Previously, it seemed as if the fate of the Walking Dead Final Season hung in the balance, but thanks to Skybound Entertainment, Episode 3: Broken Toys is finally here. It's worth highlighting that, at the time of Telltale's closure, Episode 3 was nearly complete and it shows.
This episode, more so than the previous two entries, is a refined experience that strikes a unique balance between tried-and-true Telltale story-telling, intense action, and a stand-out direction for the game. If this episode of the Walking Dead Final Season never released due to the aforementioned closure, it would have been a true injustice to all fans of Clementine, as this episode pulls together so many moments of her past as well as her present.
Right from the get-go, players are tasked with making seemingly impossible decisions, truly forcing them to consider their actions. After all, it is very clear that AJ is watching, and this comes into play throughout the episode. While previous episodes of the Walking Dead Final Season contained this element of an ever-present moral judge in AJ, the decisions required in this episode are some of the most difficult. And the seemingly best decisions are not always so, a self-evident factor as the game barrels toward its finale.
It also truly seems as if everything encountered in previous episodes is building up to the finale of this episode. Whereas previous episodes of the Walking Dead Final Season contained this feeling that players were just dropped into an unnecessary conflict, this episode manages to erase that and replace it with a dedication to those troubled youth that have become Clementine's friends.
There are moments where these friendships grow and develop, with all supporting characters getting their equal due. There are moments where these friendships are tested and moments that establish this group as something particular unique, something Clementine has not experienced before in prior episodes of the Walking Dead.
It is during these moments that the game slows down and players can really appreciate everything that Clem has gone through and evaluate her relationship with AJ. One way the game does this is by having more of the collectibles relate to AJ, making sure there is some additional, rewarding dialogue for those Walking Dead completionists dead set on finding every collectible. It's worth noting that each of these collectibles are found early in the story, so the remainder of the episode can focus on story.
These peaceful moments come between periods of intense action and decision-making, yet they feel natural and in-pace with the episode. And when these moments boil down and heat up, it is clear that this is some of the best story-telling found in this season of the Walking Dead. Lives literally hang in the balance throughout this story, and that influence on Clementine stands out.
It also forces situations that have to be resolved, one way or another, and has a profound impact on the characters around her in the Walking Dead Final Season. For example, this leads to one supporting character to act out, whereas others just want to be helpful where they can.
These moments of heart-wrenching story-telling are framed by some of the best action sequences the series has to offer. The story picks up where the last episode left off and alternates between action and story-telling rather organically. The Walking Dead Final Season episode 3 finale, which is rife with stealth-like action, continues this tradition, with episode 4 likely to pick up where episode 3 ended off. One stand out factor for these action sequences are how they are filled with unique encounters. While there is a sequence or two where players will have to kill walkers, it's not always that simple. There is at least one sequence where players must choose between sneaking through the herd and just stunning walkers or killing them. Walking Dead players are also forced to ask about any remaining humanity in the walkers.
This choice has a profound impact on Clem and AJ, but also on the player, as they experience what it's like to be in the shoes of a walker. This unique approach in episode 3 of the Walking Dead carries over, with little actual combat being at the fore. Many may consider this a relief, but it doesn't come without its own set of hiccups.
As with previous entries in the Walking Dead, technical issues are unavoidable in games such as this, with them mostly being centered around the unique encounters. These range from frame rate drops to freezes to botched button-presses and more.
All of this — the action, the story-telling, the unique encounters — ultimately lead to perhaps the best aspect of this episode, its direction. Previously, it appeared that players were receiving another age-old story of human conflict set within a zombie's world. Previous seasons of The Walking Dead dealt with these issues, and honestly, they were becoming old hat.
However, instead of this game heading toward another large fight such as the Siege of Prescott, it's intimate and paints a more detailed picture. This is not just human conflict, and the zombie's are not just another mechanic to force on human survival. Episode 3: Broken Toys is a story of family, home, and humanity here that is a breath of fresh air compared to previous seasons, with this approach even extending to the zombies in the form of the Whisperer.
This direction comes to the fore in the finale, with humanity and family perhaps being truly tested. This finale ends on a cliffhanger as did previous seasons, but whereas those endings seem resolved, this one did not. It will likely be resolved with the start of episode 4 of The Walking Dead Final Season, but waiting until March will definitely be difficult for Clementine fans.
Ultimately, this is one of the most refined entries in the series as a whole, and everything old seems new again. Whether it is The Walking Dead Final Season episode 3's unique approach to the combat, the heartstrings pulled with the masterful storytelling, or the ultimate direction of the game, everything combined make this a highlight that any fan of graphic-based adventure games should try, as this is easily the most recommendable chapter of the saga.
Episode 3: Broken Toys of The Walking Dead Final Season is out now for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Episode 4: Take Us Back releases March 26, 2019, for the same platforms. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for the purposes of this review.