So this is it, the end of TellTale’s The Walking Dead adventure game. Well, season 1, anyway. So how was it? In a word – amazing! In two words – amazingly upsetting; but don’t worry, it was completely in the way TellTale intended.
As I have mentioned in my previous reviews throughout the series, this is a particularly difficult game to assess. The reason for that is because it’s not a traditional videogame. What makes The Walking Dead excellent has nothing to do with its gameplay or mechanics. The greatness instead comes from its narrative and the way in which the game pulls you in.
For the most part, the gameplay is broken up into two different types of interaction. The first involves walking around a closed off area looking for the correct things to interact with in order to progress. The second is making conversation choices – often while under time pressure, making your decision-making all the more intense.
There are also a few actiony bits where you have to quickly move the cursor over an area of the screen and click to do something (such as kill a zombie) or even the occasional quick-time event. But otherwise, that’s pretty much it; this is a narrative experience first, and one that nobody should miss out on.
The story picks up right where episode four left off, which I obviously cannot tell you about since I wouldn’t want to spoil that either – argh! The cliff notes version is that you play as a guy named Lee who, during the zombie apocalypse, is trying to survive with a group of other desperate people.
The heart of the story though is that Lee (and therefore, the player) is responsible for a nine year-old girl named Clementine. I will not be surprised if their relationship goes down as one of the best bonds between two characters in gaming history. The way The Walking Dead makes the player care for Clementine is truly amazing and, by the end of this inevitably tragic tale (it is The Walking Dead afterall), you cannot help but feel for this girl and her guardian.
What also made this entire series special is that the choices you make throughout have an impact on how other characters react to you. This, the final episode, was the culmination of all those decisions, and many of them are brought up in interesting, satisfying, and often surprising ways. In fact, decisions from previous games will dictate which other characters are even with you at the start of episode five, which can make your experience extremely unique.
On a technical side, the game still has a few bugs. I am very disappointed to say that episode three was the only one where the game was able to recognise my previous saved game. What this meant is that, for every other episode, I had to play with a randomized selection of choices from the previous episodes, instead of the choices I actually made.
For a game built around creating your own unique experience, this often could break immersion for me. However, with that said, this final episode – especially the last 15 minutes – are so amazing and powerful that I just don’t care anymore. Yes, it is disappointing if you happen to experience this problem, but play the game anyway. Trust me.
I also want to give a special mention to the voice-acting cast who were pretty amazing the whole way through. However, the actress who played Clementine (Melissa Hutchison) deserves to win an award of some kind. Her performance throughout the series, and especially in episode five, went a long way towards what makes this series so special.
In fact, I feel The Walking Dead is so special that five to ten years from now people are still going to be talking about it and referencing its importance. I imagine this series will be the first to make many gamers cry, it is that emotionally powerful. Between this and Journey on the PS3, emotional narrative in gaming has taken a very big and important step forward in 2012.
If you haven’t payed The Walking Dead yet, please do yourself a favour and get it. It is available on Steam and for iOS. If you enjoy a good story in your games, don’t miss out on this amazing (and important) series.