It’s been well over a year since the conclusion of the inaugural season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, and since that time there’s been more than just an unbearable wait to see what comes in the next chapters of their stark yet beautifully-realized adventure series.
A year of anticipation and hype can be thrilling, but also deadly, not unlike the constant fear and uncertainty around each hallway or building in The Walking Dead; one false move or hasty decision can bring dire consequences, to you or to those that are around you. By taking the world of Robert Kirkman’s comic series and adapting it into the episodic adventure game format, each episode of Season One brought new characters, new threats, and an engaging story that made Lee Everett and Clementine two of the most profound characters to emerge from last year’s crop of games.
Even with a year’s worth of anticipation behind it, fans of The Walking Dead‘s first season can rest easy and take a breath; only to have it taken away again by the thrilling first episode of The Walking Dead: Season Two.
Just from the episode alone, titled “All That Remains,” it’s easy to see that even the beginning proves how Telltale hasn’t lost sight of what made its first season so remarkable and engaging: it’s relentless, well-paced, and truly uncompromising in forcing players to make often-harsh decisions, and adapt to the consequences. While it’s still just the beginning of a new chapter, Episode 1 sets The Walking Dead: Season Two‘s next journey off to a great, heartbreakingly good start with its penchant for mixing The Walking Dead‘s cruel world with genuine human consequences.
Following a short recap of Lee and Clementine’s travels in Season One, the second season sets things far ahead of where we last saw the survivors, by taking players into the role of Clementine 16 months after we last saw her at the season’s end. Much has changed about Clementine in this time: she’s gotten older, wiser, and more mature, but unfortunately the circumstances and survival situations around her have only gotten worse.
Forced into desperate circumstances after tagging along with some familiar faces from the previous season, “All That Remains” is quick to catch players up to speed with poignant callbacks to the first season, but even quicker to head into new, more dangerous territory. After being separated and forced to survive on her own, Season Two‘s shift in perspective to controlling Clementine makes the world of The Walking Dead that much more harrowing and intense to experience from a new set of eyes.
While Clementine was the one that Lee was meant to protect and avoid putting into danger at all costs, experiencing the world of The Walking Dead through Clem’s eyes gives a new kind of vulnerability and understanding of what it takes to survive and avoid danger in the walker post-apocalypse. Taking Clementine through traveling on her own and finding food and shelter, to coming across new groups and survivors that are as much as threats as they are salvation, Season Two thankfully doesn’t pull any punches in exposing its precious protagonist to the harsh realities of the walker-infested world.
Much like Robert Kirkman’s comic series is quick to put its many characters into harm’s way and even quicker to kill them off, “All That Remains” will bring many moments of reflection on where things have come since the conclusion of the first season, but even more moments of quick-thinking to avoid the line between life or death.
Like the numerous decisions with life-or-death consequences throughout Season One that could lead to endless routes, whether that be tarnishing your relationship with a fellow survivor or very well leading to their death, Season Two brings some incredibly difficult situations right out of the gate that cross the gamut of being horrifying, shocking, and heartbreaking – but, to survive, they force you to think on your feet and put your own well-being forward at all costs.
While equal parts horrific and nerve-wracking, Season Two‘s debut certainly puts Clementine through the ropes of survival, but never loses track of making her the strong-willed (and strong-hearted) protagonist that made us want to love and protect her as much as Lee did in Season One. After a play-through of the first episode in the new season, it’s easy to see that many tears, as much as blood, will be shed over the course of Season Two‘s five episodes.
Technically, Season Two‘s debut faithfully preserves the graphical style of Season One and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead universe incredibly well with its vivid art and comic-inspired visuals. While there are the occasional technical hiccups and stutters that plagued much of Season One between load times and decision-making, the overall experience of the game seemed smoothed-out and more refined, with much less distraction coming from waiting for a crucial decision to take effect.
“All That Remains” is just the beginning - lots of new faces are introduced, a vast jump in time from the first season has taken place, and even more danger, both human and walker alike, waits for Clementine around every corner. It faithfully calls back to the events and places of Season One, but also boldly takes new steps in making its story feel just as new and dangerous as it did the first time around. Clementine has become as much a seasoned survivor as she has remained the sweet girl that made us want to stand by her side at all costs.
While obviously there are still four more episodes to go and we’re just playing the start of Clementine’s journey, Episode 1 of The Walking Dead: Season Two gets the new season off to a thrilling start that proves the wait was well worth it. There’s still a ways to go to see where things are headed, who will survive, and how Clementine can, or will, ever reach safety in a world not exactly guaranteed for it. But, after finishing the new episode and seeing where “All That Remains” sets things up and leaves the story, it’s safe to say that I will gladly stay by Clementine’s side wherever she goes, and to see where Telltale is headed in the rest of the series.