If the first episode is anything to go by, season Two of Telltale’s Walking Dead is a refinement on its critically acclaimed predecessor. Though it has inherently lost some of the originality and novelty that made earlier episodes so special, ‘All That Remains’ is a promising start that effectively establishes the new season. Though one could easily criticise this episode is somewhat unremarkable, it should be praised for how well it handles things that were problematic previously. ‘All That Remains’ isn’t the best the Walking Dead has to offer, but it paves the way for future greatness quite successfully.
One thing that ‘All that Remains’ gets right straight away is the tone of the series. The atmosphere of the episode is on point with what you remember and it is clear that Telltale still know how to make games in this universe. The opening itself is a real highpoint, putting you into a scenario that has predictable results, but one that is really well handled. ‘All That Remains’ puts its best foot forward right away and reminds you that this series doesn’t pull its punches. It’s a powerful start that fits perfectly with what the series is known for.
After this point the narrative of this episode is quite sparse, this episode is focused on scene setting for the new season and does a good job of putting you in a promising place at the end. Story wise there is nothing really notable in ‘All that Remains’, but it does serves a definite purpose. It’s a necessary step to put the season in the place Telltale want it to be, and as a piece in that puzzle this debut is very competent. It has a job to do and it does it well.
However, the real highlight of this episode is in the refinements on the formula. In the past the series has had issues with pacing and action, and these are both greatly improved here. The game never really drags and concentrates on what works, keeping the momentum going but mixing it with enough downtime to make it a contemplative and affecting experience. Telltale take their time with this episode, it’s an establishing episode after all, but they don’t do this at the expense of the player’s enjoyment. The pace never grinds to a halt and the whole thing provides a more seamless gameplay experience than a lot of what we’ve seen before.
‘All That Remains’ is also more action focused than previous episodes, but unlike previous entries this action is well handled. On a story level there isn’t much that’s particularly memorable in this episode, it does what it needs to do and sets things up well, but it is the later instalments that will (hopefully) push the core narrative to the forefront in interesting ways. However, there are a number of decent action set pieces in ‘All That Remains’ which make for some very impactful singular moments. These don’t have the impact that the moral quandaries and character moments did in the first season, but they still work really well and are notable highlights.
One major positive is that the action scenes are genuinely enjoyable to interact with. The implementation of quick time events and context sensitive gameplay moments is much better handled, and these segments manage to excite without irritating. What is happening on screen is well thought out and engaging, and interacting with these moments makes them even better. Interactions are simple, but here simplicity is more than adequate. Though the episode lacks seminal moments that will impact through the series, and give you a platform for water-cooler discussion, it is home to a number of single moments which are excellent. A lot of this is down to the improved action, but some are simply due to clever writing and creative scenarios.
The most drastic change in this episode is a new protagonist. You no longer play as the excellent Lee, but instead play as Clementine. This episode is rather solitary, and that works well enough. It’s nice to be back with Clementine and playing as her indicates how she has grown as a character. Her taking over the Lee role is emblematic of your success in the previous season, and this more solitary episode gives you ample chance to reflect on that. However, a lot of the brilliance of the previous season was the interplay between characters, as well as the use of Clementine as a conscience or narrative device. Once again, this episode is focused on building things up, so it is too early to tell if this new structure will be weaker or actually stronger than before (or if they will return to something more akin to previous episodes).
More minor changes really elevate this episode (and this season) though. One thing worthy of note is a change to the game’s user interface, which makes things look a lot more stylish. The interface is minimalistic in nature, but gives you all the information you need; it’s a more attractive interface than before (especially in regard to the quick-time events) and it’s also very user friendly. It works especially well with a gamepad, but works fine with a mouse and keyboard also. This is yet another refinement which gives the game a more polished feel, that indicates a certain mastery over the technology that wasn’t always shown in season one. ‘All That Remains’ is a much more professional looking and feeling product, and while the content isn’t as compelling as before the steps forward made in terms of design are impressive.
‘All That Remains’ is a promising start to what looks like an interesting season. Though this episode mostly sets up things to come, it does this well and it’s a step that is needed to facilitate more interesting moments down the line. It still contains some good character moments, and the set up is interesting, but it is the improved presentation and action that makes ‘All That Remains’ work. The episode does a good job of separating itself from what came before, but still captures a lot of what worked in the previous season. ‘All That Remains’ has some inherent weaknesses due to its focus on building up to something rather than providing you with something straight away, but a number of great set pieces and an excellent solitary atmosphere work wonders for it. On top of this there are also a number of imaginative moments that make for interesting scenarios, and make good use of the Walking Dead lore. This episode isn’t a game changer, but it’s a solid reminder of how good the Walking Dead is, and it handles a number of things better than what came before it.