Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Walking Dead: Season 2 review

    I've already reviewed the entirety of the season by each individual episode, which are available here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

    However, because I enjoyed it, I'm going to give an overview of the entirety of the series. I think the original is one of the best video games ever made, so the sequel has some pretty big shoes to fill. Would Clementine prove to be as interesting a protagonist as Lee? Would the characters be as likable? Would the plot be as moving or dramatic? Would it end on a bang or with a whimper?

    The short answer? It's not as good as the original.

    Not by a long shot.

The dog should have been Clementine's companion for the entire game.
    Still, there's plenty of room between "one of the best video games of all time" and "complete crap." There's a lot going for Season 2. Clementine is a great protagonist, about the only thing as good as the original, with her story arc remaining one of the most consistently entertaining things about the game. The characters are interesting, if not especially likable, and the story arc involving Carver is one of the best in the franchise.

    So what's the problem?

    On a serious note, there's too much darkness for it to have its appropriate impact. Part of what made the original so effective was the lighter moments scattered between the horrible ones. You came to bond with Kenny, Lilly, Duck, Carly, and (of course) Clementine before the game started picking them off. While there's some genuinely likable characters, a lot of them are mean and nasty to you before dying unexpectedly. Plenty of characters are introduced, get a minimum amount of development, and are unceremoniously killed off.

Is it wrong I want almost everyone in this cabin to die? Even at the beginning, I wanted Clementine to just find another group.
    The morality of the setting is also far more skewed towards cynicism and ruthlessness. In the original game, stealing a car full of groceries was a dick move which left Clementine feeling miserable if Lee goes through with it. It also has consequences. Here, the characters routinely betray, intimidate, lie, and worse with nary a second thought.

    While this is, perhaps, realistic given its years into the apocalypse--it doesn't really give me much reason to care about these asshats. If everyone is a scumbag, then what's really worth preserving? A more philosophical game might be interested in asking that question but this one is too interested in setting up the set pieces for the next big tragedy. There's also just some genuinely bad writing like a bunch of gun-toting Russians who don't speak English showing up in Episode 4.

    The premise of it's roughly a year after Clementine survives the events of the original game. It's hard not to spoil the game but she is separated from survivors Omid and Crista, only to hook up with another group of survivors. These survivors, however, are on the run from their own previous group. Clementine must win them over since they are hostile and suspicious of anyone new, apparently even little girls. Needless to say, they re-encounter their previous group and have to deal with the fallout from this event.

Carver could easily be a villain in the comics.
    There's some truly great moments spread throughout the game. The scene where Clementine is forced to deal with a non-zombie-related wound is shocking while I also loved the three endings the game gives you. A Christmas party near the beginning of the game is as touching as such a moment should be in a world where almost everything has been lost.

    As mentioned, the character of Carver is an immensely effective villain. He's tough, charismatic, and ruthless while also cracking in a quite believable way. You can understand why people follow him and even might be tempted yourself before the true depths of his brokenness become apparent. I also liked the polarizing figure of Jane who, despite her faults, is just a scared little girl like Clementine.

    These characters don't get their proper amount of time to shine, however, due to the game not being interested in developing them across the entire series. They get one or two episodes devoted to them before the plot leaves them in the dust. Which is a shame as they could have elevated the material greatly.
If the series ended here, I'd be okay with it. It's a satisfying ending.
    In conclusion, The Walking Dead: Season 2 isn't a bad game. It's actually a very good game. It's a depressing game, however, and I had mostly stopped caring by Episode 5. I wanted some levity to contrast against the horror. I got a good ending but the game wasn't what I wanted. Despite all this, I recommend it for players of the original game because Clementine is an awesome protagonist. The good outweighs the bad and I'm still purchasing Season 3.


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