The Final Season for the Walking Dead series of adventure games has, despite everything, wrapped up. We take a look at the Xbox One version.
You can’t very well think about the development and release schedule of The Walking Dead – The Final Season without putting it in the perspective of Telltale’s unfortunate end. The studio went out of business last year, halfway through the development of the season. It also ended (at least for now) any dreams that fans might have had for the second season of The Wolf Among Us, and all hope was directed at the final season of The Walking Dead getting finished somehow. Skybound Games stepped up to the plate, hired some of Telltale’s personnel, and wrapped up the season’s last two episodes as promised.
While its development is a story on its own, Walking Dead’s Final Season also has a story to tell, as it concludes a story arc that spans seven years and four seasons. Over that time, protagonist Clementine has seen her fair share of character development as well – starting off as an innocent young girl and growing to a battle-worn young adult. While we met Clementine when she was under the protective wing of someone older, the tables have now turned. You now have to help A.J. (a young boy previously introduced in the series) make the right choices in a zombie-ridden world.
Besides danger, trust is still an important gameplay dynamic when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Who to trust? Who will betray you? Impactful moral and narrative choices have always been a strong point for the series, and the final season is no exception. The relationship with A.J. is extra interesting in this regard, because – as a child – he is less predictable by nature. Things are further complicated when the pair meets up with a group of survivors who have holed up inside an old school. What initially feels like a safe haven ends up being a breeding ground for distrust and hidden agendas.
It’s difficult to review a title in which so much hinges on the narrative without spoiling said narrative, but it’s safe to say that the ending might seem a little out of sync with the storytelling in the rest of the series. I briefly thought this had to do with Telltale’s demise, but since this was always going to be “the final season” I figure it’s mostly just an attempt to bring finality to Clementine’s storyline somehow – even if it brings a few inconsistencies with it.
Despite that, the many narrative choices you have are still very much worthwhile – especially the ones in which you have to set an example for young A.J. During these moment, I found myself carefully weighing all of Clementine’s experiences in the past few seasons so make sure I made the right choice for my little companion – whose uncertainty felt close to home when I remembered the first Walking Dead season.
Besides narrative elements, there are also short more action-oriented sequences in the game. These mostly play out as Quick Time Events, and although their very nature has been debated ever since they first started appearing in videogames, they’re a nice change of pace in a game like Walking Dead. They’re rarely difficult to the point of frustration (favoring quick decision-making over lightning fast responses), and most outcomes just lead to another narrative avenue.
Wrapping up Clementine’s story feels like an odd experience for a number of reasons. There’s the narrative element I touched on earlier, but it’s also hard to ignore the fact that this is, most likely, also the end of the Telltale era of adventure games. Perhaps one day we’ll remember it as fondly as we do the Lucasarts titles – but either way, we’ll miss them.