Review: The Walking Dead – The Final Season
Seven years ago, players all around the globe fell in love with Telltale Games’ gritty, walker-infested world and its compelling characters. With their narrative-driven episodes where choices matter Telltale undeniably changed today’s video game industry. We’ve definitely come a long way from escaping out of a crashed police car and meeting an abandoned girl hiding in a treehouse. Lee and Clementine’s story, although regretfully short, in the first season turned out to be quite the adventure. It was not before long players had to grief one character while suddenly filling the shoes of another. Right now, many episodes and a lot of “will remember that” ’s later, Clementine’s story is also coming to an end. We’re excited to find out if Clem, who is without a doubt one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, gets the ending she deserves.
Most fans were grateful when Telltale Games announced that despite the company’s bankruptcy, the two final episodes of The Final Season would still be released. A skeleton crew, working under Skybound’s wing, would get to finish telling Clementine’s story. All episodes of The Final Season have now been released and it’s time for us to say goodbye to the franchise.
We find ourselves some years after the events of A New Frontier, with Clementine and AJ, who has grown quite a bit since we last saw him. More than ever before do Clem’s choices matter, because whatever she does will shape AJ’s personality and determine the kind of person he becomes. Previous seasons, apart from the first one, were focusing on how to interact with the other survivors. The final season, while similar to the first season in structure, introduces a new dynamic. The relationship between Clem and AJ also shows a more playful side, something that siblings usually share. If you thought Lee being responsible for a young girl was hard, wait until you try raising a small child as someone who isn’t even an adult themselves.
Clem can pass on what Lee taught her when she was surviving in this world for the first time, or she can teach AJ her own rules. Either way, AJ’s moral compass is nonexistent, and morality isn’t exactly the easiest thing to acquire in this cruel world. What is morally right in this world? It’s a question Clem has to ask herself every waking moment. Every sentence she says, every act of violence, or mercy, she shows, and every rule she makes… It all influences AJ and thus the consequences these choices bring with them will have an even bigger impact than any season before. That actually makes these episodes even more fun, because as a player you are now very much in control of the narrative.
Still traveling on their own, Clem and AJ are rescued by someone named Marlon after nearly being devoured by a horde of walkers. Marlon turns out to be the leader at Ericson, an abandoned boarding school “for troubled youth”. This new enormous location brings some very entertaining characters into Clem’s life and even leaves room for optional romance. Interesting about this season’s setting is its absence of adults. The adults in question have abandoned the boarding school long ago and it’s now run by the former mischievous students. As always, the characters Clem interacts with are fully fleshed out and feel like more than just a compulsory conversation partner. Especially the characters of Louis and Violet, but also Tenn, are well-crafted. Since both Louis and Violet are fundamental to this season’s story arc, there is a large number of ways Clem’s actions can influence these characters.
They are of course not the only ones affected by Clem’s decision making, because in true The Walking Dead fashion, no one is safe. There are a lot of stubborn young adults walking around Ericson, each with their own opinion on how to handle things. Adding AJ to the mix makes for some explosive consequences. Secret conversations in the school and suspicious disappearances don’t make it easier to collaborate with the group either, as Clem quickly finds out. There’s more to Ericson than its inhabitants let on. That leads to action-packed episodes, with some gory combat sequences and a couple of interesting plot twists. Without revealing any spoilers, there is a great scene in stormy weather with a flashlight in the first episode. Not to mention all the other cool stuff the player gets to do as Clementine in her concluding arc. All four episodes maintain a balanced combination of heartfelt moments with other characters and amazing fight sequences. Clem will also meet a certain character that is a nod to an iconic group from the comic books, and she might come across a few familiar faces as well. The gritty comic book style remains visually astonishing and voice acting is as incredible as ever.
With this final season returning to its roots, it does feel like these episodes are a conclusion to Clem’s story. The fourth episode makes for an epic ending and emphasizes how badass these characters are one last time. The ending itself is probably controversial among fans, since the final season is all about finding out if Telltale will have gone full circle. Love it or hate it, you are probably going to be an emotional mess either way. And that’s a testament to Telltale’s storytelling.
With The Final Season, Telltale returns to the feel of the first season. Whereas the first season was about Lee passing on his wisdom to Clem, The Final Season does that with Clem and AJ. It is a worthy conclusion to Clem’s adventure and every bit as good as players wanted it to be. You can tell that for one last time, Telltale’s remaining crew put their blood, sweat and tears into this game. We will remember that.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: Telltale Games/Skybound Games
Publisher: Telltale Games/Skybound Games