With another episode down and its second season all wrapped up, The Walking Dead’s final few moments were tense to say the least. “No Going Back,” indeed; the ending of the series had so many parallels with its beginning that it made my head spin. Jane’s warnings from the previous episode, about the dangers of groups in a world full of zombies, come into stark focus during the finale. Small victories for the group are crushed by overwhelming losses, which, in lieu of a clear villain, left me wondering if perhaps I was becoming “the bad guy.” If not myself, then at least the company I was keeping, what with the colours of Kenny’s perception becoming more vivid with each passing day. “Better the devil you know,” is a phrase which kept dancing through my head as old loyalties were tested against new bonds and I wasn’t expecting to make the decisions that I did.
After having murdered a dog, stitched up my own wounds, watched Carver get beaten to death and robbed a defenseless kid, I felt like Clementine’s personality had already traveled far beyond what some might describe as child-like. It was jarring, but in a good way, to then be reminded of the fact that she is still a child and has a lot of the naivetes about the world that go along with that. In the few peaceful moments between the terrible events that had happened at the end of the last episode and the inevitable shitstorm that would be brewing for the finale, it was a bittersweet moment to see that Clementine was still maintaining a shred of her innocence after all she’s been through.
When things start going bad in this episode, as things are wont to do in The Walking Dead, they start going bad fast and you’re forced to make some pretty fast decisions that you might find difficult to live with. Sure, this is true of every TWD episode, but the idea of whether or not it’s actually worth it anymore is now ever present. The episode makes you question the limits and nuances of your own morality or ethical code as Clementine; do you actually want to keep the group together? To keep it alive and moving? And to do so, will you make exceptions for some people that you might find more favorable than others, even if doing so means going against aforementioned morals and ethics? It was such a great way to wrap up everything I had experienced this season up to this point and really forced me to reflect on the choices I’d made during that time.
The story flowed smoothly throughout, if only occasionally interrupted by technical hiccups. The game has never been particularly difficult to control, though it does have an annoying tendency to trigger cutscenes or events whenever you happen to walk into a particular location. The game does nothing to highlight these spots, either, so they can literally happen at any moment and they’ll often progress the game and cut you off from whatever you were attempting to do beforehand. Sometimes this is due to realistic events, something spontaneous like walkers shambling up and attacking: believable enough that, while annoying, it doesn’t destroy your suspension of disbelief. Sometimes, however, it’ll be because Clementine just decides to stop what she’s doing and sitdown for the rest of the scene, flipping the bird to player agency and preventing you from doing anything else that you might have wanted to in that section.
There are also moments, of which there are quite a few in this episode, where the player is required to do nothing but hold W down to get Clem through whatever dangerous scenario she’s in at the time. I understand that, when the scene has been set correctly, doing hardly anything at all can feel like a major undertaking. There has to be a point to it, however, and if your point is always, “to create a sense of tension,” then you need to find other ways of doing it because it loses its effect after the first few times. If the player already knows that they can easily progress through this section by pressing forward while there’s still a “clear and present danger”, then it’s not really a tense moment is it? If the tension comes from other people being present, well then I guess we already know what’s about to happen, don’t we?
That being said, there’s a reason that we know which moments are supposed to be tense; the music in this game is fantastic, the subtle changes it took on to effect the mood certainly felt as though it added to the weight each of decision. Thinking back on the rest of the series at the end of this episode, not just this season but the first as well, Tell Tale have done a fantastic job of gradually weathering the world around the player. Cars, while always having a banged up, post-apocalyptic look, now look much dirtier and worn out than they appeared at the beginning of season one. Every building has a “lived in” feeling as untold numbers of survivors have passed through them seeking shelter from the apocalypse. It’s the little things which really polish the overall atmosphere of a game and TTG’s attention to detail has not been lacking.
The greatest achievement of the TWD games is that they’ve created a living world that players are able to clearly see functioning in response to, and separate from, their own actions. Suspension of disbelief isn’t even a concept to me when I pick up each episode as it so easily absorbs me into its world that I feel as if I can instantly relate. The story it weaves is incredibly emotional and often confronts the player with the consequences of their own actions. I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt so it again when Season 3 rolls around, but this is one of my favorite game series of all time solely for its ability to make me empathise with the characters on screen and actually feel what they’re feeling.
“No Going Back” was a fitting conclusion to the season as it wrapped up almost every question I had (in one way or another), without giving everything away, and in the great storyteller fashion that I’ve come to expect from Telltale Games. Naturally, it left me wanting more, and fortunately, mentioning Season 3 before wasn’t just wishful thinking – it’s absolutely been confirmed. With Tales from the Borderlands slated for release later this year too, I am confident that I’m going to be one happy gamer if this final chapter is any indication of the quality we can expect.
Please Note: This review was based on the PC version of the game, and purchased at retail by the writer for the purpose of review.