Warning! Spoilers for Season 1 of Telltale Games The Walking Dead below. You’ve been warned.
Plot: Two years after the disastrous trip to Savannah, young Clementine is all alone in a world overrun by zombies. Will she be able to survive using the lessons taught to her by Lee Everett?
Over 90. That’s how many Game of the Year awards the first season of The Walking Dead won last year. I remember when this point and click graphic adventure was first announced. People were skeptical of how good it could be especially considering that it was to have little to no connection to the comics, TV show, or novels . Yet each new episode quieted the naysayers and it quickly became one of the most critically acclaimed releases of 2012. It was so good, people were even able to overlook the horrid, nightmarish affair that was The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. People have been clamoring for more all of 2013 and were quieted briefly in July with the 400 Days DLC, only to come back louder than ever. Now, in the final few days of 2013, Season 2 officially begins with “All That Remains” and it was definitely worth the wait.
Setting a new standard for a zombie focused game, “All That Remains” puts you in control of 10 year old Clementine for the very first time following Lee’s tragic death in “No Time Left.” In terms of the series, this makes perfect sense, but in terms of zombie survival fiction, it’s groundbreaking. You’re always a weapon toting adult male or female in a zombie game whether it’s Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, or anything else. Now you get to experience what it would be like to survive as a child. This means that the gameplay is much different by comparison and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Clementine’s small stature makes her physical battles against walkers a real challenge frequently making running away the best option for her. There are some great moments where you do fight though. Her young age prevents other people from taking her seriously too as it masks her real interior as a survivor. This all truly leads to a compelling experience.
The intensity isn’t toned down by any means because Clementine is a child. If anything it’s ramped up even more. To put it simply, this game makes you do horrible, horrible things as a young girl. You manipulate people, intentionally throw foes into danger to kill them, and experience horrors that would make grown men weep with sorrow. There was more than one occasion during my close to two hour first playthrough that I had a complete look of shock on my face. “All That Remains” really does not hold back. The choices you have to make are brutal, especially considering how lives frequently hang in the balance. Obviously this is a game that is not for the faint of heart by any means.
“All That Remains” also does a spectacular job setting up another excellent narrative that hinges on your individual actions. It begins a few months after Season 1 with Clementine reunited with old friends Christa and Omid. Without revealing anything, tragedy quickly strikes, and then we jump 16 months into the future. It’s not long until Clementine is completely alone and is picked up by a new group before the icy hand of death pulls her away. This group, lead by a man named Pete, is at first skeptical of Clementine and how she has survived since the outbreak. How they view you is entirely based on the choices you make (I chose to prove my worth and become a welcomed addition as opposed to a threat) and you slowly but surely learn more about certain members. Not much else is revealed about these new additions, which is a little disappointing, but I expect to have more time with them as the season continues. We also get our first insight into who the season antagonist will be, already showing that Season 2 will have a more antagonist focused story akin to The Governor in the comics/TV show, which is amazing.
Thankfully my first playthrough wasn’t that marred with technological glitches, some brief lagging while saving at worst, but I am disappointed that there is no overt connection to the 400 Days DLC. I know that this is only the first episode of five but 400 Days was pegged as bridging the gap between Season 1 and Season 2. Yet it doesn’t look like any gap needed bridging in “All That Remains.” There’s a time jump, which is now perfectly natural in the franchise, and you can even choose to divulge the past events of Season 1 to your new group. Outside of a few dead bodies and the brief Gil’s Pitstop setting in the beginning nothing about 400 Days is touched upon. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Clementine to interact with those survivors as opposed to this new group? It’s entirely plausible that the people introduced in 400 Days will pop up in the antagonist’s group but that’s nowhere near confirmed. It just doesn’t feel like 400 Days was all that necessary considering the events of “All That Remains.” I’m sure that will change as future episodes start rolling out though. This is only the beginning after all.
The immense success of the gripping and gruesome Season 1 of The Walking Dead was hardly a surprise. Telltale raised the bar in a big way and they had a lot to live up to with Season 2. Making Clementine the player controlled character was a brilliant decision and so much of “All That Remains” works beautifully. If you loved Season 1 last year or simply enjoy a graphic adventure, then you should start Season 2 right away. If the rest of Season 2 is as good as “All That Remains” then there’s no reason to think that this won’t win Game of the Year awards in 2014 as well. Now excuse me while I re-think my life after doing terrible things as a 10 year old pre-teen.