The Walking Dead: Season Two was developed and published by Telltale Games. It was released on Friday, October 31 2014 for $25. A copy was provided for review purposes.
In the end, nobody is safe from the shambling, moaning hordes of undead which populate The Walking Dead’s dystopian alternate reality. Not the characters, the fans or the general public. Robert Kirkman has created a rich and culturally pervasive lore. It was inevitable that Telltale Games extremely popular The Walking Dead series of episodic interactive stories would appear on Microsoft’s Xbox One console sooner or later.
TWD:S2 picks up directly where Season One ended. Players assume the role of Clementine as she continues her journey towards adolescence in an increasingly dangerous and challenging world. The Xbox One version of TWD:S2 has been released as a complete package, which is great news for anyone as impatient as me. Let’s jump in and see if this version is worth your hard earned cash.
Make yourselves comfortable – Telltale Games has built its reputation on delivering games with an excellent narrative, and TWD:S2 is absolutely no exception. Fans of either The Walking Dead comics or TV shows will surely want to expand their view of the fiction, whilst many already consider Clementine’s story to be as much canon as that of Rick and company. Players new to The Walking Dead games should start with TWD:S1 which has also been released on Xbox One. Returning fans will be glad to know that TWD:S2 continues along a familiar path and whilst it doesn’t tug at the heartstrings in quite the same way as its predecessor, this is still as good as videogame storytelling gets.
Kid gloves – Perhaps the biggest success of TWD:S2 is the delicate and intelligent way in which the main character – Clementine – is depicted as we move on from Season One. Clem is now smarter, tougher and more capable of survival. At the same time, she feels just as vulnerable as any child would in a zombie apocalypse. The struggle of a child reaching adolescence is generally well represented in the game through the expectation that her peers place on her and the ensuing challenges that she is faced with – often due to her own overconfidence.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Technical difficulties – All Telltale Games adventures have suffered from significant frame rate issues on the Xbox 360, especially during fast-paced sequences. This has always had a tendency to spoil the atmosphere which has otherwise been so well crafted. I was interested to see how the Xbox One fares in comparison. Fortunately, these frame rate issues are completely eradicated, but in their place is now an annoying pause which appears to be related to either saving progress or loading the next scene. This is extremely disappointing considering that TWD:S2 is effectively just a rolling sequence of fixed scenes and once again, it does have an impact upon immersion.
Lack of challenge – TWD:S2 is a lengthy adventure game which weighs in at perhaps eight hours or so on average, yet it features absolutely no puzzles, tricky platforming sections, tough-as-nails shootouts or anything else which might even remotely be considered ‘tough to beat’ at any time. Mostly, that’s OK – fans of this series know that what Telltale does best is weave a good yarn, but I can’t help the feeling that as a group of developers, Telltale is starting to lean on this fact a little too much. The addition of some basic point and click brainteasers or the occasional simple puzzle would have been welcome, without breaking the model or disrupting the pacing.
Poor value proposition – Unfortunately, TWD:S2 is a challenging game to recommend to a large number of prospective buyers. Firstly, if you have played TWD:S1 (and/or the 400 days expansion) on the Xbox 360, then there is no way to carry story choices into the Xbox One version of Season Two. There is also no reduced cost for players who already own the game on the Xbox 360, whilst the general selling price remains fairly high for a re-release, so for those on the fence, there is little reason to invest now. There is no additional content in the Xbox One version to tempt players, and whilst there is still some replay value to be found in a second playthrough with different choices, these decisions feel much less consequential or important than they did in TWD:S1.
As I look back through this review, I would forgive you for thinking that I was incredibly down on the Xbox One release of TWD:S2, but that’s not actually how I feel. The story is well crafted and enjoyable to play through, with masterful development of a main character who defies typical videogame logic. I enjoyed the game from start to finish and whilst I am hoping for some improvements to the engine and perhaps a little more challenge, I love this game first and foremost for its excellent plot.
That said, the residual technical difficulties do detract from the story (especially for those Xbox 360 owners of the first season) whilst the high price and lack of additional content make a second purchase a waste of money. Fans of The Walking Dead should definitely play both seasons of Telltales games, but unless you own neither of them, I wouldn’t recommend buying the Xbox One version of Season Two.
Score: Try it