Taken Aback

HIGH The suspense made for an immersive experience.

LOW This finale doesn’t feel conclusive.

WTF Half of your face bitten off and still happily singing, Minnie?

The Walking Dead: The Final Season is a third-person cinematic adventure game in which the player controls series star Clementine. Play relies on scripted scenes with dialogue choices that alter the narrative, but also includes exploring in small, discrete areas between story beats, and linear third-person action sequences with quick time events. This review covers Episode Four: Take Us Back. Please click here for episode One and Two, and here for episode Three. 

Episode 4 of The Final SeasonTake Us Back, is aware of its crucial role in the franchise. As Alvin Junior (AJ) summarizes his bond with Clementine during the intro, I was confronted with the fact that this is the final episode of a long-running series once known for the power of its narrative, and that series has now come to an end for fans all around the globe.

Although this is sad news, players can be happy with the fact that they have received an ending at all, given that Telltale closed its doors at the end of last year. For this reason alone I would like to wholeheartedly thank Skybound for picking up where Telltale left off. And, while this final episode can’t match the epic finale of the first season, Take Us Back struck more positive notes than negative.

My main issue with The Final Season and Take Us Back in particular, is that it serves its own background stories more than the series’ original themes — the plot resolves the issues it created in the same season, and the overarching plots of the first three seasons seem irrelevant to Take Us Back.

The theme of Season One could roughly be seen as redemption via apocalypse, since Lee Everett is an assumed murderer that finds new purpose through caring for Clementine. Season Two was family as life when meeting Kenny again, and prosperity at the cost of the unfortunate came into focus at Richmond, the central location of Season Three

The Final Season did not build on any of these themes, and instead felt like the premise was to cement Clementine’s future with AJ — change, since the relationship between the two was hardly a factor in previous seasons.

There were definitely references to other seasons, though — for example, the central scene in Take Us Back was an almost exact re-creation of a central scene from the first season’s finale. Clementine was faced with dialogue options similar to what Lee faced back then, and she becomes the protector of AJ in the same way Lee did for her. This was also mirrored throughout the season as the player decides what Clementine would teach AJ.

Returning character Lilly also played a strong part in my playthrough of Take Us Back, as I chose to spare her at the end of the third episode. I had a wide range of approaches to my final confrontation with her, and my choices made me feel like she, as an old member of the Season One Crew, would still have a better future perspective. In TWD‘s language, this interaction left me hopeful.

However, this corresponds to my main issue, because the references to earlier seasons merely feel like nods rather than intentional build-ups from the emotion and magic the earlier entries could produce. In this way, it feels as if The Final Season doesn’t meet the potential of the series as a whole.

What I also found problematic was the way in which Minnie, one of the inhabitants of the boarding school that Clementine and AJ now belong to, was portrayed as the tragic villain of the episode, and by focusing on her, it weakened this episode as a conclusion to the series.

Aside from this poorly-placed plot point, making half of the episode’s runtime about escaping a situation created at the end of the third episode was one more way it felt disconnected from the series overall. The Final Season aimed to conclude Clementine’s journey, with who she would end up and what perspective there would be on the apocalypse, but this scene instead focused on QTE-action and didn’t have much of a plot.

On the other hand, while this part was more about action and puzzling than about moral decisions, I did notice an improvement in the buildup of tension over previous episodes. As someone who’s been with Clementine’s journey from the start, I panicked in the same way Clementine did and felt completely immersed into the story. However, as the final scene closed, I couldn’t help but feel that The Walking Dead left me without enough closure on her journey.

This season created problems and solved them, but the overarching themes of the series as a whole weren’t sufficiently addressed, and I feel as if the ending leaves too much unanswered. However, putting my feelings aside, it’s nearly impossible to hate on the final episode of The Walking Dead. It wouldn’t even exist if not for the outstanding effort from the developers and publisher, and for the sake of the fans like me, it was appreciated.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Disclosures: The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 4: Take Us Back  was developed and published by Skybound Games and is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. This copy of the game was reviewed on PC. Approximately 2 hours were devoted to the game and it was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: The Walking Dead: The Final Season received an M from the ESRB for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore and Strong Language. The official ESRB description is as follows: This is an adventure game, based on the Walking Dead TV and comic-book franchise, in which players assume the role of a teenager trying to survive a zombie outbreak. As players progress through the story, they are presented with dialogue and action choices. These selections can lead to the deaths of characters, bloody attacks on humans and/or zombies, and other instances of intense violence: a teenage boy shot in the head; a zombie hit repeatedly in the face until bloody; a character removing buckshot from a young boy’s wound. Players sometimes have the option to kill human captives/enemies or allow them to be eaten by zombies. Blood is frequently depicted, and zombies are sometimes seen with exposed guts and viscera. The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” appear in the dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles available to accompany all dialogue in the options and they can be resized. There are no audio cues necessary for play. This title is fully accessible.

Remappable controls: The controls of this game are not remappable.

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