On the occasion of the release of The Walking Dead’s final chapter it seems appropriate to take a look back at the game as a whole. Not just because it is due for a single collected release, but for where it might be framed in not only the context of the original Image comic and the AMC Television version, but as an achievement in gaming as a medium.
Now cloyingly called by developer TellTale Games a ‘season finale,’ the final chapter, No Time Left, executes itself with an expedient pace that befits a satisfying climactic chapter in any media: ambiguities are dispelled, questions are answered and violence is done where it has to be done. To tell too much about the specific events and especially the ending of No Time Left not only would involve spoilers that should be prosecutable, but thanks to the subtle but significant way that TellTale has drawn upon almost all the choices you have made up to this point makes accurately describing it almost impossible.
In general terms, the gameplay and the tolerability of the game’s secondary characters (who continue at act like typically fearful, paranoid zombie apocalypse survivors) that are still with you this far pay off for the player satisfyingly as you and they take on a single goal, like the ‘raid’ that comprises the second half of the fourth chapter. The ‘mission’ and the circumstances around it in No Time Left leave little time for the kind of conversational timesinks that bogged down the third chapter or prolonged the twist in the second.
It is easy to suggest that the game’s episodic format allows for changes to be made during a ‘season’ though it is impossible to know if and how many tweaks to the game TellTale made based on the feedback it got from gamers. The fact that the game retained its knack for implementing subtle, relevant and logical puzzle solving, sharp writing, that Charlie Adlard ‘look’ and moments of shocking violence or gut-wrenching pathos throughout the entire effort only proves that the developers had this game pretty much figured out from the word go. A good prospect for their future efforts.
In the seven months since the release of chapter one, a lot has happened in The Walking Dead universe, namely the events of issue #100 of The Walking Dead comic and the end of the second season of the TV version and the start of the third. The comic continues to deliver the kind of shocks it’s become known for and while TV version has shown some marked and necessary improvement in the new season, it’s clearly the game that has broken out as the superior adaptation to those who have access to it (a challenge that is easily to overcome thanks to the game’s adaptation to multiple platforms including iOS devices).
Moving forward, the challenge for TellTale and The Walking Dead will be overcoming the feeling that they caught lightning in a bottle. After lackluster adaptions of original Back to the Future and Jurassic Park stories to the episodic format, anticipation and skepticism will run in equal measure when the second season is announced and released.
When the credits rolled on the first season of The Walking Dead video game, one thing was clear: the same kind of guts it took to forsake the familiar territory of Rick’s story and strike out on an original path with Lee & Clementine (now surely two of gaming’s all-time greatest original characters) though Kirkman’s zombie infested world in the first place: the kind of chance taking, heart-wrenching and stomach turning elements that makes this genre great is still place to carry it forward.
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