Imagine being entwined with a tale, and then, after years of emotional investment, finding out it may never reach its conclusion or a fitting end. Well that was almost the case with The Walking Dead: The Final Season when Telltale shut down, until Skybound Games took on the task of seeing out the last two episodes of the four-part series. Hence, Clementine’s journey continues with Episode 3, allowing us to experience more of her increasingly difficult life amidst a zombie apocalypse. But was it worth saving, or should the story have been laid to rest along with Telltale?
I, for one, am glad it’s been given a second chance to cross the finish line. Although, with that being said, Episode 3 isn’t without a few hiccups and stumbling points.
Previously, everything went belly up for the troubled youths at Ericson’s boarding school when the Raiders came to snag a few more recruits, by any means necessary. Even the expertise of Clem and AJ, who’ve survived many a conflict, wasn’t enough to prevent casualties or stop a couple of her new pals from being taken away. It was quite an explosive and exciting ending to the episode really. As the dust settles though, it’s time for Clem to help the remaining few regroup and strategise the next logical step – to go get her people back, or die trying.
That’s where The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 3 “Broken Toys” picks up and fortunately, one of the Raiders is captured, enabling you the opportunity to interrogate them for information surrounding the whereabouts of Clem’s kidnapped friends. This isn’t the first time that there’s been the need to pry answers out of an uncooperative captive in The Walking Dead, but I dare say it’s the first in which you have a youngster like AJ actively and willingly involved in such a scenario. How far will you let Clem go with him watching intently? It’s tricky, however that only adds to the brutal nature, especially when the torturous options are considered.
The writers have a habit of using AJ as a sort of conscience, reminding you of what you’ve done and deliberating over the morality of it all. The poor kid has been encompassed in a death-filled world for the entirety of his life and it really shows, so even when that trademark attitude rears its ugly head, you just feel sorry for him.
Anyway, the first Act is almost like a budget special ops mission, requiring you to scope out the Raiders base for potential weaknesses and conjuring up a plan to ensure the best possible chance of success. There’s not a way to alter the plan too much, which is a shame. You do come across someone sort of new in the midst of it and this ‘chance’ meeting is rather enlightening about the whole Raiders regime, including their methods of convincing people to fight for them.
The best part – and worst, actually – is yet to come though, with our strange friend and Whisperer James coming back into the fold. When a herd of walkers is needed for a distraction, there’s no better person for the job, but to have even a slim possibility of him helping, you must get him safely to his mask. It’s a pain in the backside due to the fact that killing the walkers in his way is frowned upon and the combat sections are annoying enough as it is. Simply stunning them soon sees you surrounded and brings about a swift demise.
For some reason, the QTEs are damn awful too, often being unresponsive and leading to a death far too regularly throughout the latter stages of Episode 3. Without these issues, the action scenes during the big pay-off of the plan Clem has put into place would be exhilarating, but with them, it just puts a damper on proceedings. There are a few little twists and turns in the plot that will certainly cause devastation, shock and awe, but there’s also time for a couple of beautiful moments prior to events kicking off.
Firstly, Clem and her love interest – Violet in my case – have a lovely connection as two rather broken human beings coming together and overlooking each other’s flaws. Then there’s the bond shared between AJ and Clem, with the former ready to do absolutely anything for his guardian, and vice versa. Oddly though, there’s a proper weird section that involves temporarily becoming a Whisperer – blending in with the walkers – and this bit is the most beautiful of them all, in terms of visual effects, the atmosphere, and the sounds accompanying it.
Whilst the beginning and the end has a few damn good highlights regarding the storytelling, the dialogue and action-based choices, the middle is a total snore fest. It tries to get you to care a little more about the support characters before the big battle, but fails miserably and ends up with you having the world’s most boring ‘party’ (is it really the time for that?), before having you listen to a solo rendition of a favourite song of the group; one that Clem’s got no bond to. This middle Act really drags on.
Not much has changed visually with Episode 3, with most areas being familiar locations by now, so there are fewer fresh environments, and the characters are still looking as ridiculously good as the first episode of The Final Season. The only gripe I have is that the character models, more so in relation to the less important folk, have a penchant for robotic movements – it feels out of place in an otherwise well designed, comic styled world.
Overall and The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 3 on Xbox One does a fairly decent job of creating enough moments to be remembered, from the gruesome and utterly shocking to the rare opportunity for beauty to thrive in adversity. What stops it from being a great episode is the monotonous section in the middle that’s pointless filler and the action scenes that require some input. It’s good to see a decision come back to haunt you from the previous outing though, as well as one biggie which has an immediate impact.
I’m still enjoying it of course, but the time feels right for this journey to come to a conclusion as Clem has been through enough already. Roll on the finale of The Walking Dead: The Final Season!