The Walking Dead (TWD) – the game about a zombie apocalypse with almost no zombies in it. Sorry, walkers. It doesn’t really matter though, it’s all about the story, drama and character development anyway!
Season Two has a lot to live up to, after all it is a sequel to a game that’s received numerous Game Of The Year awards. Hopes are high as it is created by the same developers and features an already well established and beloved character – Clementine. So how do you live up to the hype? Well in this case, you don’t.
Notoriously, TWD has almost no controls – most of it is either dialogue selection or quick time events. Yet there was still room for improvement that was successfully achieved!
The QTE’s just feel better, the indication arrow changes colour when you successfully go through it, giving you immediate feedback. It doesn’t seem like a lot but without that it can be unclear whether you managed to react in time or not. So now you don’t have to wonder whether you messed up, you know you did!
The point and click adventure portion of the game is almost non-existent. The puzzles you end up figuring out are few and basic. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it removes a lot of tedious repetition that didn’t really add a lot to the first game anyway. It’s just overall faster and more fluid, making it more pleasant to go through.
On the other hand, a new dragging mechanic has been introduced. It’s as simple as it sounds – you press down your mouse button and drag. Seems basic, yet you might find yourself failing the action for a completely unknown reason. It’s just unnecessary and has no point of existing.
Lastly, even the choice system has been improved. It’s become much more varied and at times it’s not even obvious whether something was a choice or not. Some deaths become radically different based on your decision, and it’s overall far more subtle than “Save A or B.”
The Walking Dead isn’t about its looks, but improvements have still been made. There’s actual lightning effects going on, the faces feel more three dimensional, and character models have a nice amount of detail, even the hair looks better! It’s still not a great looking game though, but it does its job without getting in the way.
As expected the voice acting is wonderful. It’s always spot on and genuine, with all the subtlety and drama it may need. The ambiance and soundtrack of the game are both fine as well, even if you may not notice it as much.
Oh boy, this is where the game gets.. not as good. There are several unrelated reasons why, and I’ll try to explain without spoiling much.
The characters have become far more like stereotypes than fleshed out original people. There’s the dreamy one, the useless one, the cool one. The few characters that don’t seem to fit into any trope aren’t properly developed. Actually, there’s very little development and most of it is forced. While the puzzle part of the original game may have been frustrating, it also gave you time to (completely optionally) talk to the people around you. Small talk and understand what they’re like. Here, there’s essentially none of that. The conversations you end up having usually serve two purposes: to advance and explain the plot, or to force character development and say “Hey look this person is totally not one dimensional, I swear!”
The game is also surprisingly too fast paced. Every time you make a big decision it doesn’t hold as much weight, because it’s very quickly skipped over and you have to move on to the next plot point. It doesn’t sink in and almost never takes its time. The problem isn’t that there are no consequences to your actions, it’s that you don’t feel as if you’ve made an impact. The illusion of choice is very important, and there aren’t that many cases where you get that illusion in Season Two.
Finally, the story is sometimes just badly put together. Let me use a vague example. You end up in a situation that makes sense only if you seriously pissed someone off. Earlier in the game, you decided to be nice and not do that. So if they still come after you (even though you were all kinds of nice), it’s just absurd! And there’s no backup excuse to justify it either. The developers clearly wanted certain things to happen, but didn’t bother properly connecting all the dots first, and in a story driven game, that’s a pretty big issue.
The game definitely has its golden moments, however. Judging by emotional impact, it gets better with each episode and it successfully makes you panic and fatalistic. The plot is at times genuinely intriguing and leaves you on edge. The only real problem is that it’s not quite as good as one may hope.
The Walking Dead: Season Two isn’t actually bad, it’s just a downgrade where it really matters and an upgrade where it doesn’t. However the plot successfully remains emotional and dramatic. Just make sure you don’t think about it too hard or you’ll realise how senseless some of it is.