The Walking Dead – The Final Season Episode 1 Review

Arguably Telltale’s bread and butter series, The Walking Dead has proven time and time again that Telltale has the capacity to truly evoke a wide range of emotions from its players. I’ve been hard on Telltale over the years, and I firmly believe that my criticisms have been justified. Their take on The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and The Wolf Among Us has been, by and large, nothing short of outstanding. However, we’ve also had to endure some piss poor (more recent) work, such as Minecraft: Story Mode season one and two. Now, here we sit The Walking Dead: The Final Season.

It’s the beginning of the end, so to speak, meaning that Telltale are going to need to pull out all of the stops to take their fan-favorite series out with a bang. Series regular Clementine is back in the proverbial spotlight, only this time, there’s a significant age bump across the board. The series starts by showing a brief flashback of her story so far, before pulling the timeline to present day to an older, maturer protagonist. The Final Season will span a total of four episodes, the shortest in the series so far by one episode, not including the three part mini-series – The Walking Dead: Michonne.

First and foremost, I’ll point out that this episode has a solid running time to it. Perhaps this is a product of chopping the series into four parts rather than five, but if this episode length is maintained throughout, it’s a wise design choice from where I’m standing – lasting between two to three hours in total. What’s immediately striking about episode one is that the scenario almost mirrors the events of the first series, being that much like how Lee cared over Clementine as a young child, Clementine is now caring after AJ, who is roughly the same age as Clementine was to begin with.

It creates that vision that I’m sure we’ve all thought about. Will Clementine fall to the same fate as Lee did? It certainly would be a touching, fitting end, if indeed predictable. The gameplay, despite its refinements, remains largely the same. There’s some very well implemented additions to the formula, but for the most part, this is everything you would expect to see from a Telltale game; tough dialogue options, light exploration and some combat and action sequences to carry to story along. That’s what we’ve come to expect from Telltale, but what’s new exactly?

I’ll start by praising the game’s visuals. There’s much more emphasis across the entirety of the game than its predecessor series’ combined. The level of detail here in comparison to prior installations is remarkable. I wont go so far as to say that The Final Season will blow your graphic-loving socks off, but there’s no denying the game of its stunning design. Everything from each character and walker to the environmental and level design is top-notch, to say the least. The game also sports more controlled movement in place of that stiff interaction movement from series gone by.

The controls are still somewhat stiff and clunky from time to time, but nowhere near as much as that old cursor-determined functionality. It’s hard to go into the episode’s plot without ruining anything. Though, what I will say is that the opening episode does a stellar job at introducing its characters to you, laying down a compelling arch and then ending on a note that will have you screaming for episode two. It’s far too early to judge the final run, but it’s certainly off to a strong start. That said, Telltale have a history of starting big and then falling downhill, so let’s hope that’s not the case here.

The episode has you making a series of nerve-wracking decisions as you move through, and given the dynamic of the duo, as well as the world they inhabit, it makes for some very tense situations and outcomes. I have to commend the voice acting and the writing here, which is by far the most impressive that I’ve witnessed from Telltale in a long while. The same can be said about the episode’s pacing and its many, many terrifying sequences. Several times did I find myself sat on the edge of my seat, holding my breath. That’s a big compliment to the devs, folks, a big one.

QTEs make a return, but there’s less persistence on this front and slightly more emphasis on freedom – such as the ability to stun a walker rather than kill it, should you have something sharp and pointy at hand. There’s also a decent amount of response time afforded to the player when those QTEs do pop up, which is a nice touch. Furthermore, the performance is on point. Unlike Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy (and a few others), the framerate here is consistent from start to finish, which is something I was most concerned about before diving in. It seems as though this criticism was finally acknowledged.

There’s also a cool addition at the end of the episode that relays how each character felt throughout segments of play, which could be something to finally bolster that choice-vs-consequence feature that Telltale relied on several years back, but never meaningfully followed up in other series’. On top of that, players can collect items that are showcased in Clementine’s and AJ’s new home, which (I guess) is used as a means to make the player feel more grounded in the long run. Only time will tell how these are built upon, but I have to say, I love where Telltale’s head is at right now.

Conclusion

The Walking Dead: The Final Season is off to a fantastic start. Telltale looks to have finally returned to true form here, serving up a well paced story that’s thrilling, engaging and consistently tense. Credit also needs to be given to the writing and the voice acting, which is the best we’ve seen from Telltale for quite some time. If this quality is maintained, the series is certainly set to go out with a bang.

This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.

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Good
  • Sets up the final season wonderfully.
  • Solid gameplay mechanics throughout.
  • Frightening, exhilarating and consistently tense.
  • Excellent voice acting and writing.
  • Stunning visuals and design.
Bad
  • Can be clunky at times.
  • It's nearly the end...
8.4
Great
Gameplay - 8
Graphics - 8.5
Audio - 9
Longevity - 8
Written by
Howdy folks! Now, as of July 23rd, 2019, I no longer operate here at Xbox Tavern. It was one hell of a ride; creating this, building this, and operating it for several years, but, we all hit a proverbial point that encourages us to move on, and that's what I've done; handing the reigns to the very capable Jamie. Want to keep in touch? My Gamertag is Kaloudz Peace! Love to you all, Mark!

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