A brisk and brutal new start
Telltale’s highly anticipated The Walking Dead: Season Two is finally here with its brisk and brutal first episode, All That Remains. While the main story picks up 16 months after the end of Season One, the game wastes no time in reminding us of its inner darkness, with unnerving decisions around every bend, the occasional walker or two to keep you on your toes, and of course, the dangerous and distrustful individuals in Clementine’s path who serve to remind us that Telltale isn’t holding anything back. If only the episode as a whole wasn’t so short and actually let us take control for more than a few minutes!
As the episode’s title would suggest, there is a reoccurring theme of aloneness that permeates the entirety of All That Remains. After the events of Season One and the heartbreaking first few minutes of this new installment, Clementine has all but been left to fend for herself, with a large chunk of the episode being devoid of any other human interaction. The few poignant remnants of Lee’s memory that are expertly woven into the surroundings pack a serious emotional punch, and the overall direction that Telltale chose to give to their little heroine (not the least of which making her the playable character) is nothing short of genius.
But despite the more low-key direction of this opening episode, there’s no doubt about it that All That Remains is easily one of the most brutal experiences that Telltale has ever crafted, and probably features a few of the darkest and most unsettling moments that we’ve seen in a Walking Dead game so far. I was constantly shocked and stunned by some of the violent twists that occurred within the opening first hour, and one event in particular that involved an abandoned dog literally had me begging for the encounter to end: and then so of course, Telltale designed the game to prolong it even further in a way more excruciating fashion.
In fact, the brutality of All That Remains is made even more impressive when you take into account the relative lack of zombies that pop up throughout the 2-hour episode (what’s more, the rare zombie encounter quick-time event actually tames in comparison to some of the human confrontations that you’ll face). But nevertheless, every simple button prompt in the game just feels so rewarding to pull off, whether it’s to perform something exciting like impaling a zombie through the chest with a rake, or even something that should be incredibly mundane, like using a knife to open up a can of beans. That satisfying Telltale adventure formula is back in perfect form once again.
If there’s really anything negative to say about Season Two‘s strong premiere episode, it’s that All That Remains is an incredibly short snippet of an episodic adventure, even by Telltale standards. This brisk shortness is only highlighted by the extreme lack of actual adventure gameplay segments. Aside from one or two limited exploration scenes and the occasional quick-time event, the majority of the game is spent on choosing dialogue trees or watching cutscenes unfold. But of course, when you’ve got such a great story powering the helm, it’s entirely admissible for actual gameplay components to take a backseat for a while.
I’m still on the fence as to how I feel about the several new characters that get introduced to Clementine’s desolate world, mostly because we aren’t given much time to get to know them before the episode ends, and also because for most of that time we spend with them, they treat poor Clementine like she’s worse than a pile of walker guts. But what’s so great about the way the story unfolds is that the player actually gets to witness Clementine hardening as a person in the face of every obstacle or hateful person she meets, and it makes me extremely intrigued to see where she ends up by the season’s end. I also have high hopes for the relationship between her and the other little girl we meet named Sarah, although I have a sneaking suspicion that things won’t end too well for the latter.
So despite its noticeable shortness and increased emphasis on story over actual player control, All That Remains is an excellent way for Telltale to kick off The Walking Dead: Season Two. As we follow Clementine out on her own for the very first time, we are met with some of the most brutal and unexpected moments to emerge out of the entire series, and the swiftness with which they are delivered just goes to show how much we have really grown to care about this little girl after everything she’s been through. A fitting prologue to more powerful moments that are surely still to come, the only thing left to say now is bring on Episode 2!