The Walking Dead: Season Two Episode 1 – All That Remains
2012’s The Walking Dead from Telltale Games was a worthy entry into the successful franchise—packed from start to finish with tough choices and deft characterization that kept gamers anchored to the budding relationship between Lee and Clementine. It fit snugly into the Walking Dead universe established in the comics, while standing firmly on its two feet, rightfully winning its place on many best-of lists at the end of the year. With a lot to live up to, the second season’s biggest change is the passing of the torch from Lee to Clementine.
Surely most players will have already gone through the first season and have a solid idea of who Clem is and formed an attachment to the character, making the transition to her as protagonist a smooth one. Anyone crazy enough not to have played the first, or otherwise missing a save file, can start up a game with randomized choices selected to fill in the gaps. It may be obvious to point out, but this isn’t the ideal way to experience the story.
All That Remains has many aspects that should be familiar to players and fans of the series: bickering among group members on what should be done, distrust, scavenging and, of course, navigating around flesh-hungry walkers. Despite following a similar pattern, events manage to feel new through Clementine’s eyes. She is a curious mix of vulnerable and competent, a character learning to become more adept in the ways of survival in a world gone mad, but ultimately dependent on the adult characters (both good and bad) around her.
There’s a new group of survivors that make themselves hard to trust, especially during the tense, initial encounter. In season one, the surrounding cast had traits that, even if they were unlikable, gave them a reason to be emphasized with. In this opening episode the group doesn’t have those identifiably human traits and veer off well in the direction of totally unlikable human beings.
Maybe it’s an unfair comparison to make, but the lack of any immediate, tangible connection between the characters like Lee and Clementine makes it hard to care about the interactions taking place or the curiosity to see where the relationships will go in the following episodes. Without spoiling too much, during the episode’s finale—in which players are expected to make a choice of who lives and who’s walker chow—it was a clear-cut case of choosing the likable person over someone that was painfully obnoxious and distrusting of Clementine.
Episodes from the previous season went out of their way to make it feel like an agonizing choice that would leave the player with a sense of loss regardless of what they decided. Here, the choices feel a bit rote, and there’s one in particular that had me crying foul and seriously questioning the believability of what had just happened. It involved a dog, and it feels like an emotional cheap shot in a series known for some memorable, truly gut-wrenching drama. Granted, some of that feels necessary as the premise for this season is navigating a child through a world of constant danger; other times it feels like Clementine is put in harm’s way just for the sake of it.
As the first episode of a new season, All That Remains gets some slack and there are moments where the writing and characters click, but the unevenness is hard to ignore—especially when looking back at A New Day and how it stood tall on its own. Here, it’s strictly a set-up for the next batch of episodes with too little payoff.