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January 20, 2015 / Jett

The Walking Dead Season 2 Review

Telltale’s first season of The Walking Dead is a hard act to follow. It was an evolution of the Heavy Rain style of game, a revolution in terms of episodic content, and a game so emotionally charged that it routinely caused me to gasp, yell at my television and shed tears. It was by no means perfect, but it’s a game that shook me to the core in a way that I’ll cherish forever.

With The Walking Dead: Season 2, Telltale Games cleans up a number of design and technical issues that plagued the first game to deliver an ultimately smoother experience from a gameplay standpoint. But the real question is, can this new season deliver the feels like its predecessor?

Picking up some time after the events of the first season, you now play as Clementine. Lee, the protagonist of season one and a father figure to Clem, is no longer in the picture. However, his absence is felt throughout. Without him, Clem is constantly challenged to make things work on her own. Along the way, she gets tangled with a new group of survivors, though the trials and tribulations they face together force her to make judgment calls around who she can or can’t trust.

Playing as Clem is awesome. She really was the star of the first game, and getting to experience this world from her perspective is refreshing. In particular, the game shines brightest when it emphases the fact that she’s still a kid that’s trying to carry a physical, mental and emotional weight that’s well beyond her age. However, the game struggles at times with keeping that perspective in focus. As the game progresses, you’re put in a number of heavy situations where your fellow survivors are expecting her to think and behave like an adult. I feel like the game does this outside of the confines of the story as a means of engaging players on a deeper level, but it breaks the immersion for me.

I also took issue with the game’s story progression. In the first season, Lee and his group of survivors had a goal from the beginning and everything laddered up to that point. This time, things fall apart really fast and everyone is simply trying to make due with the bad hand they’re given. While this may make a lot of sense within the fiction, and there are a number of great moments along the way, it also feels like you’re not really working towards anything meaningful other than a base level of stability. The constant through-line is the concept of trust, but it’s not enough to bring it all together in a cohesive manner.

The story may have taken a hit, though the experience of playing it is smoother than ever. Clearly having learned a lot from the first game, there is far less emphasis on twitch action. In the few cases where that does happen, the game is very lenient with your inputs so that you’re not dying on silly things. Another thing I’m glad they fixed is the reliance on typical adventure game puzzle-solving. That part of the first episode in season one really bogged things down, so having element completely removed is something I welcome with open arms.

This time, most of the important stuff happens through dialogue, which is probably the best way about it. On one hand, this makes for a game that moves very smoothly from scene-to-scene. However, it’s also one that requires even less player agency than before. For me, that’s fine, as I’m in this primarily for the story component, though the even more passive nature of this experience will be a deterrent to some.

Season 2 of The Walking Dead doesn’t reach the astronomical heights of the first game. I hold season one in such high regard that it was probably unfair of me to even put that pressure on it. Even so, I have complaints about the story that keep it from reaching that level. Still, it’s an entertaining ride throughout, and one that is still rewarding for players who invested in this series so far. If season one left you itching for more, there’s no reason to skip this follow-up.

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