Next Time, on the Walking Dead
Even if you have never played Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead game series, you’re probably well aware of its existence. The world is more swept up in The Walking Dead fever (not the actual fever, mind you) than ever, and that shows no signs of slowing down soon. Even people who normally would not consider themselves horror fans are swept up with The Walking Dead, and for horror fans, that’s the best feeling in the world, sharing in something that you are enthusiastic about with other enthusiastic people. The series delivers in a way that the AMC television adaptation sometimes cannot, and offers a safe refuge for those who have long grown tired of it. I love Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead about as much as a person should love a piece of media, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that I wish the series would explore more of improve upon.
Caution! You can’t talk about The Walking Dead without getting into spoiler territory! Consider this your first and only warning!
Better support for consoles and mobile
Let’s just get this out of the way right away. The Walking Dead is an amazing game on PC and runs like a dream, but my experience with any other console has been an exercise in frustration. This was a problem that I experienced with the PlayStation Vita versions of both Season One and Season Two. I was hoping that Telltale would have rectified this issue by now, but sadly this didn’t happen. I played The Wolf Among Us, another Telltale Games title of the same ilk on the PlayStation 3, and had the same issues! The game hitches, runs terribly, freezes and suffers from inexcusable load times on systems that really should have no problem running these titles.
I understand getting your game onto as many platforms as possible to maximize your potential consumer base, but Jesus! If I had picked up The Walking Dead on the PlayStation 3, or worse yet, the Vita before playing it on PC, I would have put it down and never bothered with the rest of it. Each release that is littered with these bugs and performance issues is another bridge burned.
Exploring larger group dynamics
Sometimes just surviving day-to-day can get … well, boring.
Depending on how you played your cards, at the end of Season 2 Clementine could have been left in a situation where she would become be part of another large group of survivors. This wouldn’t be the first time that the game went down this path, as you could call Carver’s group a relatively large community, even though you didn’t necessarily want to join. However one of my major complaints about Carver’s little story arc was that so much was left unexplored. Even Carver himself seemed so two-dimensionally evil that it bordered on cartoonish, and we know that there was more to him than what was shown.
Larger groups of people always have smaller cliques within them, and how these groups interact with each other would be interesting to see. For instance, in the AMC television adaptation, Woodbury – as deluded as its residents appeared – was actually a very interesting community. Members of the community were sent on raids, sometimes (I’d imagine?) even peace-keeping missions, sent to collect food and kill (and collect) walkers. Even limited scientific pursuits thrived in a place like Woodbury. How a group of people going into a situation like that would be interesting to explore, even if it were only to watch it fall apart again. Or to see yourself coming head to head with the leader of the group for not conforming to their ideals. Who knows? Maybe you even like this group, and it’s the underlings who are plotting to tear it all down in a quest for power?
More interactivity with the environment
This is supposed to take place during the apocalypse – yet in many places, everything feels so…empty…and clean. It’s devoid of anything that might make you believe that actual people lived in the places you explore. Hell, you were in a house that was empty – they didn’t even leave their flatware behind! It wouldn’t even need to be much, considering that the game doesn’t give you much agency over your character’s movements. A good portion of an episode can go by before you’re even given the freedom to walk around. Would it kill them to add a little decoration in terms of letters, newspapers, pictures? Yeah, Clementine had her drawings, which she burned, but it was a unique way of saying that while we (as in the game characters) may have come a long way from where we were, we’re not that far removed from who we all once were.
Let us be happy for a little while
I get it – the apocalypse is depressing. This isn’t a time of sunshine and double-rainbows, because people are fucking eating each other and turning into zombies! But that doesn’t mean that the game has to be sad all the time. The first season didn’t start laying on the really heavy stuff until about the end of the second episode. Sure, things were dreary, people were hungry and a few people died, but that was nothing compared to the amount of sad we went through at the beginning of the second season. Omid was killed right out of the gate, Krista lost her baby and then her life (it’s left open, but what are the odds that she survived?) and then you had to kill a dog that could have easily been an ally. And I’d wager that was all within the first half-hour.
Even any slight victory was met with almost instant heartache. You escaped Carver’s compound, with a solid plan to get through the horde of walkers on the other side. Kenny and Rebecca exact a little revenge on Carver – it’s a winning combination. Carlos is instantly killed and Kenny’s girlfriend is right behind him. Sarah finally starts to come around after witnessing her father become zombie food, you’re able to get her to do something, be it through your kind words or through physical violence. She too becomes a zombie meal not ten minutes later. Rebecca was able to safely deliver her baby, but then died immediately afterward of the apparent I just had a baby illness, because in The Walking Dead, that’s a thing.
As I mentioned before, the first season was no stranger to this, but the victory was a little more spaced out from the crushing disappointment. The dairy farmers really didn’t want to help you, they wanted to eat you (something that was never heard about again afterwards, despite being a pretty widespread thing). You finally find Duck not to be an annoying little shit, and his painful death ensues out not long after. Ben finally tells Kenny off about how lucky he is to have even seen his family after the apocalypse and Kenny seems almost empathetic, and Ben dies about 20 minutes later.
Yup … sunshine and rainbows.
I like Clementine, but not being Clementine
At the end of Season One, it was clear that this was no longer Lee’s story, but Clementine’s. I like that Clementine is becoming a stronger more independent character as time goes on, and I wouldn’t have traded her being the main protagonist in Season Two for anything. She’s not just staying a scared little girl anymore, and that’s a big deal. That kind of transition is rarely seen in video games and kudos to Telltale for showing that. But after playing as Clementine for an entire season, I can say that it’s time to bring in a new protagonist, while still keeping Clementine an integral part of the story.
One of the hardest things about the second season was believing that your fellow survivors weren’t just entertaining the whims of a 10 year old girl for the sake of appeasing her, like they suspected she was secretly the devil. Further, you couldn’t be intimidating like you could with Lee – or any adult, really – because unless you’re younger than 10, it’s hard to realistically find a 10 year old intimidating.
Additionally, yes, Clem is a survivor, but so is everyone else at this point. It’s not as if Luke’s gang just woke up from a cryogenics lab and found out they’d missed the end of the world. If they’d been alive for as long as they had, they’d be just as battle hardened as Clem. So why the hell are they listening to a kid, when lawlessness (and zombies) rules the land? They have just as good a track record – if not better, considering how many of them there actually are – at staying alive as she does, not to mention they have a better grasp of how the world, and people, work. It’s weird, and it’s never going to not be weird, no matter how good Clem gets at busting walker skulls in or putting on a mean face.
What kind of things would you like to see in Season Three of The Walking Dead? Sound off in the comments section!