This post will contain spoilers – you have been warned.
It’s not every day that fictional material can have such an impact on oneself, experiencing the consequences that your actions can have on others and leave you engaged as the entire story unravels and progresses. The decisions that you are forced to make can often leave you feeling betrayed, delighted, or even miserable, but overall it’s storytelling at its absolute finest.
As someone who loves to play all types of video games, it’s rare for a game to have had such an impact on me over a long period of time. While I’ve always enjoyed game franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and others like Pokemon and Crash Bandicoot, no video game franchise has ever left me more engaged and invested than Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead.
Released in April 2012, the original story, in season one, saw protagonist Lee Everett experience life on the dawn of a zombie apocalypse as he becomes the guardian to Clementine – an innocent and friendly eight-year-old girl who is trying to survive the devastated world.
Lee’s legacy lives on in the life of Clementine and it’s his actions as her guardian that helps her survive the apocalypse (thus far) and also shapes the young woman that she later becomes in the franchise. It’s Lee’s teachings and words of wisdom that become life lessons for the young deuteragonist, understanding the importance of aiming for the head and keeping her hair short.
Also, thanks to his courage and guidance, Clementine later becomes the perfect role model to Alvin Jr. (nicknamed AJ) – the son of Rebecca and Alvin (or Carver) who were introduced and later killed in season two.
Overall, Telltale’s franchise consistently leaves you on the edge of your seat, with a rollercoaster ride of emotions, as a result of some of the decisions that you’re forced to make. I’ll admit, I’m not really an emotional type of person but watching Lee’s incoming demise at the end of the first season was devastating to witness. Being forced to then choose to either shoot him or let him turn was a gruelling decision to make. Other events in the franchise, like, saving either Doug or Carley, staying with Kenny or leaving for Wellington, and also choosing to help Kate save Richmond or go after Gabe and David were all also difficult decisions to make.
While the interactive elements of the game definitely deserve its praise, it’s also justifiable, to an extent, to criticise the use of choices and decisions by Telltale. Albeit the aforementioned decisions, as well as many others, were all frustrating to make, the use of scripting within the game can sometimes make your decisions feel irrelevant. Both Kenny and Jane’s deaths in season three were very cheap, whoever you saved between Doug and Carley will be killed by Lilly in the third episode of season one, and regardless of your decisions both Brody and Marlon are killed in the most recent episode of the final season.
While the use of scripting across the franchise does damage some of the choices you make, it’s also the use of scripting that superbly tells Clementine’s story and keeps fans invested in the franchise. Every season contains a wide range of references, foreshadows, and also a well-developed range of diverse characters, each serving a different purpose to the overall narrative.
In regards to references, every new season in the franchise includes at least one scene in homage of Lee and his dedication towards being Clementine’s guardian. Also, there are many occasions where previous choices and events are referred to, like with Clementine adjusting her rearview mirror to see AJ in the first episode of season four, similarly to how the police officer adjusts his mirror to see Lee in the debut episode. In addition, Telltale has a habit of using foreshadowing as a way of discreetly telling the player which characters will die (as shown with various characters like Lee, Duck, Luke, Bonnie, Brody, and Marlon).
Furthermore, Telltale’s ability to develop new environments and intriguing characters adds some compelling elements to the narrative and helps keep the varying seasons feel fresh and different. While there have been occasions where appealing characters like Luke, Louis, and Violet are presented, there are also times where a character like Arvo or Ben is required to offer a different perspective or element to the overall story that’s being told.
Additionally, thanks to the use of the dialogue options, players are able to choose whether or not they care about these different characters that are introduced, offering a different gaming experience to every single player. For example, for every person that loves Kenny in the second season, there will be some who prefer Jane and others who’d rather go solo at the very end.
Overall, it’s all of these different components combined together that makes Telltale’s The Walking Dead so exhilarating and also one of my favourite game franchises of all time. As fantastic as the aforementioned franchises are, Telltale Games have given me some of my best memories when it comes to gaming and the way in which they’ve told Clementine’s story over the last six years has been done to near enough perfection.
With just three episodes remaining until Clementine’s story reaches its conclusion, I’m eager to see what Telltale has in store for both her and the other major characters that have been introduced, this season. There’s the potential for old faces like Lilly or Christa to return, a relationship with either Louis or Violet looks to be on the horizon and determining what type of person Alvin Jr will become adds a lot of intrigue to this already phenomenal franchise.
While I’m worried about what Clementine’s fate will be, I trust Telltale to give her the proper send-off that she deserves.
If you’d like to watch my playthrough of the first episode of season four, you can check it out here.