Tag Archive: Robert Kirkman

Hard choices make for a hard Clementine

Editor’s Note: In order to avoid spoiling events from previous episodes in this and the first season of The Walking Dead, the language will remain as vague as possible. That being said, some situations may still be specifically referenced. Thus, if you don’t want anything spoiled, we recommend you play previous episodes and then return to this review. Consider yourself warned.

After a less-than-stellar outing in Episode 4, the final chapter in season two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead does a fine job of bringing the stories of each remaining party member to a head before leaving Clementine with an awful decision that will change her forever.

This episode is, in many ways, the best of the season. Here, it becomes clear just how many moments that seemed innocuous at the time were actually more important than some of the more action-driven sequences over the first four episodes that led up to this thrilling conclusion.

As tensions rise, the ever-present rift in the group opens wider and wider, with Clementine stuck in the middle trying to act as the lone peacekeeper. This adds some high anxiety to what would’ve been more casual conversations earlier in the year, and it makes each vocal choice for Clementine all the more harrowing, since you didn’t know where it might steer the characters.

This focus on dialogue and character growth makes No Going Back feel more akin to the TV show than any of the preceding episodes in the series, and it’s a refreshing change of pace. There’s a minimal amount of puzzle-solving that doesn’t require Clementine to just be quick on her feet and react physically or verbally as you’d like her to, truly making her decisions feel more like your own. You don’t have the time to contemplate most answers and just have to go with your gut, which helps fix some of the haphazard pacing we’ve seen throughout much of this season.

This also allows Episode 5 to continue to add layers to Clementine, who almost seems to be growing up in front of us like a child star would on a TV show—and that only adds to the intrigue of what may happen with her in the future. My decisions continued to mold her into a character unique to my particular playthrough, and that’s a prospect that has me only looking forward to more Walking Dead.

That said, a few moments in the episode feel a little gaudy. In particular, a dream sequence seems wholly out of place, like the writers were trying to force even more drama in for no good reason. There are more than enough moments in this chapter that pull on your heartstrings as it is, and the dream simply destroys the flow of what’s otherwise the smoothest-running episode until that point. No Going Back’s already the longest of the season at just over two hours, so that particular sequence easily could’ve hit the cutting-room floor.

With that in mind, No Going Back serves as a microcosm of the entire season itself, with highs and lows that mimic the previous episodes and continue to put this season in stark contrast to the consistent greatness seen in the first. At the very least, however, the episode ends on a high note that not only serves as a fitting conclusion, showcasing the huge character growth for most of Clementine’s remaining group, but also leaving the door open for more than enough new storylines in season three.

Developer: Telltale Games • Publisher: Telltale Games • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 08.26.14

A few unnecessary sequences hold back the episode a bit, but as a whole, No Going Back serves as a fitting conclusion to season two. And thankfully, it also leaves enough room for more intrigue and drama in season three.

The Good The story takes unexpected turns when heartrending decisions need to be made.
The Bad Like much of the season, there’s an up-and-down quality to the episode, and some moments make you question their inclusion.
The Ugly Sometimes, you never truly know someone until it’s too late.
The Walking Dead: Season 2: Episode 5 – No Going Back is available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and iOS. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360. Review code was provided by Telltale for the benefit of this review.

I am Clementine

With the new season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead now underway, I was able to pick the brains of Game Designer Sean Ainsworth and Writer Pierre Shorette about the changes this season brings to the series and some specific elements we saw in Episode One: “All That Remains.”

EGM: Clementine isn’t your typical video game protagonist and she’s a drastic shift from when you play as Lee. How do you strike a balance between making her a character all kinds of players would want to play, yet still maintain the vulnerability she naturally has being a little girl?

Sean Ainsworth: It was really difficult for us to figure out what that balance is. You don’t want people running over her with a bunch of adults telling her what to do, but you also can’t have her speak up and take charge of things because she’s 11 and that just wouldn’t happen. It’d be ridiculous. So, coming up with ways for her to have agency in the world and to feel like you have things to do with her is quite a challenge. But it feels like it’s worth that effort. It’s so different from being a big, burly, black guy now. You just can’t intimidate somebody and I think it factors more now into the group dynamics. We had to figure out ways around that and that was really cool.

