The Walking Dead The Final Season is a fitting swansong for Telltale. Even though Skybound finished off the season when Telltale abruptly shut its doors, The Final Season is the perfect send-off.
Telltale was a group of developers who changed the way we looked at narrative in games. It also changed the notion of episodic games and morality choices. The first game to do this was The Walking Dead.
In that first season, players were Lee, an escaped convict who adopts Clementine in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. In the years following Season One, Clementine has kept surviving and is now in her mid-teens, looking after a child of her own.
AJ was born after the apocalypse and has never known a normal life, however, Clementine is determined to give him some semblance of one, no matter the cost.
The Walking Dead The Final Season
Across the four episodes in The Walking Dead The Final Season Clementine is battling for AJ’s very humanity against a world that has lost all traces of it. In Episode One, AJ and Clementine are travelling alone and lamenting their lack of food.
It’s basic The Walking Dead fare, but what makes it special is that Clementine is now stepping into Lee’s shoes. She wants to protect AJ and make sure he’s safe, but in the world that she lives, it’s not always possible.
When AJ and Clementine come across some buildings, they decide to look for food and, of course, it all goes sideways. Barely surviving a herd, Clementine wakes up in a strange location with no memory of how she got there. Her and AJ have been brought to a former boarding school that’s run and occupied exclusively by children. The children who used to live there.
Lord of the Flies?
They’ve formed a microcosm of society and have a leader and a handful of kids who carry out tasks day-to-day.
When Clementine and AJ join the school, they need to prove themselves by finding food. This too goes awry and leads to one of the most shocking scenes in the entire game. I won’t spoil it here, but my mouth was agape for more than a few minutes. This moment sets the wheels in motion for the remainder of The Final Season which pits the school against a group of raiders and pushes their humanity and friendships to the absolute limits.
Gameplay in Telltale’s games has never been stellar. That’s changed in The Final Season. It’s still not incredible but it’s a hell of a lot better than anything that’s come before. There are sections where you need to fight off groups of Walkers and you do so by stunning them, then killing them.
The Last Action Hero
In these sections, the game almost takes on a third-person shooter style of camera and the controls are both responsive and precise. Those are two adjectives I never would have used about any previous season of The Walking Dead. Additionally, the QTEs in The Walking Dead The Final Season are less frequent and are far more appropriate to the action happening on-screen. They’re still QTEs mind you, so they’re never going to be fun but at least they’re better.
While the gameplay is much improved, it still takes a backseat to the narrative and decision making. Watching Clementine agonise over AJ and eventually joining her in that agony is the real heart and soul of this piece. Saving AJ from the world he lives in is a task that’s doomed to fail, but like Clementine, we have to try.
The characters you meet in The Final Season are some of the best in all of Telltale’s collected works. I instantly connected with many of the kids in the boarding school as well as a few of the others that cropped up and in true The Walking Dead fashion, I had to agonise over many of the decisions that involved them.
All’s Well the Ends…
Eventually, The Final Season leads into an action-packed finale that lays out all of your choices in front of you. Instead of simply listing them back to you though, The Final Season shows you the repercussions of your choices through a series of events. Some are heartbreaking. Some are incredible and some are pretty obvious.
That’s one of the few problems I have with The Final Season; many of the outcomes of my choices I saw a mile off. Even some of the twists, unrelated to my choices, were very, very obvious. Maybe it’s familiarity with the source material or maybe it’s just harder to successfully reveal a twist these days, but The Walking Dead The Final Season failed to surprise me in most cases.
That’s not to say that the story fizzles, because it doesn’t. It just doesn’t have the impact it could have had.
In the end, I had tears streaming down my face and I walked away from Clementine’s journey satisfied. The Walking Dead The Final Season is an incredible story and fans owe it to themselves to play it.
The Walking Dead The Final Season was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: The Walking Dead - The Final Season
Packs an emotional punch - 9.5/10
Mechanically, much improved over previous seasons - 9.2/10
Some signposted moments...more than a few - 5/10
A few illogical decisions - 4.3/10
Great Visuals - 8.6/10