Telltale created an amazing piece of storytelling with their episodic Walking Dead series. Similar to Rick Grimes of the comic and television series, we were forced to make tough decisions as Lee Everett; de facto leader/mediator of a survivor group trying to make it through the zombie apocalypse. There was rarely a ‘right’ choice to be found and every decision held dire consequences within the group. It made for a superb experience, keeping hordes of both gamers and comic aficionados shambling back for more each episode. However the real star of the series wasn’t Lee but his young charge, Clementine. More importantly it was the relationship being fostered between the two characters throughout the season that stole the show.
All that Remains continues the story through the eyes of Clementine in the events following the conclusion of season one. Along with an all new cast of characters and setting, this shift in perspective is the biggest shake up for the series thus far. No longer the decider, the peacekeeper or the protector– players slip into the shoes of a scared and largely powerless little girl, albeit one who knows how to survive better than most. Coming into it I wasn’t sure how Telltale was going to deliver the same kind of emotional roller coaster without giving players that powerful decision-making that could affect other characters so dramatically. Unless Clem was planning to start her own post-apocalyptic survivor group of rug rats, I was having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The episode starts with both a literal and proverbial bang, but aside from a few tense moments peppered in it spends the following half hour or so at a snails pace. Clementine finds herself separated and alone, forced to scrape it out on her own for the first time since everything went to hell. I found myself falling out of immersion quite a bit during this lull, due in large part to the unshakable little voice in my head constantly questioning the story, where it was headed and how it could possibly live up to the brilliant season one. This is about the time where the episode proper kicked off. Clem finds herself on the brink when she is scooped up by a pair of passing survivors who are decent enough to bring a lost little girl back to their group and tend to her condition. From there we get introduced to a new cast of characters, blemishes and all.
Residing in a cabin in the woods, it’s clear even at face value the survivor group is comprised of some multifaceted characters. From the rugged, disapproving step-father and his short tempered son to a pregnant woman looking to throw Clem back into the forest they found her in, it’s a colorful cast indeed. The various relationships and group dynamics are established in an efficient and natural way, while their thinly veiled attempt to conceal an impending menace is readily apparent. Divergent feelings of protection within a group while still not being safe from the group itself are strong in this episode and make for a poignant lesson about the zombie apocalypse. I can’t wait to learn more about the individuals of the group and what it is they’re hiding from me.
As the rest of the episode rolled out, it dawned on me that nothing in the tried-and-true formula of season one had been substituted here. As Clementine I felt moments of helplessness, uncertainty and utter despair; pillars of anyone’s experience in the Walking Dead universe including Lee Everett. Was Telltale trying to convey something profound to me here? That a grown man with a capable band of survivors supporting him is just as susceptible to these emotions as a twelve year old girl with nobody to count on but herself? A giant grin crept across my face as the credits rolled this concept started to sink in. Bravo Telltale, bravo.
Things end on a suspenseful cliffhanger with a major decision to make in the usual fashion. I wont spoil the rest of the episode, but it sets the stage for what looks to be another season of that prime-cut storytelling we’ve come to expect from Telltale.