The last anyone saw of Clementine, she had set off for the McCarroll Ranch in order to get AJ back. As a result of the choices made by the player in the role of Javier García, Clem emerged differently at the end of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. In fact, it appears there are about 42 different endings for the series protagonist, with Clementine becoming either a new soul, a reformed loner, a trusting fighter, a survival warrior, an apocalyptic fighter, or any other decision-based variation. Now, players return to control of Clementine in The Walking Dead: The Final Season, so exactly how much of that comes into play?
Before delving into plot concerns, the first thing many players may note about The Walking Dead: The Final Season is the overarching parallels with the first season, as everything about Clementine screams Lee. Even the box art for the season resembles the first game’s, with Clem replacing Lee and AJ replacing a much younger Clementine. Then, in the story, it becomes very clear that Clem is AJ’s protector – much like Lee was for Clem.
The character dynamic between the two throughout the first episode is intriguing. Whereas it is clear that Clem is the authority figure and teacher, an AJ will challenge her choices. The relationship between the two is a key and central point to this season, much like Clem and Lee’s relationship in Season 1, and in fact, it is beautifully displayed.
This first episode brings the game to life with an all-new Graphic Black art style that is noticeable throughout the episode. Not only is it visually striking, bringing cinematic scenes to life, but it also supports 4K resolution and high dynamic range on compatible devices. Throughout two playthroughs of this first episode, not once was a visual bug noticed or detected.
Moreover, the quick-time events (QTE) respond smoothly and the overall game is just as polished. However, because of the way some combat sections work, most deaths can feel cheap, as one zombie will stand there prepared to kill the player while a different zombie’s animation plays out. Nevertheless, being strategic will help players avoid these moments.
While the prior season of The Walking Dead had plenty of divergent paths and choices, it feels as though Telltale is leaving the experience open for newcomers and veterans alike. For the purpose of this review, we completed two separate and distinct playthroughs, exploring as many options as possible. Each playthrough had a different story imported, and while not every decision could possibly be explored in one episode, it appears this first episode side skirts that by addressing none of them.
It’s entirely possible, for example, to have a softened Clementine imported but play a hard-as-nails style character. Of course, for the most part, this decision would be up to the player, but this choice makes A New Frontier seem irrelevant. There are some references to the characters and events of the prior season, but some fans will feel as though Telltale tries to avoid spelling anything out.
That’s not to say, however, the game completely ignores what came before it. The episode does have moments that are informed by Clementine’s past experiences and will be recognized by diehard fans. After all, this is Clementine, a character that players have spent several years watching grow and mature.
In terms of pacing and action, this first episode feels more like set-up for the coming episodes. The final act of the episode delivers on the thrills that fans have come to expect, but the prior Acts lack the same amount of punch. Luckily, there are some tough choices to be made by the episode’s conclusion and it will be interesting to see how Telltale builds upon them.
Overall, fans of the series will likely enjoy the first episode, as it builds off years’ worth of investment. However, those that expected something that tied into A New Frontier may be somewhat disappointed, as this first episode offers many more questions with very little in the way of answers. While The Final Season is not the end of the series, it could potentially be the end for Clem, and with only three more episodes to go, it feels like there should be more in what seems to be her final days.
Episode One of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Episode Two release September 25, 2018. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for this review.