Much has been said about the rise and fall of Telltale. 2012’s The Walking Dead game was a breakout hit for the studio and rejuvenated interest in traditional adventure games again. It singlehandedly turned Telltale into a household name in the industry, winning countless game of the year awards and being a major commercial success.
But years of mismanagement led to Telltale’s tragic closure midway through the Final Season of The Walking Dead. Skybound Games did eventually come to save the day with a team of ex-Telltale employees and so here we are now. With a collection of every The Walking Dead game Telltale made. The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series is an ode to the series that made and, ultimately, killed Telltale.
Telltale’s first season of The Walking Dead was adored for a reason. It’s by far their most focused, poignant and meaningful season of storytelling and one of the most emotionally resonant stories in all of gaming. it follows Lee Everret’s redemption story through the apocalypse as he fights to save and raise a young girl, Clementine.
As a surrogate father figure, every interaction you have with Clem is phenomenal. Cutting her hair, talking about family, about the way things were, about what they could be. It’s all incredibly human and trying to navigate the relationship and figure out what wisdom to impart is so interesting. Especially since Lee’s trying to raise her in the end of the world. There are a ton of choices to make and it’s a continuous tug-of-war between choosing whether to harden Clem for survival or trying to retain her innocence from the world that once was.
It ends better than any story-driven game could hope, has great supporting characters, brutal choices and surprisingly scary zombie encounters. It’s no surprise that Telltale replicated the same formula until the very end.
The first season ending perfectly and didn’t need a sequel but, of course, this is a business and the game industry is obsessed with sequels, so The Walking Dead returned. And this time players were in control of Clementine. All things considered Season Two was a worthy successor to the first game, even if it didn’t have the most focused story. Season One can be summed up succinctly: Lee Everret seeks redemption in the zombie apocalypse by saving a girl. Season Two is just kinda Clem surviving with a new group.
Regardless, Season Two is still an amazing zombie story. The drama is raised considerably with a new group that Clem encounters and all of the character dynamics here are very creative. Telltale crafted a group of multi-layered characters with evolving and complex relationships with each other and with Clem. Even though the second season isn’t as necessary as the first, it’s still full of jaw-dropping sequences, characters to care about and choices that’ll make your stomach drop.
Also, Clementine is a badass here.
A New Frontier
Telltale’s third TWD season is by far it’s worst. Its story is fractured, meandering and forgettable. Clem is back, but only in a limited capacity. A new character, Javier, is front-and-centre instead. This wouldn’t be a problem if their stories were connected but they’re not. Clem’s struggles are almost completely unrelated to Javier’s and it feels like Clem’s only there because she’s a fan-favourite. This flip-flopping narrative makes A New Frontier feel disjointed.
But the biggest problem is the world-building. Telltale’s The Walking Dead always felt grounded but this time around the world feels unrealistically big. Instead of it being a story about survival and the world hanging on by a thread, A New Frontier has multiple big settlements of people living relatively normal lives. It’s still well written and fun, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the others.
There’s not a ton to say about Telltale’s only mini-series. It’s only three episodes in length and it follows the fan-favourite comic book character while she’s absent from the comics. If you’re a big Michonne fan, you’ll definitely enjoy this detour as it digs in deeper to her origins, although it doesn’t reveal information that we didn’t already know. The game does go over the top with its stakes for such a small story but it’s overall a fine, if passable, game in the collection.
The Final Season
This is where Clementine’s journey ends. She’s back as the main focus and Telltale’s writing is back to its best. Clem and her new young companion, AJ, find a settlement of kids in a boarding school, bringing teen drama to the apocalypse. I loved the change of pace seeing Clem interact with survivors her own age and some of the scenarios, especially in the first two episodes are so interesting.
The cast of teens are all great this time around and with only four episodes, The Final Season feels more focused than any other. It cleverly references the series’ past and knows what parts of its history to touch upon again. It’s also Telltale’s most impressive title, gameplay-wise. Fixed camera angles are gone and the game even features a light combat system.
The last episode might be its weakest but when all is said and done, the ending of The Walking Dead was a worthy send-off to one of modern gaming’s most beloved faces.
If you’ve already played all or many of these seasons, then the The Telltale Definitive Series still might be worth picking up. Telltale’s games come with an expected amount of jank but the collection is surprisingly stable. The frame rate is solid, facial animations and lip synching are vastly improved and there aren’t nearly as many bugs as you’d remember. All seasons also include a new ‘Graphic Black’ art style from the Final Season. It’s essentially just a more saturated art style that’s reminiscent of the comics.
Developer’s commentary is also jammed into the package. These include four playthroughs of episodes with voice actors and developers of the game and a short film about the cancellation and resurrection of the last season. This mini-documentary is slightly disappointing, since the circumstances around Telltale’s closure were incredibly troubled and controversial, but the video instead shys away from a lot of that. Nonetheless, the other videos are enjoyable additions to say goodbye to these stories. Every musical track is also included.
The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series on Xbox One is a worthy send-off to one of gaming’s best stories and developers of the 2010s. With over 50 hours of content, improved frame rates and animations, and sentimental developer’s commentary, the collection is must-buy for anyone who hasn’t played these games before.