Clementine Returns as Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season Begins
This review may contain spoilers for previous installments of The Walking Dead as well as The Walking Dead: The Final Season from Telltale Games. This article assumes familiarity with characters and events from previous seasons. You have been warned.
When players were first introduced to 8-year old Clementine at the beginning of the Walker apocalypse, few expected just how iconic a character she would become. Spanning an additional three games, as well as an appearance in the Walking Dead: Road to Survival mobile game, Clementine has cemented herself as a major player in the Walking Dead universe, despite never once appearing in the comic series running since 2003, nor the television series now coming into its ninth season.
Over the years, players have been able to step into the shoes of Clementine and the people surrounding her, making her the focal character running over the course of the four games. We engaged with her as she learned how to protect herself in the nightmarish landscape of the Walking Dead, guided her through the dangers as she dealt with walkers, roving gangs, obsessive father-figures, political turmoil, love and of course, loss.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season now introduces us to an older, wiser Clementine. Now on the verge of adulthood, players are now treated with a vision as to how the decisions we’ve made over the past nine years of her life have molded her.
From the beginning of The Final Season, we are quickly reminded of Clem’s relationship with AJ, born in the second installment of the game series, Season Two, and developed into a familial relationship during the events of A New Frontier. AJ’s relationship with Clementine is reminiscent of Clem’s relationship with Lee Everett, the man who found her in the very first game in the series and taught her the skills she needed for survival. Now, it’s Clems turn to teach AJ the skills he needs to survive.
AJ, however, has a head start on Clem. AJ might only be six years old, but AJ is also a wicked shot. A point that shouldn’t be lost on the player as they play through the first episode of The Final Season. It’s a hard fact to ignore, as AJ is rarely seen without his six-shooter, nor does he allow the player much of a chance to forget how much ammunition he has left.
Players familiar with the previous games (or any Telltale game in recent memory, for that matter) will already understand that the game doesn’t allow you much time to consider things. Dialogue options are still timed, and the things you say and do can and will have a profound– and often finalizing– effect later on down the line. Seemingly innocuous actions or statements can have a devastating effect, and it’s all too often the action you least suspect.
The Final Season continues this trend faithfully, and before long the player is reminded that it’s often impossible to do the right thing. The outcomes of your decisions aren’t always immediately clear, and some decisions can have far-ranging effects that may not become apparent until the closing moments of the final chapter of the game. In the first installment of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, released in 2012, Lee’s decision to take, or not to take food and supplies from a seemingly abandoned vehicle have far-reaching consequences that don’t become apparent until it’s time for the player to take control of Clementine near the end of the final chapter of that game.
However, despite the familiar theme of protecting a young child from the dangers of a zombie-infested world, The Final Season avoids rehashing the same old plot masterfully. Of particular note is the difference in theme between the previous games, which saw Clementine & Company constantly on-the-move, and The Final Season.
The Final Season sees Clementine do what she least expects to– settle down and call a new place home. Before long, she finds herself and AJ in the company of a crew of other kids ranging in age, each of them with deep complexities of their own driving their actions. How these complexities come to light depends largely on how Clementine chooses to interact with them. It’s important to note, however, that like with other Walking Dead games, it’s exceedingly difficult to please everyone. This is as true for the crew of the Ericson School for Troubled Youths as it was for the survivors of the New Frontier.
Episode One of The Final Season pulls no punches, and drops the player back into the world of the Walking Dead without hesitation. The punches are not pulled. Kids can die in this game, and sometimes in horrifying ways, but veterans of the series already understand that The Walking Dead is not for the faint of heart.
There are three episodes of The Final Season left, and three episodes until what Telltale refers to as the end of Clementine’s story comes to pass. I don’t know how the series will end, but if Telltale’s previous games are any indication, it will be bittersweet and leave the player dwelling on it for some time.