Platform: PC (Steam), PS3, 360, Vita, Ouya
Release Date: December 18, 2013
ESRB: M for Mature
This review is based off the Xbox 360 version of the game, in which a review code was provided by the publisher
When the first season of Telltale's The Walking Dead hit our gaming consoles of choice, many people were astounded by the emotional story of a zombie-filled apocalypse. Your choices in the game are tailored to make it look like they mattered (though unfortunately they rarely did), and specifically made you think about your actions and how they would affect Lee and the other survivors.
Now, after the conclusion of Season One and a short intermediary episode to keep us busy, we finally have the first episode of Season Two. How well does this first episode prepare us for the drama and teary moments that are sure to come?
After a short intro that details the events of Season One and a small amount of exposition afterwards, we are thrust over a year into the future and in control of an older Clementine. The months have not been kind to the girl, but it's clear that she has grown strong and has learned some survival instinct in the interim. Of course, Clementine is still a child, and her frailty does tend to show through at various parts of the episode, despite her overall tough demeanor.
This makes Clementine a very compelling character to play as; much like she was a remarkable character in Season One, her charm and general age makes her an interesting contrast to the typical protagonist you would play as in these sort of games. Lee was very much a believable character, there's a definite charm in being a child trying to survive alone in such harsh conditions.
Of course, playing as Clementine also brings about a potential snag in the narrative; since she was in fact a non-playable character in Season One, she had an established personality. Since Telltale's games offer you many decisions and choices in what you say and do, and some may feel that certain decisions don't really match her established personality. The lengthy period of time certainly helps ease the player into a "different" Clementine in that regard, but some might find this a bit jarring.
Musings on Clementine aside, Episode 1's purpose is twofold. First, we are shown how Clementine has grown over the eighteen months. She's older, tougher, and has gained quite a few survival skills along the way. While she can't survive completely alone, we're quickly shown that Clementine is also not helpless. This early half of the episode really makes you feel her struggles in a different light. For example, while the player would expect Lee to be able to easily brush off some wounds and travel great distances without getting tired, we don't expect the same from a child, and Telltale does a great job of how much more difficult survival can be for Clementine.
The second purpose of All That Remains is to introduce a new group of survivors. This new group is tight-knit and cautious lot, and already well-established by the time Clementine shows up. Unfortunately, we are only briefly introduced to the characters before the episode ends, but we are given enough interesting tidbits to see that Season Two will be ripe with some interesting narratives and drama.
As you expect, Season Two asks you to upload your saves from Season One and 400 Days before playing. If you don't have all the data, it's fine; Season Two will pick generic choices for the carryover. This implies that we'll see our choices in those titles have an effect on Season Two; unfortunately, there's very little present in Episode 1. As it's mostly an introductory chapter into a new setting, that's somewhat expected, but it's still a little disappointing that not only do you not see any choices from the previous titles take any effect (other than a small quip from Clementine), but even that most of the decisions that you make in All That Remains also seem to have little relevance. However, there is solace in the fact that the final decision seems to be a big one, and even seems to effect a portion of Episode 2 is a big way, but how big of a way is yet to be seen.
On the technical side of things, everything is your standard Telltale experience. The user interface is upgraded a little to match the tone of The Walking Dead better, but everything else still plays fundamentally the same. There was some frame stuttering during the more action-y parts of the episode, which can make the quick time events a bit more difficult, but this may or may not be an issue with other versions of the game.
Overall, All That Remains is just an introduction of things to come. There isn't a mad, confusing scramble like the first episode of Season One, so many might find this episode a little on the slow side. However, Season Two promises more of the emotional drama and tearjerkers we've come to expect in later episodes. It's a little disappointing that Episode 1 is so mellow (well, as mellow as a game could be in the zombie apocalypse), but it seems that there will be great moments to come.
+ Playing as Clementine gives survival in the harsh world a new light
+ The new survivors bring seemingly interesting new dynamics to the 'human' side of the plot
- Frame rate issues break immersion and make quick time events more difficult
- While necessary, Episode 1 is more of a framing episode for the new groups of survivors, so there aren't many big impact moments
Overall Score: 7.0 (Out of 10)
All That Remains sets up for an engaging and interesting Season Two, but on its own lacks most of the emotional moments we've come to expect from the series.