Editor's Note: Other than one major decision for The Walking Dead Season One, this review contains no spoilers. Enjoy!
“All That Remains,” The Walking Dead Season Two’s inaugural episode, made me a monster. Or, to be more accurate perhaps, it brought out the monster in me. Presenting fresh moral dilemmas, I committed atrocities, like nicking my rescuers’ supplies, that would have been too implausible for Season One’s Clementine. Still, not even our darling Clementine is above the drive for survival. As “All That Remains” demonstrates, anxiety, hostility, and regret continue to eat at the heart of this zombie apocalypse.
The episode’s opening is not want for heartbreak, either. You thought Telltale would ease you back into The Walking Dead? Wrong. Tragedy strikes immediately, just before a time skip. 16 months later, Clementine’s loss of innocence is as plain as the despair on her face, and the dying fire she and Christa are huddled around is not helping matters. After things go to hell once more, Clementine ends up in the care of this season’s survivors – a close-knit cast that would sooner feed their stray charge to the undead than give her shelter.
It is clear that Clementine isn’t welcome, and what a difference a couple years makes in Robert Kirkman’s universe. There is no hiding out in malls or going to the Winchester and waiting for this whole thing to blow over. People shoot first and ask questions later – an unforgiving low point of humanity that pre-teen Clementine must grow up in. Lee cannot protect her; we cannot protect her. She must scavenge food, she must outrun bandits, she must tenderize zombie skulls. One of this episode’s pivotal decisions, a dreadful act of mercy, outstrips The Walking Dead’s most appalling moments list, and the infected have nothing to do with it. I am still reeling from my choice … from Clementine’s choice.
"All That Remains" borrows a page from The Wolf Among Us. During action sequences, you use your movement keys to evade pursuers or reach for a weapon.
While “All That Remains” is peppered by painful scenarios, the strings tying every trauma or injustice together are ready to snap. I rooted for Clementine whenever she escaped the jaws of a walker unharmed, but this episode is a great stepping stone for additional Walking Dead installments instead of a great story itself. Clementine’s food and medical needs are dire, for example, but the people she meets hesitate to get attached, since she may be infected or working with someone else.
Their unease is understandable, even though Season Two’s protagonists seem one-note as a result. Nick has an itchy trigger finger, Carlos is the overprotective father, and Rebecca is the hormonal (read: callous) pregnant woman, her threats dripping with venom. Telltale would be foolish not to cultivate their personalities further – for now we know as little about mediator Luke or hardass uncle Pete as Clementine does – yet I worry Telltale is playing their antagonist cards too soon, if only to redeem potential rivals in hindsight. Then again, Telltale proved me wrong before.
Clementine’s age has wider implications for The Walking Dead, too. Lee had already lived his life before hell set foot on Earth. Take away all the hurt and loss, however, and Clementine is just a little girl – one that does not have the world fully figured out. She is more impressionable than Lee. Players define how Clementine acts, whether she responds coldly or with naiveté. My Clementine refuses to bat her lashes or give someone sad puppy dog eyes. If someone spews bullshit, she calls that person out.
The Walking Dead is not quite the same without Lee tripping over something every five seconds.
Nevertheless, it is disheartening to see many previous Walking Dead choices go unrecognized. Clementine can tell others that Lee taught her to shoot or to keep her hair short, but the episode’s concern for progression rather than reflection shows, even if Telltale promised prior decisions will impact future outcomes.
For now, gone are the technical imperfections that hampered Season One, including crashes and stutters in the scene transitions. Moreover, the developers eke out improved lighting, a richer color palette, and smoother textures. Telltale also adapted gameplay to suit their younger heroine without the constraints feeling artificial. Clementine did not inherent Lee’s strength or murderous resolve. He sawed his arm off in Season One. Clementine shivers during a jaunt through the forest and visibly struggles to reach tools on a shelf, though her attempts to bandage a wound will make queasy stomachs clench.
Telltale Games struck an emotional chord in The Walking Dead Season One that reverberates throughout “All That Remains.” This episode may have made me into a monster, but not all narratives impact me, and those that do stick (To The Moon, Metal Gear Solid 3, The Walking Dead) leave a lingering mark. If “All That Remains” is an appetizer for the horrors the developers cook up in Season Two, then they are off to one hell of a start.
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: December 17, 2013
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Mac, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS, PS Vita