Pierre Shorette: I think in Season One that you’re so enamored with protecting Clementine that it’s an interesting approach now where you have to go through a season where you’re protecting her literally, but then you’re also trying to role-play. I think it’s almost like striking a balance that’s realistic, but also allowing players to express themselves and get out of each situation what they really want. The last thing we’d want is for this to feel like some 90s kid-friendly movie and they’re running around, taking charge, driving cars around, and handling every situation. But it’s the first stumbling block we have to overcome in every scene, trying to figure out how to make her important in it.

EGM: You mentioned that Clem can’t really intimidate people, but through her dialogue choices, she can have a bit of an attitude to her depending on how you wish to play her. She can be antagonistic. She can rile the group up. She can make enemies. Is this just the natural evolution of Clem after everything she’s been through?

SA: Yeah, I think so. Living in this zombie-infested world, she’s had to grow up a little quickly to survive. That’s definitely part of it. Part of making her a little older now is that she’s had some experiences since last season. She’s still speaking straight from her heart, though.

PS: Of course, you don’t have to say anything at all. You can often choose to remain silent.

SA: Right, but she at least knows enough now to know what to say because she’s talking from experience.  And depending on how you’re playing, you can extrapolate that there may be repercussions for what you say.

PS: I think it’s interesting because depending on the scenario, I’m sure some people would be like “Clementine would never say that”, but sometimes when you’re in the moment and you’re role-playing as the character, some of those one liners are just too shiny a nugget to pass up and not see what happens next. They want to see what happens and the drama of the moment is what’s so compelling. People just want to know how it would play out. If you’re that into the role, then it can take you in a different direction and then it’s the decision you live with and it becomes the reality you’ve chosen.

SA: Yeah, it’s weird because you’re now playing as someone who was an NPC in Season One. So it’s interesting what direction you can take this NPC now as the player-character. We were a little worried actually when we started talking about making Clementine the main character, if there would be a disconnect, but when you’re playing it you just get into it and really, that’s our goal. That you get into it enough that you forget all of that.

PS: Can we ask you, now that you’ve beaten it, how did you play it? Did you go in with the goal of just protecting Clementine? Were your decisions affected by that? Or did you role play?

EGM: I went into wanting to make the best decisions possible to continue protecting Clem all I could. That was my main goal. But after the first couple of sequences and seeing what choices I had to make, I really started to play as if I was Clem and not some ethereal protector. The best way for me to protect Clem was to be Clem.

PS: Right. You began to identify yourself as her. That’s cool. I’m glad that happened with you because like Sean said, there was a fear people would be removed from the story and make everything black and white in their minds and just play god and control Clem’s existence but be detached from it. But I’m glad that you got into it.

EGM: In the group of people Clem meets, there’s a father/daughter dynamic there that reminded me a lot of Clem/Lee from Season One. The girl is a bit naïve and the father is protective of her, and its interesting that Clem is now on the outside looking in on a relationship like that. Was that parallel an intentional addition on your part?

PS: I think it just sort of emerged naturally. The opportunity to see almost a more naïve version of the girl Clem used to be is unique because now she can have an opinion on how the father is raising his daughter. I mean that’s crazy that an 11-year-old would have a valid opinion on his parenting skills and how he may be doing some things wrong or what he should be doing more of and that’s actually an example of giving her a level of agency that, from the outside looking in, might not click with the group. But we know from being in the background that Clementine has valid opinions to share on how to grow up in this world and stay safe and survive. And that’s the kind of stuff we’re seeking out all the time to make sure this is a compelling experience.

EGM: Talking a little bit more about this first episode of Season Two, it ended on even more of a cliffhanger than usual. Why did you guys decide to end the episode where you did?

SA: We obviously can’t go into a lot of detail without giving too much away, but I think we ended it here because all the ramifications that stem from your last decision in the episode will trickle out and affect the rest of the season. So, to dig into even the beginnings of that, and dig into those ramifications would require a lot more time than we had at that point in the episode.

