And so we come to the end of The Walking Dead. This final stretch of the game is powerful, emotionally resonant, and well-written. Well, except the part where Clem carries Lee through a zombie horde and into a building. Because now is not the time for eye-rolling and guffaws.
A strange thing about this final sequence is that I have this distinct memory of Clementine bashing up that last zombie with many small, bloodless blows. Did I imagine that? Was I so caught up in the horror of the moment that I forgot how brutal it really was? Is there more than one way for this scene to play out, perhaps with Clem using different weapons? I have no idea. I will note that I was shocked at how gruesome this looked while we were recording.
Now I’m wondering: Where is the series headed next?
Clementine, while a fantastic character, might not be nearly as powerful as a protagonist as she was a companion.
They set the emotional stakes really high with Lee’s death in Episode 5. I’m not sure how they can make anything comparable with Clementine. We’ve already explored the parent / child dynamic really thoroughly in this first season. The Stranger, Kenny’s family, Lee and Clem, Larry and Lilly, the St. Johns, and to a lesser extent Omid and Christa – almost everyone had some angle on the relationship between parents and children. Another story with Clementine would naturally end up re-treading stuff from this game and make it feel like we were stuck in a thematic rut.
As the timeline gets further and further from Z-day, the zombie setting unravels quite a bit. Sooner or later the gasoline goes bad, the old world food has been consumed or gone bad, clothing starts to wear out, and the bullets are all depleted. Eventually it stops being a zombie story and becomes a series where you help society rebuild or watch humanity die. That “28 days later” state can’t last forever. Well, I guess it does in the Kirkman setting, but I find my appreciation of the story waning as the world needs to hand-wave more and more things to maintain the status quo.
What will they do next? They killed off the entire cast except for Omid and Christa. While serviceable characters, they were never fan favorites. I’m not saying the developers can’t make a good story about these two. They have backstory to reveal, Christa’s pregnancy as a plot-point, and the search for Clementine as a short-term goal. They have the framework in place for another season, but I can’t help but think if Telltale wanted to make the next game about them, the team would have built them up a bit more in this game.
I keep going back to my old preference: Clean slate sequels. It’s no fun uncovering the same Illuminati over and over again in a Deus Ex universe that is increasingly clogged with future and past lore. With each game, the team has less room to work and more time must be spent supporting or routing around the events of other games. I’d much rather each Deus Ex function as a stand-alone mixtape of cyberpunk and conspiracy theories. Applying this thinking to The Walking Dead, my gut instinct would be to follow a different group of survivors in a different part of the country.
Sure, you lose access to your established characters when you do this, but you also lose the obligation to give newcomers an exposition dump.
In any case, it was a wonderful and unusual game. I’m glad I played it and I’m eager to see where they go with the series next.
Thanks for watching. I’ll be announcing out next game in the next couple of days.