It’s been a hell of a long time since we first played a part in coercing young Clementine out of her tree house, before assuming our role as the new protector in her life and main character of Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season One, Lee Everett.
In the seasons that followed, she’s been both the star and co-star, growing from strength to strength and surviving everything the zombie apocalypse throws her way. This is it now though and the final chapter of Clementine’s story, spread out over a four-part episodic adventure titled The Walking Dead: The Final Season, has arrived.
Episode 1 “Done Running” has the difficult task of laying down the foundations for the rest of the mini-series, whilst also needing to breathe freshness into Telltale Games’ adaptations of The Walking Dead comic books. We can all agree that it’s become somewhat of a stale experience after three full seasons and the spin-off episodes. Well, the good news is that a fair few new ideas have been incorporated to ensure Clementine’s send off offers something different at least.
The episode picks up a couple of years after the events of A New Frontier, with Clementine now accompanied by Alvin Jr., or AJ for short. Since reconnecting with each other, it’s been a hard task for Clem to keep herself and the young orphan lad fed, as well as ensuring their safety from walkers. When they stumble upon a potential shelter and some food supplies at an abandoned train station, everything seems to be picking up. But one thing leads to another, panic sets in and their only mode of transport is wrecked, leaving them hurt and vulnerable. That’s until they are dragged out of the wreck and subsequently taken in by unknown people. Are they friends or foes? You just never know in this world infested with the undead and the untrustworthy.
It’s a really well-paced opening set piece that establishes where Clem and AJ are at, going it alone and taking risks to survive on a regular basis. There’s even the chance to see a few of the fancy camera angles it switches to during the action and such. But what comes next introduces a whole raft of interesting characters, all of a similar age to Clem and they seemingly had to raise themselves to some degree too. Everything seems pretty swell and then slowly but surely the writing alludes to something a little more sinister, and without spoiling it, it caught me off guard.
Before discussing the other characters, I want to focus on Clem and AJ, and whilst it’s easy to emotionally attach ourselves to Clem – we’ve come so far haven’t we? – I can’t say the same for that little brat AJ. Honestly, I’ve been begging for Episode 1 to offer the choice to feed him to the walkers, leave him in the woodlands, or, best case scenario, to find a new guardian for him. Let’s just say the new community aren’t overly fond either, despite Clem’s claims that he’ll grow on them. I hope so, because at the moment he’s very annoying to have around.
Fortunately, the supporting cast brings a varied bunch of young adults, all with very different personalities than each other. There’s one chap, Louis, who stood out the most thanks to the jovial approach he has to life and eliminating walkers – he carries a brutal chair leg into battle named ‘Chairles’. In these dark times you need a bit of light and Louis is certainly that, whilst the rest are intriguing enough that you want to find out more about them, and you actually can do via a scripted game of cards that occurs.
But what about the staple of the action in these games, the Quick Time Events? There is good news for those who find these boring as now the fighting bits are more akin to the ones found in the Minecraft: Story Mode, where you’ll manoeuvre Clem and attack the walkers you encounter using one of two buttons. There are traps to set off too, ensuring the killing is a tad more exciting. That doesn’t mean QTEs are completely gone, but there’s additional variety throughout the episode for scuffles and such.
Making choices are another regular occurrence in the Telltale universe and whilst there are a few to be made, at the moment the affects aren’t really noticeable. I presume it’s due to the fact you’re only just beginning to build relationships with these folks, but nevertheless, it appears you have no say in preventing the major event that happens. What you can do though is experience a decent chunk of alternate gameplay and two different mini-games by playing through it again. It lets you go hunting or fishing, both of which are enjoyable activities that need skill and provide further insight into particular characters involved in each one.
Replayability is also attained by the inclusion of six collectibles to find, which can then be used for decorative purposes in your living quarters as well as a couple of items to place elsewhere. This idea is a welcome one as gives more of a purpose to the moments where you’re allowed to roam around an area.
From a visual standpoint, there aren’t any major complaints as that gritty comic book style is felt throughout and a fair few times I thought ‘wow, that’s dark and grim but still lovely’. One of the main locations is a run-down school and it really does fit the bill with its crumbling aesthetic and overgrown, untidy greenery. The new characters are well designed too, although a couple of models do look a bit off. In terms of the audio, the voice actors bring the group members to life brilliantly and the atmosphere is created by the tone of the soundtrack, which is nearly always on point. The only negative aspect is when the audio gets stuck and stutters for as long as it takes to load the next scene – not a deal-breaker, but irritating nonetheless.
The first episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season has set the scene very well for Clementine to really shine from here on out, especially with the way that events unfold as it could see her taking on more responsibilities than ever before. Whilst not a fantastic episode, the shock factor is as prevalent as ever, the characters are interesting and the setting is great, ensuring a very enjoyable opener.
Having a handful of new features helps to freshen up the series and in episode one “Done Running” at least, the desire to attempt a further playthrough is there for the collectibles and to experience the alternate middle portion of the tale. Sadly, the majority of the choices have little impact, AJ isn’t very likeable as of yet and there are a couple of moments where the writing and reactions lack continuity.
Needless to say, “Done Running” is a great start to the last leg of Clementine’s long and treacherous journey.