EGM: At the beginning of Season One you guys had Glenn as part of the group, and made your way to Hershel Greene’s farm. Have you guys ever entertained the notion of intersecting again with the comics?

SA: We have an ongoing discussion about it. We’ve never ruled it out. It just has to make sense. It can’t be something that we’re shoehorning in.

PS: What’s nice is this addition, with the game existing on its own and what we did with it, shows that The Walking Dead is just a really big universe. That this is unique for the IP and not just a story that’s somewhere in a pocket in Georgia. It’s something that’s shaking up the entire world and I like that it makes the universe feel large.

SA: Also, it’s really hard to tie in dead people. [Laughs]

PS: Yeah, we were just talking about this the other day where if you go to The Walking Dead’s wikia page and under the comic book section for the characters, everyone just has a big red “X” on their faces. It’s just what they do. It’s what happens. If you stay with the main gang long enough, you’re going to get killed. So, that’s part of it, too, for sure.

EGM: Alright, last question. Telltale has worked on a lot of licensed properties over the years (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, etc., etc.) and you just announced two more with Borderlands and Game of Thrones. If you could add another new license to the list, what would it be and why?

SA: There are so many I would love to do, but it would have to make sense for us to spend the time on it. And it’s hard to even say because we never know what we may be working on in the future. It’s just so hard to say.

PS: And even that, everyone is so excited for what we have coming up, like with Game of Thrones. It just fits what we do so well. I will say, though, that before I even worked here I was a fan. I played the first three episodes [of The Walking Dead] before coming on, but I always thought that in terms of what Telltale does, even before I was an employee, that Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets would be a cool adaptation because of its nature. I mean, it would be a game where the bullets matter a lot. It’s not just a number up in the corner of the UI. When a gun gets shot, it means something, when a person gets shot, it really means something. So how precious that is, or how devastating that is was something I always thought was interesting.

Oh my darling, Clementine


Last year, Telltale captivated gamers everywhere by capturing the essence of what makes The Walking Dead comics great: human drama that just happens to take place during the zombie apocalypse. In the process, we got to know—and fall in love with—protagonists Lee and Clementine. Their unique dynamic is what kept many players going to the very end, when Lee finally succumbed to his infection. Clementine’s story was far from over, though, and now in Season Two, instead of serving as her protector, we get to play as Clem herself and see just how the world around her begins to take its toll during some of her formative years.

It’s been a little over 12 months since we played the end of Season One (the first time, anyway) and six since 400 Days, so in order to get players back into the groove of surviving the end of modern civilization, the episode starts off by punching you in the gut several times with some sequences you will not see coming. If you thought you might coast for a while and get your bearings playing as Clem, you’d best think again.

This sink-or-swim approach is a brilliant move by the gang at Telltale, as it serves two purposes. Not only does it prepare you for what’s to come over the rest of the episode—both in terms of point-and-click gameplay and dramatic tone—but it also forces you into Clem’s shoes faster, preventing you from “meta-gaming” scenarios as though you were still protecting Clem (a possible side effect of your role in Season One). This habit would be harder to break later on if you became used to that idea, and the game would be less immersive as a result.

I admit that, going into this first episode, I was afraid I’d fall into that mindset myself—and that there’d be a disconnect between me and playing as Clem because of it. Due to the nature of the first few scenarios in the episode, however, I quickly found myself playing out conversations as though I were actually Clem. I was still “protecting” her, but mostly because I was protecting a part of myself. I didn’t have the time to think on a meta-scale. Thus, when things finally did slow down, I was already in the mindset of thinking as Clem and continued on that route.

I also thoroughly enjoyed many of Clem’s conversation choices. If I wanted to maintain her innocence—since she still isn’t even a teenager—the game offered options for that path. If I wanted to wear some of Clem’s emotional scars on her sleeve a bit more, I could do that, too. Other times, Clem displayed more adultlike logic, showing off her accelerated maturity due to her past experiences. I personally chose this path, and was pleasantly rewarded when it led to a particularly entertaining conversation between Clem and a sassy older woman. My Clem doesn’t take s*** from anybody!

