It’s been more than 7 years since the story of Clementine started. We all followed the little girl forced to survive in a zombie post-apocalypse without any hope of rescue. And to think, we almost didn’t get to see it end at all, due to the shutdown of Telltale Games. However, 7 years ago the first Walking Dead game made a sort of revolution in the gaming world, showing us player-driven storytelling in which our every decision influenced the course of the game. Unfortunately, Telltale Games fell victim to a massive change in the gaming landscape, leaving all but 25 employees without jobs, benefits, and healthcare. This sudden turn of events made us all worry that we’ll never see the end of Clementine’s story.
Luckily, Skybound Entertainment, owned by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, jumped in to save the production, but most of the creatives who spent years working on the game couldn’t be there for the final chapter due to the sudden change in circumstances. In the cruel world of video game development, the chase for profit often makes the working environment into the place ridden of empathy, which in this case is disastrous, because empathy is a key component of The Walking Dead storytelling. Your choices and the consequences of them would mean nothing if you never felt anything for Clementine and the people she met. The game always faced the players with very unpleasant choices with heavy consequences, such as the death of a leading figure or disparate groups fighting against each other. All these games taught players to always expect the worst possible outcome of their choices.
This game begins with a slight change of roles. Clementine, which began the game as the rescued girl, is now 16 years old trying to take care of another young survivor, AJ. He sees everything you do, and your role is not only to make him survive but also to consider his personal development. Clementine sets the rules for survival and imposes them onto AJ, but she also lets him behave like a child whenever there is no immediate threat around. This balance between strictness and freedom comes to the fore when Clementine in age we are saved by children which days is in an abandoned school.
Similar to every other group so far, Clementine is faced with the lack of trust among children, more so because none of them ever wandered further than school gates after the world came to an end. It’s quite natural that children have a hard time accepting Clementine and AJ and their aggressive and cautions acts. The main motif of the story is the same – you have to preserve the group you have met, but if you manage to maintain the balance between protective and friendly behavior you can really get to know all those characters. Another major element of gameplay is teaching AJ how to keep his humanity, which is not easy at all considering that he experiences difficulties telling right from wrong.
When you got to know each character’s personality and motivation, each decision seems heavier and each fight feels like a real struggle for your life. The impression is slightly undermined by loose controls and repetitive animation, though. The world of The Walking Dead makes characters take horrible decisions in order to survive, and Clementine tries to make AJ into more than just a survivor, by trying to install moral compass into his personality. Unfortunately, it is very hard to stay kind in the world that punishes any kind of selfless behavior. If there’s a huge dissonance between Clementine’s teachings and her actions AJ is likely to grow confused. As we said, the key factor in maintaining the balance between moral lectures and protective behavior.
It is a great shame that the popularity of The Walking Dead games caused the demise of Telltale Studio, by making it overstretch their stuff on endless similar projects. It is very sad that the people who gave their heart and soul in this series are not here to finish what they started. But after all the Fate of Telltale games is fitting to the message of The Walking Dead games, that despite all of our efforts things sometimes don’t end as we planned.