Review: THE WALKING DEAD: THE FINAL SEASON (2018)

The End.

The Walking Dead - The Final Season

The Walking Dead: The Final Season is an episodic point-and-click adventure role-playing video game developed by Telltale Games and later Skybound Games, based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The game serves as the conclusion to the story we have been following since the series’s inception.

Is It Worth?

In my review for A New Frontier, I wrote that “one of the reasons I played this game (and the next) was because I wanted to see Clem’s story through.” While that is true, it didn’t justify why I was playing and writing about games years old, made by a studio that had long shut it doors, now.

Well, as I sat to play Shadow of Tomb Raider, a game I had in my backlog for years, in the midst of a pandemic, I realised how, what feels like a lifetime ago, when I texted Devesh asking how that new Tomb Raider is, he texted back listing “The Good” and “The Bad” about it, and how that sparked the idea for this blog, with him writing a review for Tomb Raider and me writing one for the game I had recently beat back then, The Walking Dead. I thought about how our little blog has been stuck in limbo for quite some time, with no new posts in over two years. This labour of love didn’t deserve that. I need to bring this to a close too, I thought. Much like Lara’s story did with Shadow of Tomb Raider. Much like Clem’s story does in The Walking Dead: The Final Season. We started with Tomb Raider and The Walking Dead. We conclude with Shadow of the Tomb Raider and The Walking Dead: The Final Season.

So, is it worth it? It was.

A little about the Gameplay

The game follows series protagonist, Clementine, as she tries raising a young boy named Alvin “AJ” Junior in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. Like most Walking Dead game, this one too follows the formula of ‘finding a group and having to defend it’ narrative, with this time around the group being a bunch of troubled children surviving out of a boarding school. This season draws parallels to the first, in the sense that it plays on the same parent/child relationship of the first, yet this time around the game puts a little extra emphasizes on how much your actions have consequences, especially on how AJ is raised and what he learns from those actions.

Having complained about how Telltale’s formulaic gameplay has gotten, I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed a combat system, albeit quite shallow. While for the most part, the game sticks with the conversations and consequences routine, occasionally, it does break out, allowing you a full 360° camera control in an over-the-shoulder third person setting.

The Good

1: Up until the last episode, which, to be honest, suffered perhaps only due to the fact that Telltale Games had to close down during this game’s episodic release, this season was perhaps the strongest since the original. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite happy that Skybound Games stepped in to help complete Clementine’s story, but I wonder what the end product would have looked like had we lived in a perfect world and the developers didn’t had to complete this game with a skeleton crew. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world.

2: The game feels like a significant jump over its predecessors, particularly due to the introduction of the 360° camera control and the combat system. Moreover, Telltale look confident in their approach – I didn’t notice any frame drops; the graphics looked sharp, almost as if the developers have perfected their comic book art style; characters looked considerably more detailed than their previous iterations.

3: I written about how one of the reasons Telltale really shines through is that unlike other RPGs, there are no “good” or “bad” choices in their games and how they put you in a spot by asking you to make one tough decisions after the other during your gameplay. While that remains true with The Final Season as well, the stakes feel considerably higher this time around, particularly due to increased emphasis on how much AJ will learn from your actions and choices. “They fuck you up, mum and dad,” and all that.

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The Bad

1: While a combat system, 360° camera control, yada yada yada, are a welcome addition, it a testament of how much Telltale abused their precious formula that even the introduction of a barebones system becomes a sight for sore eyes. It’s not a full fledged, or even a fully thought of, system. There are significant hiccups throughout, from random button prompts when there’s none required to the absolutely terrible aiming mechanism.

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2: The ending feels about five epilogues too long. (You’ll know what I mean when you see it.)

Conclusion

The Walking Dead: The Final Season focuses on the relationship between Clementine and AJ, quite similar to how the original did with Lee and Clementine, to invent riveting gameplay moments. Unfortunately, the game is brought down by its legacy, its ambitions, and circumstances beyond it control, to ultimately deliver a bittersweet ending.

You may also like:

Review: THE WALKING DEAD (2012)

Review: THE WALKING DEAD DLC (2012): 400 DAYS

Review: THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON TWO (2014)

Review: THE WOLF AMONG US (2014)

Review: BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES (2016)

Review: THE WALKING DEAD: A NEW FRONTIER (2016)

Review: BATMAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN – THE TELLTALE SERIES (2017)

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Review: SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER (2018)

Become the Tomb Raider.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game developed by developed by Eidos Montréal and published by Square Enix. The game builds on narrative of its predecessors, 2013’s Tomb Raider and 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider. Set as the conclusion of the trilogy, it follows Lara Croft as she battles Trinity, the sometimes shadowy, Illuminati-esque society, sometimes paramilitary organization, in order to stop a Mayan apocalypse that, spoiler alert, she unleashed. Oops.