For all the good Telltale does in this opening episode’s story, they did make a couple of questionable design choices. The most notable—and disappointing—is the lack of ramifications from the decisions you made in Season One and 400 Days. While the “next episode” teaser at the end of All That Remains does seem to hint at this situation being rectified, I would’ve loved something more than a couple of dialogue choices reflecting back on what happened down in Savannah.

Part of this could be the idea that new players may be coming on board, much like how some people start watching the second season of a TV series after hearing how popular it is. The problem is that by trying to cater to a new audience, Telltale might be ostracizing their returning fanbase with this more generic entry point for the series.

If anything, making a lot of references to prior events could compel people to go back and buy and play Season One. Even if players don’t have a Season One save, this episode has a scenario generator at the beginning that plays out the major choices so that players can experience Season Two without fear of punishment or missing out on content. So, why not reward your loyalists a bit more and throw them a bigger bone?

I also felt like the episode ended at an odd point. In Season One, every episode had a very natural conclusion. All That Remains’ end comes out of nowhere, and it’s incredibly jarring. While it works as a cliffhanger—and I understand that the next episode will begin with some major conflict—there was an earlier sequence that would’ve made much more sense as a “natural” ending. But ending there would’ve made this experience a bit too short, and as it stands now, the episode’s only 90 minutes long, so it seems that Telltale wants to make sure players are still getting their money’s worth.

Despite these couple of questionable choices by Telltale, their Walking Dead series continues to be a narrative powerhouse. Even though there’s only an hour and a half of content here, there were several instances that I had to pause the game, walk away, get a drink, and then come back. I simply couldn’t power through and ignore the events of this episode, and I found myself frantically worrying about Clem now—just as much as when I was protecting her as Lee.  Fans of Season One have no excuse not to go out on and get this first episode of Season Two, and while I think newcomers should still play Season One first, they’ll be OK using this as a jumping-off point as well.

Developer: Telltale Games • Publisher: Telltale Games • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 12.17.13
All That Remains is a fine way to kick off the second season of The Walking Dead. Telltale made some interesting design decisions putting players in the role of Clementine, and most of their choices—but not all—work out nicely.
The Good The story immerses players from the get-go.
The Bad Lack of ramifications from previous episodes.
The Ugly How easy I found it to play as a little girl.
The Walking Dead: Season 2: Episode 1 – All That Remains is available on Steam (PC/Mac), XBLA (Xbox 360), PSN (PS3), and iOS. Primary version reviewed was for Steam (PC).

Telltale’s take on 5 Lives

With fans of Telltale’s runaway hit based on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead chomping at the bit to get their hands on the next season like a group of walkers with raw meat, 400 Days comes at just the right time—an appetizer of sorts for what the future may hold for the series. Functionally, 400 Days serves as a bridge between Season One and Two that looks to establish new characters we may meet, as well as a whole new series of choices that will continue to effect us and play out through the next season.

Now, with something so story-driven, I can’t get into many details without spoiling things. What I can tell you is that 400 Days centers around an abandoned pit stop diner/gas station where five different groups of people are put to the test throughout the first year of the outbreak. Some stand alone, while others unknowingly affect each other—and whatever decisions you make will have an effect on Season Two (when we’ll hopefully get to see Clementine again).

Yes, I can tell you that Clementine doesn’t make an appearance in this DLC. This may break a few hearts—we all want to get an inkling into the girl’s fate—but it gives a flurry of new and interesting characters who we might be able to look forward to Clementine meeting. This could give diehards of the series unprecedented insight into the people around them, not just the main character.

400 Days’ main purpose is to act as setup for Season Two more than anything, and may stand relatively far away from the first season. But it also makes plenty of subtle references to Season One that will have gamers who beat Lee and Clementine’s odyssey grinning ear to ear.

If you didn’t beat the first season, well, first: What are you waiting for?! Second, if five 20-30 minute bite-sized adventures are more your speed right now than a 2-3 hours chapter, you can still go ahead with 400 Days and not worry about spoilers. My only complaint with this DLC was that it was DLC and not a standalone episode since it makes for a perfect jumping in point for newcomers to the series. Instead, the game is only available to players who already have a Season One episode on their hard drives. Of course, this could be an ingenious way to try to hook players by making them buy both Season One and 400 Days.

