Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 1: All That Remains

    After finishing All That Remains, I am left with one simple fact: Clementine is one hardcore [censored].

    I've played a lot of characters over my decades of video gaming. I've played plumbers, elves, Dragonborn, white-haired half-demons, and so on but it's interesting one of the toughest seems to be the person who is outwardly the most innocent. Except, there's nothing about Clementine left which is innocent.

    Do not screw with this eleven-year-old.

    It's an interesting transition to make and one with a bunch of time-skips. At the start of the game you're several months in from the original game and a surviving character is very far along in her pregnancy. After a shocking turn of events, the game proceeds to skip ahead another sixteen month. Clementine goes from being a nine-year-old to a eleven-year-old in short order and we're left to extrapolate what's happened in the meantime.

    The fact they chose to go to some raw, emotionally disturbing moments with Clementine's relationship to the other survivors surprised me and made me wonder if Telltale was going, perhaps, too far.

    Nah. Not here at least.

The callbacks to Season One are frequent and touching.
    The premise of The Walking Dead Season Two is Clementine has taken over the role of protagonist. What has happened to Lee and her previous group is something you'll have to play the original to find out but, for the sake of discussing the story, it should be known our heroine gets separated from the only people in the world she still knows.

    Telltale Games does a masterful job of establishing the subtle horror of being a child in the post-apocalyptic world. The game emphasizes Clementine doesn't have much upper body strength so when she has to kill a zombie, and she will have to kill zombies, she can't kill them with a blow to the head like Lee. Every adult towers over her like a kind of giant, ignoring her advice because they can't take her seriously. A small wild animal is, potentially, as much a threat to her as they have been to children throughout history.

    Yet, despite this, Clementine is portrayed as an extraordinarily competent but believable example of a survivor. Lee has trained her well and she's able to make use of what few benefits she has (being able to mover quickly as well as hide) in order to survive the zombie apocalypse. Clementine still makes mistakes, some stupid ones, but how many dumb decisions did you make when you were eleven?

    The new characters introduced in this episode are a bit hit and miss for me. It's obvious Telltale Games is going for a more suspicious, less friendly bunch of survivors than the almost family-esque atmosphere of the original. I won't say more other than the fact I was longing for the days of Larry who, at least, had the decency to consider a little girl something to be protected. Time will tell if this group becomes as likable as the original. I admit, though, that's a pretty high bar to set since I loved all of the survivors but Omid and Crista from the first game.

As usual, the danger in the game is fierce.
     Even so, I've got to say that All That Remains occasionally verged on the edge of being unplayable for me. The Walking Dead was one of the darkest, most harrowing games I've ever played but it still had a lot of moments of levity. All that Remains starts off brutal, gets worse, and just when you think things are about to get better--becomes even more tragic. The fact Clementine is a child rather than an adult made me have to stop the game twice.

    While I'm not denying the storytelling is effective, I am hoping things get a little bit brighter as the darkness is becoming a little bit soul-crushing. I've never played anything else like The Walking Dead but if the game continues to remain as unflinchingly bleak as it's been, I'm not sure if I'll be able to continue.

    Call me a giant wuss or not, Clementine.

The game takes you through several baptisms of fire.
    One thing I am interested in is what the theme of this game is going to be. All That Remains goes a long way to establishing Clementine has the skills to survive in the post-apocalyptic world. Even at eleven-years-old, she's clearly better qualified to survive than some adult survived.

    However, is the game going to touch on that or is the theme perhaps something else? Not enough has yet been established for me to make a firm judgement on what the "lesson" of this season is going to be like the last time (which was about how much you'd give up of yourself to stay alive).

     In conclusion, I'm intrigued by Season Two and am willing to stick with it until the conclusion. The fact a Season Pass only costs slightly more than a single episode was more than enough to get me to shell out the entire amount. Whether Season Two will prove to be the same sort of classic as the original The Walking Dead, however, remains to be seen.


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