Telltale have had no shortage of criticisms when it came to their previous games. The writing, worlds and characters they crafted and the stories they told were rarely faulted, the issues seemed to lie in their technically limited game engine and seemingly taking on too many licensed projects at once, not allowing their releases the resources they required and time to breathe.
In recent times most of the press surrounding this title revolved around the mass layoffs and eventual shutdown of the Telltale Games studio. Thankfully the team at SkyBound Games came in to rescue the project and allow the end of Clementine’s journey see the light of day. Closing the door on a chapter that started 7 years ago with the game’s first season and giving the series the ending it truly deserved.
As the name suggests, The Walking Dead: The Final Season presents us with the end of Clementine’s journey. A journey that started 7 years ago in the first season, travelling through a newly infected world with rescuer Lee Everett. Along the way we’ve seen her grow up and adapt to this world and a much harsher way of living. A world that no young child should ever have to experience. But in taking this journey with her and influencing the outcome of a number of her big life moments along the way we’ve seen her grow from a helpless young child to a very capable teenager and mother figure. Upon finishing the final season of The Walking Dead it felt more like saying goodbye to a close friend than just ending a video game story.
The main story of The Final Season picks up 3 years after the end of the third season, A New Frontier. Clementine is now 16 years old and continues to look after a young Alvin Jr, who you should remember if you played through season 2 and the previous entry.
Although they start out the journey alone, they quickly find themselves amongst another group of survivors, primarily made up of kids and young adults who reside inside an abandoned boarding school. It’s great to have another group of people to get to know and depend on but as with most stories within The Walking Dead universe, you’ll soon come to realise that things aren’t as good as they initially seemed.
I really liked seeing the culmination of Clementine as a character. Much as how Lee guided and taught Clementine how the world works and how to survive, the plot of this game mirrors that same teacher/student relationship with Clementine passing on her life lessons to AJ with many of your choices throughout influencing the kind of person AJ will become.
Upon starting the game you’ll be given the option of importing an existing save file if you’ve played the previous seasons on the same system or otherwise you’re able to view a story recap cinematic where you’ll be able to select the major decisions from the previous entries to be able to shape the world and characters that your final endeavor will include.
The Final Season still retains the same Telltale gameplay formula, having you solve puzzles, locate clues and objects in the environments in between the cutscene driven narrative moments in the game. If you’ve played any of the previous seasons or any Telltale game really you’ll know what to expect when it comes to the core gameplay.
And like in those earlier games, your decisions throughout will influence the kinds of relationships you’re able to make with other survivors in the world, which inevitably lead to different dialogue options becoming available during future story moments and even leading to moments where prior decisions can lead to who dies and who may still be alive by the end of the season.
This season uses a newly updated version of the Telltale Tool, Telltale’s own internal game engine. I had recently re-played the second season of The Walking Dead leading up to the release of this final chapter and was quickly able to spot how much this game has improved visually over the previous seasons. The engine now implements vastly improved dynamic lighting, a new rendering style that makes the characters look like they’ve leaped off the page of Kirkman’s graphic novel but best of all the lip syncing animations on the character models come far closer to looking like they are actually speaking the words we’re hearing.
I also found the overall performance of the game to be a step up from what I’d experienced in the past too. Gone are the janky scene skips between cutscene sequences and when transitioning between cutscenes and gameplay.
The key highlight of The Final Season is the same highlight that featured in all the seasons thus far. The Story. The interesting cast and the writing is still as great as it has been in the previous seasons and the pacing of the episodes does a great job of pulling you in, getting you attached to the various characters in the season and had me always asking ‘what happens next?’. Making it really hard to put down the controller when an episode ended.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season is a very satisfying ending. Without going into too much detail and spoiling things, it was moving to see that in a world so grim and full of monsters it’s still possible to have a heartwarming moment or two. And possibly best of all to see the book close on this series that began 7 years ago. Even after some very well known issues around the development of this final season I’m glad that the team at SkyBound along with remaining staff at Telltale were able to not only do the right thing by the fans but were also able to provide a fitting end for Clementine and her journey in a way that felt true to the rest of the seasons and didn’t feel rushed.
An Xbox One review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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