In regards to the gameplay, it’s much of the same. It’s still primarily a point-and-click adventure, with occasional opportunities to walk around and chitchat with characters before making another impossible decision. The animations felt a lot smoother this time around, however, as compared to some of Season One’s episodes.

400 Days puts players in the same kind of gut-wrenching situations we expect from the franchise. I constantly had to deal with life and death choices, but the short nature of the chapters makes the decision feel like a morbid lightning round. This served as an interesting changeup to how the first season went about telling its story, while finding ways for players to invest in a whole new group of characters in a fast and fun way. All in all, this makes 400 Days possibly the most enjoyable chapter in the series yet—and a must play before The Walking Dead: Season Two starts later this year.

Developer: Telltale Games • Publisher: Telltale Games • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 07.02.13
The perfect bridge between Season One and Two of The Walking Dead, 400 Days expertly sets up new characters in fun, interesting bite-sized chunks that will do nothing but get fans more hyped for Season Two.
The Good Makes some subtle, but enjoyable nods to Season One, while expertly building a narrative bridge to Season Two.
The Bad The stories hold up enough that the DLC could’ve been a standalone release.
The Ugly We still don’t know what happened to Clementine.
The Walking Dead: 400 Days is available on Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, PC, and iOS. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

For Clementine

Back in April, gamers had a chance to start an epic journey—one that involved being thrust into the midst of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead universe via the start of a five-episode game series by Telltale Games. On this journey, the unlikely relationship between an 8-year-old little girl and a man turned convict after a crime of passion would consume everyone who played this landmark game; protecting this child quickly became the center of your apocalyptic world. Now, seven months later, Telltale’s episodic roller-coaster ride looks to come a halt, as Lee and Clementine’s adventures in the zombie apocalypse are all but done for the time being.

Admittedly, it’s hard to talk about a game such as this for several reasons—chief among them being that gameplay centers squarely on the story. Many gamers will have different situations going into this final episode of Season One due to the branching paths caused by the countless decisions made over the course of the previous four episodes. And because of this, the last thing I want to do is spoil any of the insane surprises in store for you in this episode. I can assure you, though, that if you thought the heart-wrenching moments and plot twists were going to slow down with this final chapter, you thought wrong.  There’s some resolution, but all I can say is that every decision has a consequence—and Lee’s sins will come back to haunt him in powerful, terrifying ways if you weren’t careful over the course of your playthrough.

I’ll also say that even though this episode may be the most emotionally charged, it’s also noticeably the shortest of the series. That’s not to say it’s not worth your money, since everything you’ve worked toward comes to a head here—but, clearly, not everything can burn at the high this particular episode does for as long as the previous episodes ran.

Aside from the emotionally charged story, this episode also features some new and tweaked gameplay elements that count on players knowing the controls. Fewer prompts and more frantic instances tested my reflexes more than any previous episode—while also heightening the tension of the events transpiring around me while I looked for Clementine.

At the end of the day, enough cannot be said about Telltale’s The Walking Dead, whether you’ve been with it from the beginning like myself and downloading the final episode today or purchasing the fully compiled season on disc on December 4th. It isn’t the most involved of videogames in terms of gameplay, but it’s truly an accomplishment in game storytelling—and this episode only continues what Telltale started while leaving plenty of questions swirling around to ensure the already confirmed second season will kick off with a bang. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, point-and-click adventure games, or just intricate storytelling, this series is a must-have and should be in everyone’s game-of-the-year discussions. You’d be doing yourself a disservice not playing this game.

SUMMARY:  Right from the start, this episode cranks up the tension to 11. Unfortunately, this may also be why it burns itself out as the shortest episode of the series. However, it’s also one of the most satisfying, as everything you’ve built up to finally comes to a head—and in the end, you’ll do whatever you can to protect Clementine in this accomplishment in videogame storytelling.

  • THE GOOD: Leaves itself open enough for a second season.
  • THE BAD: Shortest episode of the series.
  • THE UGLY: Human nature.

SCORE: 9.0

The Walking Dead: Episode 5—No Time Left is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), and PC. Primary version reviewed was for XBLA.