Lately, Telltale has been putting out compelling games that give a fantastic amount of agency to players, which allows me to explore and make pivotal decisions in worlds (like The Walking Dead and Fables) that I've been reading about in comics for years now. This has resulted in me desiring to put together my thoughts responding to what I've experienced with various entries in Telltale's franchises, written down almost directly after playing them. What follows is full of SPOILERY reactions to the chapter and game mentioned in the title. If you haven't played it yet, go do that first! Then you'll know what I'm talking about AND you'll have played an awesome game. I'm doing you a favor. Really.
Those were the first words to cross my lips as the title card on the first episode of Season 2 of The Walking Dead flashed onto my screen. Within minutes of starting, Telltale lets you know that they are NOT fucking around with this whole sequel-to-2012's-Game-of-the-Year thing. What an ass-clenching, heart-wrenching way to bring us back to the zombie-infested world that we left Clementine in. Omid, who I was just starting to warm up to in my second play through of the first season, is gunned down accidentally by a stranger trying to jack all of Clementine's stuff in a pit stop bathroom, followed by Christa (poor, sweet, pregnant Christa) rushing in and falling to her knees, cradling the father of her child in her arms. I should have seen it coming. Really, I should have. Things were just too... peppy... before it all went down. They were arguing/joking about what they were going to name the kid for chrissakes! And then everything happened and it all went to shit. Seeing the look of horror and self-imposed guilt in Clementine's face, let alone the nearly accusatory stare given by Christa was enough to make my heart drop into my gut.
Did I mention this is roughly the first 10 minutes or so?
And nothing gets better from there. I could go on about every little plot detail, but surely you've already played, right? Yeah, you wouldn't have read this without already playing. Surely not. Regardless, even after the game leaps forward in time things only get shittier and shittier, with everything falling apart until Clem is all alone, fending for herself. And then she meets a stray dog named Same, and you can see how the game could get a little ray of sunshine in the midst of all the darkness. A kid and a dog, surviving the wilderness, looking out for one another. Yeah! That's a story I could get on board with.
Then, well, you know what happens.
Why did Sam have to attack me? I was going to give him some food. I was going to share... stupid goddamn dog. It makes so much sense now, looking back on it. Sam was just hungry, so he attacked me, and I had to fight him off and eventually put him out of his misery. Still, I like to imagine the story where Clem and Sam got a little more time together, where the stupid apocalypse didn't get in the way of a little girl having a pup to keep her company. But if there's one thing we've learned, especially about Telltale's The Walking Dead, it's that things never go the way you hope.
If you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed this first chapter of Season 2. Looking at the game, it seems like Telltale beefed up their game engine, improving both the graphics and the speed at which the engine runs. Unlike the first season, I didn't encounter any parts of the game with stuttering or obvious loading of situation-based dialog options. It also seems like the character animations are a little more natural, and their combat/exciting/terrifying moment mechanics are improved as well, smartly brought over from The Wolf Among Us. One of my least favorite parts of TWD Season 1 was the segments where you were forced to shoot at anything. Replacing those segments with button prompts, while icky in many situations, works for Telltale's special brand of game, so good on them for making that change.
The biggest change, however, was how different this first episode felt from Season 1. Everything seems so much bleaker, and I was surprised just how much speaking for Clementine instead of Lee changed the experience. Very quickly I realized that there are certain tactics that would use Season 1 that would not work for Clem. People definitely view her differently because she's a young girl, and I've seen that work both in her favor and against her. And that's exciting! It's not many games where you get to play a pre-teen girl attempting to manipulate/survive her way through an apocalypse, and I found it fascinating and thrilling to test the boundaries of what I thought Clem would say and what kinds of bluffs or honesty people would accept from the character. I'm really looking forward to seeing how her character, along with my perception of her, grows and changes over the next season.
Now, if we could just find another dog...