Is It Worth?

If you’d like answers to the questions raised by the story so far, sure, yeah… I guess.

A little about the Gameplay

A big part of this trilogy’s narrative arc, and what this game in particular would like you to experience first-hand through the gameplay, is how much Lara has seasoned with experience – from her first kill back in 2013’s Tomb Raider, clumsy and awkward, to the stealth-heavy approach this time around, picking off her enemies one by one. In fact, it was only when I sat down to write this piece, and did a quick re-read of our reviews for this trilogy, that I realised how stealth-based combat has been gradually increased in these games – from Devesh writing for Tomb Raider that the “game unfortunately lacks the element of stealth,” to me writing for Rise of the Tomb Raider that “I was able to clear quite a number of levels without attracting unwanted attention,” to now, when stealth is not just the recommended approach for various levels, it’s required.

New features have been added to the gameplay, such as the overhang climbing gear, increasing Lara’s platforming abilities. This allows for interesting set designs, as the developers are not just limited to a particular axis.

The Good

1: Perhaps my favourite aspect of this trilogy has been how it has added layers and layers to the central character. The writers have made brave choices throughout, from putting Lara in a vulnerable place at the start of this trilogy, a complete departure from the Tomb Raider we had known since, to now, when she is so consumed with her mission, she’s willing to take any collateral damage. The game spends the entirety of its prologue to drive home the point that Lara’s obsession has reached the dangerous levels of white saviour colonizer, and when she insinuates that she’s the only one who can save the world, it has her trusted partner, Jonah, tell her quite bluntly, “You’re the only one that can what? You don’t know you caused all this, Lara. Not everything is about you.” Such bold approach to decades-old IPs is rarely seen nowadays and I appreciate the creators taking risks.

2: Quick time events have been replaced with “quick time platforming,” for the lack of a better word. While, like all Tomb Raider games, platforming forms a major chunk of this game as well, it is infused with big, blockbuster-style action sequences, especially when the script allows.

3: Apart from the main campaign, the game offers plenty of catacombs and other points of interests to explore. I completed the main story and a handful of side missions during my play, and after the credits rolled, was told that I was done with about 60% of the game. Even now, part of me wants to go back and explore Paititi, speak to the people to get more missions, trade with merchants, explore underwater caverns.

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4: Something that caught my eye and left me quite impressed was how the game allows you to adjust difficulty granularly. You can adjust it independently across the three main elements of the gameplay: Combat, Puzzles, Exploration. It’s a minor thing, but sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most.

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The Bad

1: While, yes, certain elements have been added to the gameplay and others have been polished for this iteration, I couldn’t help shake this feeling that game feels “soulless.” The game is a step forward in some way, but that step forward feels superficial. Perhaps – and I know already that the next half of this sentence will sound controversial, so I’m putting a lengthy pause here, a trigger warning, so to speak, that take this with an open mind – the Tomb Raider formula of big, blockbuster action-adventure, reinvented with the 2013 reboot, is starting to stale. I had the same feeling with 2018’s Hitman 2 (that you’ll notice we didn’t review, contrary to how we’ve reviewed pretty much every game in that series). I had incredible fun, don’t get me wrong, it is that familiarity with the gameplay that perhaps keeps me coming, but if you don’t build upon that gameplay, add or subtract a few elements, or maybe drown the player in an engaging story, that familiarity, coupled with the hours that these games demand, can lead to boredom.

2: Glitches, ahoy!

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Did it take away your torso though, Jonah?

I played this in 2020, two years after it was released, on Stream, yet Eidos Montréal still hasn’t bothered putting in some patches to fix the game. What’s even more disappointing, and frustrating, is that these are not one-off instances, you’ll bump into some weird issue once every hour of your gameplay, and that’s no exaggeration.

3: Although the game wants you to experience the ruthlessness of Lara, how she has turned into this ice-cold killing machine, her hand-to-hand combat do little to justify that. Her dodge is still that hurried little scuttle and roll from 2013 and her melee weapon, the trusted climbing axe, is largely ineffective on most enemies. I understand that melee combat is not supposed to be the main element of the gameplay, but when you do find yourself in one, the existing mechanism does a disservice to the experience the game wants you to have.

Conclusion

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is not a bad game. It’s not good either, though. It’s underwhelming. It’s part of the countless entities in this age of relentless pop culture releases that you describe to your friends as “yeah, that was alright, I guess.”

