The Walking Dead: The Final Season –
Episode 1: Done Running
Developed by: Telltale Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Has it really been six years? It seems like only yesterday that I made an impulse buy on the Playstation store to purchase the first season of Telltale Game’s point and click adventure games set in the universe of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what I was in for. Apart from the fact that I enjoyed the Telltale style of gaming, I wanted to give some of their other titles a spin now that I’d gotten used to the format. I had no idea of the people I’d meet in the game who’d have such a lasting impact: Javier, Kenny, Jane, Carver, Lilly, Larry, Christa, Omid, and of course, Lee Everett and Clementine. Over the course of that first season Lee (and myself as the player) found ourselves taking care of a little girl during the zombie apocalypse.
More than just a standard point and click adventure game, the series added the wrinkle that choices I made, things I said would impact Clementine’s development in this new and frightening world. Now, with the release of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, the circle is complete. Once, Clementine was the embodiment of Lee’s hope for the future. Now, Clementine fights to keep her own young ward alive in a world where humanity is close to gone, and her charge. . .well, we’ll get to that.
Episode 1: Done Running opens with Clementine and her child companion AJ traveling the post-apocalyptic hellscape and run into a serious problem: food and water are scarce. Through a series of circumstances, they find themselves in, what appears to be, an oasis in the midst of the daily misery that is life in the world of The Walking Dead. This time in the form of a former school for ‘troubled youth’ now run by the kids themselves. Their leader deals with them fairly, and the kids are mostly pleasant. If you think that all this is going to be sunshine and roses for our heroes from here on out, well, you must not be very familiar with either the previous games or the comic book source material.
To speak more of the plot would do a disservice to the game itself, so I’m going to paint my review in the broadest strokes possible to avoid spoilers. I’ve been a fan of both Telltale Games and their take on The Walking Dead. I’ve purchased each season without regret (as well as the spinoff material like 400 Days and Michonne). I can understand how more elite gamer types who enjoy their survival horror with a lot more action and shoot ’em ups might find the point and click format quaint, but as a long time fan of such games as well as Choose Your Own Adventure books I took to the format like a kitten with a ball of yarn.
There are even a few new wrinkles. You can control the camera angle for the first time in a Walking Dead game. This is good. At times you’ll need to check every conceivable angle to ensure you’re not about to get devoured by zombies. There are a few new wrinkles to the combat system which allow you to illustrate just how much of a stone badass Clementine really is when it comes to taking down the living dead.
The beauty of the Telltale Walking Dead games is it provides the player with an illusion of agency in the narrative. Yes, the game will eventually reach certain branch points no matter how you might have Clementine act. The fun lies in how you portray Clementine in the scenario. Is she a hardened survivor-focused solely on her and AJ’s well being above all else? Or is she still a friendly, relatively well-adjusted person even after everything she’s been through? The choice is yours. Its highlighted by some interesting character beats between Clem, AJ, and the kids at the school.
Another intensely interesting facet of the game is Clem’s relationship with AJ. Unlike Clem herself, AJ was born into a world where civilization is a memory. He has a hard time grasping concepts from the time before the zombie apocalypse. The fact that he’s a crack shot with a pistol is on one level handy for his survival, but also deeply disturbing for the player looking in on this world and seeing a child handling a sidearm. AJ’s relationship with Clem is similar to her relationship with Lee: both represent a hope for the future. A hope… and maybe something else too.
Before I get to the verdict a quick shout out to the voice acting, which as per usual in Telltale games is well above par. The highest praise possible of course goes to Melissa Hutchinson for her role as Clementine. She has taken the character from a scared child to a hardened, tough survivor. Her work in Done Running is superb.
The Verdict: Buy It. If point and click adventure games with emotional resonance and powerful moments, The Walking Dead: The Final Season is for you. While you might want to wait to swoop in and buy the whole season once all the episodes have been released, I find that the wait between cliffhangers is half the fun. Recommended.