The following impressions continue our ongoing review of The Walking Dead: The Final Season. Once the full season is complete, Shacknews will then have a final cumulative score for the game as a whole. A word of warning, there will be light spoilers for the previous episodes.
After a long layoff, The Walking Dead: The Final Season has resumed and there appear to be no further delays in hitting the end of Clementine's story. After playing through 'Broken Toys,' the chapter plays out smoothly, with no jarring transitions or any other sense that the game's release cycle was amiss. The third episode, fully helmed by Skybound Games, played out just like any other episode, which is both for better and worse.
Following the climactic events of 'Suffer the Children,' The Walking Dead: The Final Season's third episode starts off in a fairly straightforward manner. While the second episode got experimental with the use of flashbacks, this chapter doesn't begin quite so boldly. It kicks off with an interrogation scene, which is a somewhat bittersweet throwback to one of the now-defunct Telltale's best efforts, The Wolf Among Us. There were a few moments where Clementine brought out her inner Bigby Wolf in a sequence that further pushed forward her central role, that being of a parental figure to the impressionable AJ. It also offers an interesting parallel to a pivotal scene from The Walking Dead: Season 2, with the developers again utilizing role reversal to great effect.
Depending on how the player allowed the final minutes of episode two to play out, Clementine might be juggling multiple roles. If players allowed Violet to get kidnapped, Clementine not only finds herself caring for AJ, but also acting as the school's new leader. It's ultimately up to her to help the remaining kids recover from the raiders' attack and prepare a strike to recover the ones that have been abducted. Of course, Clementine plays an active role even in scenarios with school leader Violet present, establishing her character as a grizzled veteran who's gone up against aggressive camps like this in the past.
One of the most prevalent ideas presented in 'Broken Toys' is the idea of Stockholm Syndrome, as a new character is introduced and players are presented with the idea of one of the children's own falling in with the raiders. What happens with Minnie represents the worst case scenario if Clementine's plan fails. It's not just being recruited as a soldier, but also being so psychologically warped that they eventually accept their roles freely and willfully. While Skybound wasn't presenting this comparison specifically, this isn't unlike what does happen in the world with child soldiers, who are raised to be killers from the start and psychologically broken to the point that the war and violence is all they have. One of the major ideas presented through the episode is whether that person can be reverted to what they once were or if they're truly lost forever.
Minnie is also a reflection of what could happen with AJ. Players are presented with the challenge of becoming a positive parental figure, otherwise little AJ could grow up into something twisted. But as the events of this episode and the game as a whole reveal, raising someone to follow the right path in a post-apocalytic setting isn't easy. And it especially isn't easy when presented with a foil like Lilly. While Lilly's demeanor was largely shaped by Lee in Season 1, it's clear that here she's a stone cold psychopath and trying to do the right thing in the wake of her ruthless methods proves to be a major challenge.
Unfortunately for 'Broken Toys,' what also proves to be a major challenge are some of the actual gameplay sequences. There's a sequence that sees Clementine and the group attempting to blend in with a herd of walkers, which is a cool idea on paper. But the execution is some of the clunkiest I've seen out of this series to date. The fail states are brutally unforgiving, with walkers getting taken out too fast to stand a chance. And worse, trying to duck behind certain walkers didn't even bring up a button prompt to hide behind it, leaving the poor player to get a bullet in the forehead. I never imagined I'd throw my controller in anger over a Telltale game, but this sequence was infuriating. And that's coming off the unbearable crossbow sequence from the last episode.
For all of the third episode's gameplay shortcomings, I was awed by how many variables were presented. Following my own playthrough, I compared it with how friends, colleagues, and YouTubers approached their 'Broken Toys' and I was stunned to see the multitude of possibilities for how this story could have gone, with entire scenes turned entirely on their head depending on certain selections. While the ending was similar for everyone, the road to the ending never felt more diverse and there's truly a sense that no two friends playing this game will have the same experience. It shows that in its dying days, Telltale addressed one of its biggest criticisms: replay value.
With no post-credits trailer, there's no telling where The Walking Dead: The Final Season goes from here, as the ending to this penultimate episode appears to bring everything to a full stop. But one way or another, Clementine's story comes to an end in March and it'll be interesting to see how many people survive to the end... and if Clementine herself lives to see the ending.
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. For our thoughts on the previous episodes, be sure to check out our impressions for Done Running and Suffer the Children.
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, The Walking Dead: The Final Season - 'Broken Toys' impressions
It took me four times before getting through successfully.
The problem is they say "Stay behind the walkers" which implies you should take it slow and steady, but I figured out eventually you cannot stop moving forward - it's the last walker (third one IIRC) that you need to be behind within enough time. If you wait a bit, then you suddenly end up without walker shields and die.