Erik Fattrosso ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writing
It’s been over two years since Telltale Games began The Walking Dead Game. In that time, players were faced with an incredible amount of heartbreaking and difficult choices, with each episode seeming to get more and more depressing. That little girl Clementine isn’t so little anymore, as she’s suffered more hardships than almost any other character by this point. The new episode, season 2 episode 5, continues to make her (and us) miserable; and I’m glad to say that no other episode has caused quite as much emotional distress as this one.
Starting immediately after the end of the last episode, things get heated fast and never slow down. After the initial thrill things do calm down as far as action is concerned, but don’t confuse calm with boring. This lull in the action is an incredible showcase of the characters, and does a fantastic job of reminding you exactly what your relationships are with each of them. With rising tensions between group members you’re frequently left not knowing what to do, having probably been friendly with them previously. It’s because of the connections that you have with each of these characters that every argument is so meaningful. You won’t want to side with one person over the other when they’ve been two of your closest companions on this journey, but you often won’t have a choice in the matter. A large issue early on in this second season was the quickness that characters were being killed off. It was hard to care too much about anyone when they hardly had any screen time. No Going Back solves that issue by smartly leaving you with characters that have been around almost since the beginning of the season and releasing the throttle on the death engine, if only for a little bit.
The final act of the episode, and the season, puts a focus on the increasingly unstable Kenny, a character that’s been around since the very first episode of season one. Things get pretty complicated when you’re thrown between him and a newcomer, and it gets harder and harder to look past Kenny’s mental and emotional problems when they’re bringing more problems to the group. This all leads up to an absolutely incredible climax that strikes an emotional chord thanks to Telltales top-notch writing. The whole episode is very well written and there are a few lines towards the conclusion that are utterly unforgettable.
With 4 different endings available, the choices this time around are anything but artificial. In the past, and especially in the last few episodes, it at times became abundantly clear that players were only being given the illusion of choice. Does Clementine save a certain character or let them die? It probably didn’t really matter because if they were meant to die they would have, just through a different means. Every choice that you make in No Way Back feels like it means something. Players are left continuously wondering what would have happened had they made a different choice. More so than any of the previous 9 episodes, No Way Back really does deserve multiple playthroughs.
The episode isn’t without fault, however. As wonderful as the conflict with Kenny was, there’s a point in the middle of the episode that will have you uttering profanities every time he opened his mouth. There’s a line that a character can cross when they go from interesting to downright aggravating, and Kenny very often plays it a little bit too close. Past that, the episode still has the same technical issues that every other episode has had. Brief screen freezes, dialogue becoming out of sync, and long load times are all commonplace and it’s a real wonder at this point why Telltale hasn’t started to iron them out.
If you’ve played through nine episodes already, you don’t need me to tell you to finish the second season. But for those of you skeptical that this finale won’t be able to live up the heights set by last season, there’s no reason to worry. There’s no doubt that Season Two has had a few stumbles over its five episode run, but with such an incredible and satisfying ending it’s tough to not forgive them. The ends in this case really do justify the means.
Overall Grade: A+