You may also like:

Review: TOMB RAIDER: LEGEND (2006)

Review: TOMB RAIDER: ANNIVERSARY (2007)

Review: TOMB RAIDER: UNDERWORLD (2008)

Review: TOMB RAIDER (2013)

Review: RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER (2015)

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Review: THE WALKING DEAD: A NEW FRONTIER (2016)

When family is all you have left, how far will you go to protect it?

the-walking-dead-season-3

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is an episodic point-and-click adventure role-playing video game developed by Telltale Games, based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. Initially billed as the third season in Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, the game is more of an interlude, serving both as a standalone story arc, yet setting the stage for the eventual sequel to Season Two.

Is It Worth?

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. I’m writing this in 2020. Telltale Games hasn’t been around for almost two years now. The curtain has been peeled away, the behind the scenes stuff is out there. Why now? I’ll be honest with you, one of the reasons I played this game (and the next) was because I wanted to see Clem’s story through.

If you never play any Telltale Games henceforth because you would rather not engage in any form with a company that treats its employees like that, well, I hear you. If you play the game because that is, ultimately, the only way to support the developers who worked those brutal hours for this, I hear you too. In quite the Telltale fashion, the choice is yours.

A little about the Gameplay

The game follows Javier “Javi” Garcia, a disgraced former baseball player who must navigate a world turned upside down post the walker outbreak to keep his family safe. He meets Clementine, our series protagonist, at the end of a really bad day where he runs into what I can only describe as a community run as a militant regime. Family is the central theme of the game, with the writing trying to explore one dysfunctional relationship after the other, and how our idiosyncrasies and feelings shape them. While the series has, undoubtedly, lost its emotional punch, this time around the stakes do feel a little higher, the repercussions do eddy out to beyond just your group.

If you’re familiar with the Telltale formula, you already know how the game plays out. Just point and click, man.

The Good

1: At Games Rewired, we have reviewed a considerable amount of Telltale Games. And, if you have paid attention, you might have noticed how I seem to have trouble writing about the gameplay at every iteration. Let me come clean. I do. It feels like I’m writing about the same thing, but every time hoping I’ll magically come up with some new interesting way to describe it. I fail spectacularly every time. The truth is, Telltale’s formula is getting stale. There’s no easy way of putting it. So why is this part in “The Good” section? Well, I tried to “spice things up” this time around by playing with a controller instead of with a mouse and a keyboard. To my surprise, the game worked pretty seamlessly with a controller as well. This shouldn’t come across as that big of surprise, I get it. Telltale has put nearly all their big releases on consoles, so the mechanism to support controllers has always been there. It’s just that coming in as mouse and keyboard guy, I expect some trouble, maybe not on the scale of playing an FPS on console after you’ve PC-gamed it your whole life but something along those lines, and was pleasantly surprised when I had zero issues.

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The Bad

1: Like I mentioned earlier, the Telltale formula is getting stale. That is not helped any further by the fact that their technology hasn’t aged well at all. When characters try to be expressive, they make these weird constipated faces that pull you away from the story instantly. When you’re left free to move the character around, the animation feels… puppetry, for the lack of a better word. While it seems like Telltale did get a little creative with the visuals (I noticed a considerable amount of “handheld” camera movements during my gameplay), in the end they are just not enough to come across as something fresh.

2: I experienced quite a lot of glitches during my play – from frame drops to rendering issues to magically teleporting objects. (Perhaps I misheard, but I swear at one point one of the dialogue spoken by Javi was not performed by the designated voice actor…?)

The Walking Dead - A New Frontier

3: The pacing feels rushed. In a game such as this, where this time around you have reduced interactions and the exploration bits to hardly any that are of consequence, how you set the story up and how you execute it becomes paramount. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier stumbles on that crucial aspect, unfortunately. The game introduces all the right ingredients in the form of a large set of (interesting) characters, stirs them around in tense situations that would ultimately test who they really are, but rarely gives the plot beats enough time to simmer. For example, the game sets the ‘maybe they are, maybe they are not’ relationship between Tripp and Eleanor, and just when it seems like perhaps it will try to use that relationship to comment on the relationship between Javi and Kate… nothing happens. We gotta rush towards the conclusion of this story, guys.

Conclusion

While The Walking Dead: A New Frontier tries to follow the steps of its predecessors by checking all the right stuff on the list of what makes a Telltale Walking Dead game, ultimately, it ends up doing that and that alone.

You may also like:

Review: THE WALKING DEAD (2012)

Review: THE WALKING DEAD DLC (2012): 400 DAYS

Review: THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON TWO (2014)

Review: THE WOLF AMONG US (2014)

Review: BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES (2016)

Review: BATMAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN – THE TELLTALE SERIES (2017)

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