we do. I still
don’t have the same commitment to any of them, but I do have a grudging
admiration for a few, and have identified at least one I could probably
sacrifice if it came to that.
The actual house (as opposed to
the metaphorical one) is a ski lodge, and things start to ramp up when
we get there. They go into overdrive just after the storm hits, and then
into meltdown as we near the end of the episode. How many move on to
episode three will have a bit to do with the choices you make in the
last climactic scenario.
I thought this was the strength
of episode two. Maybe the choices I made had, or will have, little
impact, but on the only part I replayed I did manage to keep one extra
person alive. It did feel like a lot of what I did, or said, will make a
difference, which is one of the intriguing aspects of these games.
There wasn’t a lot of gameplay
going on, and certainly nothing you could call a puzzle, but that has
never been the main strength. It’s the story and characterisation that
drive these episodes.
The name of episode two says a
lot about where the plot is at. In none of the episodes are you ever
comfortable, but here there is a constant unsettling mood that has
nothing to do with the dead. They are there, front and centre at times,
but it’s what’s going on between the living that provides the edge.
In the middle of it all is
Clementine. One moment baseball capped warrior, the next vulnerable
little girl, she will make a lot of choices. One got someone killed
until I replayed that bit, so they aren’t all benign. The episode ebbs
and flows but is never quiet.
Perhaps it overdid the emotional
flip flop – moment of kindness, horrible event etc – and the link
between those two things lessened the impact the next time it occurred.
But like those movies where you know right from the start that things
aren’t going to end well for these people, so it is here, and so in that
regard the continuing blows are nothing less than what you expect.
This House Divided does what
part 2 of a 5 part product should – the bits and pieces sown in the
first are starting to be pulled together and pushed into shape, one that
I definitely felt responsible for. The Walking Dead continues to be
intriguing and among the best things out there.
Dead Season 2: Episode 3 – In Harm’s Way
If we ever doubted it, this is
all about Clementine.
It’s also about the last great
fight we will ever know. Liam Neeson would understand – live and die on
The brutality is pronounced, all
the more so because it’s the living doing it to each other. The lurkers
are a side show this time – the real horror is inside the compound. Fans
of the TV series will identify obvious similarities in characters and
settings. Nothing wrong with that.
Some action sequences (with less
than helpful key stroke instructions) punctuate what is essentially a
blowtorch applied to Clementine. I have no idea what choices you will
make, but she was hardened by mine. I can’t help thinking that it is in
a good way, given the context.
The “next time” preview at the
end has a voice over extolling Clementine not to let them take her down
with them. I am certainly in a place where most everybody else is a
liability. One I would have sacrificed is gone; another I should want to
save is proving ever more harder not to just abandon.
Much is thrust upon Clementine.
When there are plans to be hatched, the adults turn to her. There is an
expectation now, as opposed to opportunism. It may not be fair, but it
is what it is. Carver was probably right, and it is appropriate that she
starts to hit back.
And when push comes to shove,
you don’t turn aside.
Dead Season 2: Episode 4 – Amid the Ruins
Starting where we left off, and
ending with a literal bang, we are now one episode away from an end, but
what sort of end I can’t imagine.
The strength of Clementine
starts to make others seem weak, even whiney. I did think there could
have been a little less leaving things to the 11 year old, but then my
Clementine keeps stepping up. Perhaps if she had been less like that,
the dynamics would be different.
Much of the tale is about when
is enough enough, when is it ok to give in, when do your trusted allies
become burdensome liabilities. Some of the choices you make are the
direct result of those types of musings; others are more obviously just
kill or be killed.
Someone talks about hardships
burnishing some folk, and undoing others. There is a lot of that here,
perhaps a little overdone. There were definitely times when I wanted to
be rid of the lot of them, and just nick off with Jane, and it wasn’t
helped by certain characters becoming little more than additional warm
bodies. True, the strength of Clementine contributes to that by
comparison, but many felt like they were making up the numbers.
Which kind of brings us back to
those themes I talked about. If they are now less than they were, do you
walk off and leave them? Or do you remember what they were, and what
they still might be, and grit your teeth and hang tough.
As I intimated, I have no idea
how this will end. I do however have to replay the episode and make an
obvious different decision to see how that might set us up differently.
Most of my decisions ended up
being what less than 50% of other players have done, which is an
interesting observation and a nifty game mechanic. Nonetheless, while my
Clem stands in the maelstrom, I doubt theirs is at home eating cookies.
Whatever the particular decision, it’s still a ruthless world.
Can’t wait to see how it ends.
Dead Season 2: Episode 5 – No Going Back
The relentless downward spiral,
with its occasional moments of hope and possibility, reaches an end, but
not the end. Where it will go is hard to imagine, given the possible
endings are so varied, but given the protagonists have no idea what is
coming, its seems rather apt.
By rewinding and replaying the
last part of the episode, I got three very different outcomes, and
googling suggests there are five. I can see what those might be from the
endings I got, as some alternative branches are readily apparent.
The three endings I got all had
their strengths, and none leapt out as being the “right” one. Nor do the
stats on what other players did identify an obvious favourite. Of the
three endings I generated, 23% of other players doing the same as me was
the highest I got.
They were a mixed bag in my
view, and the best of the three I got was the only one which was
natural. By that I mean that some endings relied on you making a choice
that was not at all realistic in order achieve it. I accept that people
can make seemingly illogical and inexplicable choices when faced with
difficult situations, motivated by things we don’t comprehend. I accept
too that people can turn a blind eye to all sorts of things, and tell
themselves all sorts of stories in order to rationalise a course of
action. Yet even allowing for that, some of the choices just felt wrong.
There were also some events that
seemed a little too contrived, in order to generate the desired emotion,
yet by contrast, the impact of a (possible) death was completely
undermined by an unnecessary speech. These things added to the unnatural
feeling about what was happening, and ultimately influenced how I felt
about all the situations.
I have mentioned before that it
is wise not to get too attached to people – indeed, I have suggested
identifying a few you might happily leave behind could be useful – and
who and how many remain with you at the end is very much a consequence
of your actions. The fact that certain characters aren’t with you
doesn’t mean they are dead, but being (almost) completely alone is an
ending I got, having very deliberately ended up in that state. Another
ending had newbies involved, helpful for starting Season 3 but not
essential. The newbies too may or may not have been there, depending on
The person who is there is
Clementine, which is more than just the result of her being the playable
character. She was tempered and hardened throughout this season, and
there was a certain inevitability about her being there at the end. In
the first season Lee pulled her through; this time she pretty much does
it herself, dragging others along with her. While almost everyone else
behaves like a child at some point, the only real child is the most
grown up of the lot.
I went back and played the
Season 2 all the way through (which is why the review is a little late)
and it’s certainly a darker season overall than the first. So too
certain episodes within the season ratchet down the zombie frenzy but
amp up the brooding undercurrents swirling around the characters.
Episode five is one of those, with the walkers being little more than a
backdrop to what is going on.
There are also some quiet,
almost tender moments, and one of unfair sorrow, and these are among the
high points of the episode. As always, they serve as a counterpoint for
everything else that happens in the world.
In the end, I did feel a little
let down by No Way Back. It jarred in its construction, and it
ultimately underwhelmed the episode as a whole. I still liked it, but I
didn’t love it, and as such it was a disappointing way to end the
season, even if that end has opened a myriad of doors to Season 3.
Overall Grade: B+
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz
Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB
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December 2013 - September 2014