The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode One 'Done Running' Review
The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode One 'Done Running' Review
by Dylan Blight
A secluded school might finally be Clementine’s chance for a home, but protecting it will mean sacrifice.
Telltale Games struck gold with the first season of The Walking Dead which released between April and November in 2012. It was praised from basically everyone for its characters and writing; introducing us to Clementine, a scared girl alone in her home at the start of the apocalypse and Lee a convict who has escaped in the commotion. As their relationship fostered in the zombie apocalypse into one of gaming's most memorable relationships, it's hard to think of Clementine's story coming to an end. But two seasons, two spin-offs and six years later and it’s time for Telltale to finally wrap up their time with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead world (until they decide not too) and also give us an ending to Clementine's story who players grew attached to years ago as a little girl facing the trials and tribulations of growing up fast in the face of the world's end.
Giving the finale a very ominous tone of the unambiguous ending for Clementine is the opening montage of events from the first game till now. Rather oddly I loaded in my save file (the same one I’ve carried from Season One on my PS3) and I still had to pick character decisions in the opening video like Lee’s last words to Clem, but shouldn’t that be on my save? Isn’t that the point? Although, it was laughable how little time was spent on the Third Season in this montage, which I only recently played and found to be a huge disappointment.
‘Done Running’, the first episode of The Final Season, picks up years after we last saw Clem in the finale of Season Three. She’s now much older and has been travelling with AJ for a time in a car that had me feeling like Clem was now in her own version of Mad Max: Road Warrior. If you recall, however, Season Three ended with Clem on her way to a community she had been told AJ was sent to by The New Frontier, and we never see her meet up with him, or make their (hopefully) heartwarming reunion. I don’t feel like a flashback is necessary to explain everything that went down when she found AJ, but after playing through Season Three it does feel, at the same time, like something fans of the franchise are owed at this point.
Clem and AJ eventually meet up with a group of strangers who turn out to all be kids ranging from assumably around Clem’s age to only a little older than AJ. With these kids running a school fortified against the zombies for so many years by themselves, they make for interesting characters, especially as you learn of their losses. However, as with all previous seasons, it is hard not to automatically start looking for who the secret psycho in the bunch is and let’s be real, it’s a trope for zombie apocalypse movies and games that is apparently inescapable.
With ‘Done Running’, running at what seems like one of Telltale's longest episodes at around two and a half hours, when you’re approaching ninety-minutes without something going wrong yet you begin to wonder when the second apocalypse is going to kick-off. It’s a slow-burn to get Clem acquainted with the new characters who are all thankfully interesting enough to carry the conversations. But the time is used mostly to build the relationship between Clem and AJ. Although the two have a history in the game, the player does not, and building how your Clementine will be with AJ, was for me, the most enjoyable part of the premiere episode. Tickling AJ to get a laugh; choosing whether I was telling him off for using swear words; helping him learn to apologise; my Clem is most definitely a mother figure, but I’m playing her also as a friend. You can play Clem a lot harder on AJ and I wonder if how stern you are on AJ will end up being one of the biggest choices when we come to the final episode.
AJ himself is the most interesting, adorable and scary element of The Final Season. He’s a boy born into a zombie apocalypse with no idea about the world before the apocalypse other than what he's told. Clem teaches him to survive, but all the while making sure he’s aware he should always keep one last bullet for himself -- it’s dark stuff, he’s a kid, but it shows Clementine's dark and brutal upbringing rubbing off on him. AJ’s inept social skills are also interesting as he struggles to socially work with other people, especially the youngest kid we meet at the School, a boy named Tennessee. AJ grows an attachment to Tennessee, but also has no idea how rude he is being at times -- like when taking a toy and claiming it’s now his, simply because he’s holding the item. Nine-tenths of the law may have worked prior to the zombie apocalypse but AJ has grown up knowing nothing more than simply taking what you can to survive, and holding something must make it yours, right? He can at times seem like a terror -- which is something we heard about AJ in Season Three, though never meeting him -- he is also a child growing up without the normalities to learn even the most basic things as sharing, caring for others or how to apologise or talk to people.
Telltale have updated The Walking Dead for its final season using the more recent ‘Telltale Tool’ which you would have seen the advantages of if you played Batman: The Enemy Within. It may not be a new engine, but the improvements over previous seasons are significant. Not only did the episode run a lot smoother, it also looked better as the foreground now blends off into a more comic-book style of pencil strokes and the animations of characters now offering more subtle details and true feeling to their words.
You’ll have to get used to walking around with a new closer over-the-shoulder-camera now and combat that’s happening in-gameplay, not just quick-time-events. Approaching a zombie you can press circle to stun them and triangle to kill them. A greatly appreciated change that makes you feel more a part of the game than simply watching an animated television series. Of course, QTEs are still ever pertinent, but you now have moments that make you feel like you're actually playing the game.
An odd decision to add collectables for The Final Season was made which adds some replayability to get them all, but the idea of Clem carting around a huge skull of an animal for no reason when she’s got to be able to run from killer zombies was enough to make me wish they didn’t exist.
The premiere of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is a slow burn to set up new relationships and help you decide what kind of maternal figure you want to be for AJ. The last thirty minutes does pick up into a thunderous and gloomy ending that sets into motion the next three episodes fantastically though, and I can’t wait to see Clementine and AJ’s journey through to the finish.
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC