By now, you have probably heard about Telltale’s decision to let hundreds of employees go, and while that’s not what this review is about, I have to acknowledge that fact makes this a somber experience. This is, quite possibly, the last “true” Telltale episode we’ll get to enjoy. What’s clear to me is that, although Telltale doesn’t consistently put out exceptional episodes, the oft-produced highlight episode occurs right after a less than stellar one. My review of Episode One wasn’t as complimentary as I’m used to writing for The Walking Dead, but Episode Two certainly makes up for it with character growth, branching paths, and believable consequences.
Given that The Walking Dead series is typically shorter than other episodic series, such as Life is Strange, the depth and insight into the human condition have to be taken at face value more often than not. Still, if one can appreciate the series for what it is, this second episode illustrates why the series has made it this far. Sure, the tropes are overdone, and the difficult decisions are predictable, but the dialogue and voice acting carry the otherwise unimaginative setups.
Introducing a whole new cast — as has been done in each season — can leave fans exhausted. Why should we care about these people? By the end of the season, we find out. In this case, Episode Two presents a healthy dose of character growth not just for Clementine, but her schoolyard compatriots.
Some of the exchanges fall a bit flat and shallow, but others are emblematic of adolescence and its cringe. The most powerful exchanges have to do with AJ, the lad young Clementine has raised all by herself. Growing up in this world without knowing the previous one of law and consistency has clearly shaped AJ, and while Clementine is struggling to figure out how best to parent him, so are we. Each dialogue option indicates an obvious path that will satisfy most players, but what I enjoyed most about each choice is the merit I found in several of them. Even though I staunchly disagreed with some, I understood why someone else’s Clem might teach AJ to carry himself differently. I reflected, too, because I now have a daughter, and I wondered how I would raise her in this world. On one hand, she must survive, but at what cost? Is there a way to retain one’s humanity and survive at the same time? Hasn’t Clementine demonstrated just that? While the scenarios presented aren’t genius in any regard, few have tried to tackle the idea of raising a child in a post-apocalyptic world, and that earns the writers cred.
The developers amped up the gameplay in this episode, even if only slightly. Combat requires more attention and accuracy in moments that are ripe with tension. Other parts rely on the same old quick-time events that hope to boost immersion by making players press a key during an event that doesn’t really call for it. Players who know Telltale won’t find much captivating in this episode.
The art direction remains consistent, as does the voice acting. Melissa Hutchison continues to bring Clem to life with delivery that I can’t imagine being done any other way. Music is still something Telltale hasn’t really invested in, which is a shame when other episodic tales, again like Life is Strange, incorporate it perfectly. As has been consistent with Telltale’s work as of late, the controls serve their purpose without frustration.
I wonder where the final season will land by Episode Four. Will Telltale invite outside developers to finish off the saga? We still don’t know the fate of their flagship series. One thing I know for certain is that whoever completes Walking Dead, its success is predicated on the tireless work and love Telltale’s former employees baked into Clementine’s story, and they’ll have my eternal gratitude for bringing it to life. Thank you to everyone at Telltale for your love of the craft and dedication to entertaining us. The industry is better for your contributions, and I am certain you will move on and continue to accomplish extraordinary feats.