TWD_s02e05

Wow. I mean, I just, wow. Telltale Games excels at delivering heartfelt companionship, unexpected brutality, and unrivaled storytelling. All of this is extremely prevalent and on display as season 2 of their exemplary take on The Walking Dead comes to a close in No Going Back. The strength of it is especially pleasing considering how underwhelming episode 4 was.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has played even just a single episode of the series that Clementine will have to bid farewell to at least one more companion this time around, but for the sake of keeping this review spoiler-free I will abstain from saying whom. Suffice it to say, you’ll be hurting by the end of it, much like the season 1 finale.

Except, this finale is worlds apart from season 1. You’re with an almost entirely new crew, even from the group you befriended earlier this season. It seems less and less of your companions have what it takes the further you progress, and yet Clementine prevails. She’s been shot, stabbed, beaten and bitten (no, not that kind), and still she perseveres. Anybody who says there aren’t any strong females in video games need to drop everything and become acquainted with our young, badass heroine.

twd_s02e05_01Being badass, however, doesn’t stop her from feeling or grieving or having to move on. She’s got more to cope with than ever by the end of No Going Back, and the title is more true than you know upon a single playthrough.

See, season 1’s closer was so heartbreaking and impactful, but close as you may be to your new friends, none of them are Lee, and none of them carry the weight of that loss. Plus, as you progress through the ever-breaking world, it becomes easier for not only Clementine as a character, but you as a player to deal with a loss and move on. Some hurt more than others, but by and large you get over each death by the next scene.

Season 2’s ending (again, no spoilers) is most different in that it can vary, which will certainly make for an even bigger and better third chapter come next year. And when I say the ending can vary, I mean there are three completely separate endings, two of which can each have separate outcomes still, making a whopping five possible and wildly different finales. The people you’re with and those you lose, as well as your final destination, are all up in the air.

Through the entirety of the season 1, the impacts of your decisions have felt less and less weighty, as it seemed that within an episode or two all would come right, with the same people ending up dead, just at different times. Your destination is always the same, and ultimately you can’t veer too far off course. Inevitably, my stern but understanding Lee and your hard-ass, take-no-prisoners Lee are essentially the same.

twd_s02e05_02I have noted in previous reviews for this season that the decisions feel like they carry more weight than ever now, and with so many possible outcomes it now truly feels like the “choose your own adventure” game I’ve been wanting it to be all along. It gives The Walking Dead great replay value, and effectively makes the wait until next season painful and cruel.

I realize that I haven’t actually said much about the quality of the game in terms of graphics, audio, load times, playability, blah, blah, blah. This is episode 10 of The Walking Dead (11 counting 400 Days), and none of that really changes significantly enough from episode to episode to comment on at length. As such, here’s a summary of all that stuff: It looks great; better all the time. The end-credits melodies continue to be chilling and beautiful, with the ambient noises and sound effects of the game bringing you effectively into the atmosphere. You get sucked in, and never stop until you can’t progress further.

The best games are those you don’t want to turn off, and I have never turned off an episode of The Walking Dead until I’ve finished it and have to wait for more. The Walking Dead Season 2 as a whole, No Going Back in particular, is Telltale at its very best. The storytelling is sublime, the one-on-one bonding impeccable, the losses devastating, the potential infinite. Every possible ending is a new and different beginning, and I cannot wait to see where MY Clementine will go from here.

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The Walking Dead is developed and published by Telltale Games. A digital download code of this game for the Xbox 360 was provided to Save/Continue for review purposes. Seasons 2 is currently available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and iOS, with PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One ports coming soon.

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