The following impressions continue our ongoing review of The Walking Dead: The Final Season. Shacknews initially pushed back our review of the series' second episode, partly out of solidarity with the Telltale developers that had lost their jobs and partly because there appeared to be no sign that the series would see its conclusion. However, with Skybound opting to see the game through to the end, Shacknews is set to continue with our individual impressions for each episode before offering a cumulative review at the end of the season. Of course, this means going back and catching up with the second episode before the third one releases later in the week. So here are our impressions of 'Suffer the Children.'
If there's anything that Telltale received ample criticism for in what turned out to be the developer's final days, it's that many of its story-based games hit the same beats and went through the same motions. From the first episode, it started to become clear that Telltale wanted to mix things up a little more with The Walking Dead: The Final Season. And with Clementine's story continuing into its second episode, 'Suffer the Children' stands out in great part because of some the different narrative methods put to use.
The Walking Dead has utilized flashbacks in the past, but 'Suffer the Children' starts off with this literary method used to much greater effect. Clementine and AJ are fresh off the jarring events of the first episode's conclusion and they're both in their dorm room, contemplating the gravity of what had just happened. The bulk of this is Clementine flashing back to the events of that night, with the majority of the player choices showing up during this sequence. Regardless of what the player chooses, they'll still sympathize with why Clementine is restlessly reflecting on the previous evening.
Those first five minutes greatly hammer home the main idea of The Final Season. It's not just a story of Clementine as a survivor. It's the story of Clementine as a parental figure, having her story come full circle and placing her in the role that Lee had in the first game. These first ten minutes brilliantly capture just how far in over her head Clementine really is, as the idea is to teach AJ values and instill a moral compass. As the consequences of each decision play out, this proves to be difficult, if not outright impossible. And yet that's the allure of the game's biggest challenge, because no matter how unprepared one may be for post-apocalyptic life, life goes on regardless.
The rest of the episode touches on an older theme of The Walking Dead franchise as a whole. Is it better to rely on one's own instincts or have faith in other people and hope that they don't turn on you? It's an idea that becomes more prevalent with the unexpected return of an old character and the sudden appearance of a new one. However, it quickly takes a backseat to the episode's general plot of fortifying the school for a hostile invasion.
The latter half of 'Suffer the Children' capably balances character development with an intense climax. Unfortunately, the climactic final sequence gets bogged down by some of the worst aspects of Telltale's series. Players are introduced with a new bow weapon and it paves the way for some of the worst hit detection and ugliest shooting mechanics I've seen in a game in quite some time. The walker shambling patterns and the lousy shooting mechanics proves to be the most frustrating Telltale experience I've had in years.
'Suffer the Children' ends on a plot-heavy cliffhanger, which would have been a sour note for the franchise to end on. With Skybound Games saving the series, it'll be interesting to see how The Walking Dead: The Final Season looks to close the book on Clementine's story, as well as the story of the young people of Ericson's Boarding School for Troubled Youth.
These impressions are based on an Xbox One code provided by the publisher. The Walking Dead: The Final Season is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for $19.99 for all four episodes. The game is rated M.