Beginning with Season 1 of the Walking Dead back in 2012, developer TellTale proved themselves to be expertly capable of creating rich, carefully crafted stories using well established IPs. Since then TellTale has tackled everything from Minecraft to Game of Thrones and has quite obviously left their mark on the modern day adventure game, a veritable roller coaster with the illusion of choice peppered throughout. That has been their formula, and by golly it works, at least for me.
TellTale’s The Walking Dead has been, undoubtedly, my favorite contribution to their extensive catalogue of products (which seemingly grows larger every time I look away). The Walking Dead Season 3 has been the newest entry in the series and it is undeniable that TellTale has learned a new trick with every game they’ve released.
The most quintessential aspect of any TellTale game is the story. I’ve noticed with each subsequent TellTale release that The Walking Dead Season 1 was the pinnacle of that TellTale formula coupled alongside some of the most gripping writing I’ve ever seen in a Video Game, and while The Walking Dead Season 3 doesn’t hit the same marks I can say that it’s still deeply rewarding.
The most striking difference coming into Season 3 was the fact that Clementine would not be the Player Character for the Season. Instead, we are thrust into the role of Javier Garcia, a former professional baseball player whose Father passes away on the day of the outbreak. The opening scene in the pre-apocalypse is an intriguing scene that establishes a lot of Javier’s prior behavior and his relationship with the individual family members. It’s a quiet, emotional scene driven by a collective grief instilled into each of the character as they wrestle with the father’s passing. Obviously, since this is a Walking Dead game the grief and mourning doesn’t last too long before Javier’s Father turns into one of those feisty zamboni’s that crave human flesh and chaos. It’s a hectic opener and a hell of way to introduce to the cast.
Javier is a great character and an excellent addition to The Walking Dead cast. He may not have the heart or silky smooth voice of Lee but he’s still compelling and interesting, with enough charisma to boot. Clementine also makes a return in a more limited role than the previous seasons. Times have been tough for her after the events of Season 2. Interlaced throughout the main story are some excellent flashback moments that serve as an epilogue to whatever events you choose in Season 2. These flashbacks were easily my favorite part of the episodes, for however limited they are, since they allow you to embody Clementine as horrific events from her past are revealed.
I’ll stay light on specific story spoilers as I feel it would be an absolute injustice to reveal the most important aspect of any TellTale game, but I will say that as the episodes progressed I felt myself caring less about the overall story and more about the interpersonal relationships between the cast. The Walking Dead fails for me when it devolves into an all-out war scenario between two groups. I care about personal drama and how people react to the crazy world they now live in, and how they cope with that, rather than the all-out, guns blazing war movie bonanza that the most recent season of the Walking Dead TV show has gone down. Season 3 of The Walking Dead is taking similar cues from the TV show and I can’t help but feel that it waters down what made the first two seasons so good. The threat is no longer the Walkers, it’s now The New Frontier, the outright evil group that has subtitled this newest season. There’s still a ton of great character moments but the overarching New Frontier storyline is just plain lame. Hopefully they can pick up the pace in the next three seasons.
Something else that was immediately noticeable in the opening moments and persisted throughout the rest of the episodes was the significant upgrade that TellTale made to their engine. While it still maintains that traditional TellTale art style, everything looks crisper and cleaner. Characters are more detailed and environments are able to accommodate more objects in a scene. Another improvement is the camera work, it seems that TellTale actually spent the time to craft an actual scene with proper character blocking and excellent cinematography. There was a craft to the cinematography that I felt was absent in previous TellTale game. Deliberate attention was paid to what was previously an oversight and I couldn’t be happier. The experience drastically deviated from simply playing a TellTale game to feeling and experiencing the game.
The Ties That Bind Us are two strong entries into The Walking Dead franchise and I’m intrigued to see where these characters’ path leads us. It may have its faults but overall I felt satisfied with what I played. All I can say is, I’m excited with where the story was left off and I can’t wait to see what happens next time on… The Walking Dead.
Was that lame? I feel like it was a bit lame.
4 out of 5
+ Amazing Characters
+ Great Addition to The Walking Dead Series
+ Technical Improvement for TellTale
– Weak Main Story
– Some Graphical Hitches