The Walking Dead graphic novels have been one thing above all – consistently unpredictable. Whenever you thought a character was safe, it turned out they really weren’t. Whenever you thought the survivors had a situation under control, a new threat or some more zombies showed up to prove you wrong.
The latest game in Telltale Games’ series of games based on The Walking Dead franchise is equally unpredictable. Considering the fact that this is a season finale, you might be expecting a crescendo to all of the frantic action that the four previous games in Season 2 have built up. But you would be wrong. The Walking Dead: Season Two Episode 5 – No Going Back is low on the action, and focusses more on building tension through dialogues and storytelling.
The zombies, which have been the ever-present sword that hangs perilously over the survivors’ heads, don’t make too much of an appearance in this game. They’re mostly relegated to the background, and only pop up very rarely. The story however, proceeds into unexpected territory, and the way the different elements of the plot move and coalesce together into the stunning and emotionally loaded climax keeps the game interesting throughout.
However, there are a few things about the game that are a little weird, in retrospect. For example, the game begins with a wild, frantic shootout that is completely out of character for the tone of the series. The Walking Dead has always kept its action grounded in reality, even against the fantastical scenario of a zombie apocalypse. However, this shootout seems like it would be at home in a Tarantino western more than it would in this franchise. Thankfully, the fiasco is salvaged in part because by the end of it, the scene devolves into something very brutal and grim, which is fitting for a scene in The Walking Dead.
People in this world have rarely been entirely trustworthy. Given a long enough timeline, most of them have displayed the frantic desperation that overrides traditional honor and friendship, especially when facing such an impossibly bleak situation. However, there are some jarring character moments in this game. For example, when you as the protagonist Clementine make some choices, the repercussions may cause fallouts between people she may have previously considered friends. While in theory, this is a legitimate way to introduce conflict into a story, it needs to feel organic. Some of the characters’ reactions to choices you make are either wildly out of character, or completely out of proportion, and they feel like artificial attempts to turn people against each other.
The Game Play:
By and large, however, No Going Back tells a solid story. Clementine has matured over the course of this season, and her relationships with her friends have matured too. The moments where she bonds and indulges in heart-to-heart conversations with her friends are some of the most moving moments in the series. One scene in particular, which takes place at a campfire, is an absolute standout. You’ll know it when you see it.
Quiet, introspective moments have always been tinged with tension in The Walking Dead. Because if things have been quiet for too long, and people have been getting along, it usually means something is going to go really, really wrong. This isn’t Sesame Street, after all. This tension is fantastically realized in the game, as you are constantly expecting something to happen while indulging in the most mundane of activities. Whether the group is out for a food or supply run, or simply patrolling an area, you have the constant, nagging feeling that out of nowhere, more gun-toting thugs or zombies could arrive. This tension is what carries most of this game along, because there aren’t that many action scenes in it. The most prominent one is an attack where zombies come up on the group while they’re trying to cross a river covered with thin ice. Not surprisingly, there are several tragedies that occur as a result of this attack. This constant buildup finally explodes in the climax, where Clementine is faced with an incredibly tough test. Her choices will determine who will live, and who will die. It’s a suitably fitting end to the season, and you’ll be crossing your fingers hoping the next game comes around soon. Season Three will have big shoes to fill after the thoroughly excellent Season Two.
No Going Back mostly succeeds at doing this as well, barring a few mistakes here and there. The cliffhanger ending is a fantastic way to end the season, and really test the mettle of a character that we have seen grow tremendously through the past few games. Morality is always questioned in this franchise, and the decisions you will have to make will make you ponder, long after you’ve finished playing the game. What would you have done if you were in this situation? What does humanity really mean when death is a constant companion? The Walking Dead muses upon these and many other difficult philosophical questions, and does it well. If you’ve played the other games in Season Two, No Going Back is a fitting conclusion. If you’re just finding out about The Walking Dead, you might want to check out the previous games in the season as well, because they’re really, really good.
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