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The Game Effect Review

The Walking Dead: No Time Left Review

TellTale Seals the Deal

By Tanner Hoisington on 11/24/2012
 Editor's Note: This review contains spoilers for episodes 1-4, but not episode 5. Because it is the final episode and the first reviewed by Tanner, this will double as a reflection for the season as a whole. 

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Starved For Help

Whenever I hear friends or classmates talk about AMC's  The Walking Dead, I always have to be "that guy" who feels the need to get on my soapbox and tell them they are wrong for liking the show. I explain that the series is actually based off graphic novels that the creators took too many liberties with to the show's detriment. When veteran adventure game developer Telltale Games announced they acquired the rights to the universe just as the show veered off course, I was a bit apprehensive about Telltale's ability to do it justice. Now that I have finished Episode 5, I am almost scared to return to the books because I am so emotionally invested with Lee and the rest of the survivors that Rick Grimes has been put on the back burner.

No Time Left

The last 20 minutes or so of Episode 4 can be best described as an emotional slap in the face. Clementine, the once stranger now surrogate daughter who protagonist Lee Everett has fought to protect for months, is missing. Lee was bitten by a Walker and has already started showing the symptoms of turning, and to top it off, the mysterious man messing with him over the walkie-talkie has Clementine. Episode 5 picks up immediately after last month's conclusion, and it is made clear that anyone who was foolish to believe there was a chance of a happy ending should now abandon hope.

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Long Road Ahead

"The game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play." That is the promise Telltale has made since the beginning of Episode 1. If there is anything that the  Mass Effect 3 controversy has taught us, choice in games usually means differing experiences, not differing outcomes.  The Walking Dead is another example of that style of story design, but it is implemented perfectly. At some point, too many branching paths leads to a game development nightmare and a weak narrative. Many gamers may be disappointed by the lack of true branching endings in Episode 5, but I wasn't.

Because your choices throughout the series still make a difference in the outcome of the story. Episode 4 proved that dialogue options drastically affected your relationships with other characters, and Episode 5 takes a few breaks from the action to reflect on some of the choices you made. Assuming that you've survived thus far with Omid, Krista, and Kenny, a passing mention of the incident with Larry in the meat locker can go a number of ways, and the writers take advantage of the slowed pace to give players time to reflect on the moral implications of those decisions. Even though there are clearly parts of the episode that will be nearly identical for everyone, these moments are what makes it feel like what I have chosen to say and do really has impacted the world around Lee.

Around Every Corner

The rest of the episode is the action-packed blend of light-puzzle solving, quick time events, and heated discussion fans have come to expect. But with Episode 5 being the shortest episode yet, it is faster than ever before. The bite on Lee's arm has added an extra sense of urgency to finding Clementine, and as a result Lee has the option to say and do some pretty extreme things, even by his standards. I found myself using the silence route more than ever before, and based off the closing statistics at the end the major choices are the most divisive among players since Episode 1.

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Just like with all of the other games built off the Telltale Tool engine,  The Walking Dead has suffered technical issues since the first episode: frustrating load times, poor lip syncing, inconsistent audio, etc. But Episode 5 had by far the least technical issues of the series, showing that the developers have learned from their mistakes as they progressed in the season. As always, the voice acting was phenomenal and the sound design was well implemented.

Overall Impression

Telltale has proven a lot with the conclusion of the first season of  The Walking Dead games, not the least of which is that the episodic distribution model is still relevant for video games. The month I had to wait between episodes 4 and 5 only made me more desperate to save Clementine before it was too late, and they have been closely listening to feedback and looking to make improvements. In my opinion, each episode was better than the one that preceded it.

Telltale has also proven that after the critical failure of  Jurassic Park, they can still make great games with even better stories. Each episode of  The Walking Dead has left me lost in my thoughts for a good hour after the credits roll, and without spoiling how this one ended, I couldn't focus on anything else other than Lee and Clementine. If you want to be a part of the discussion of the future of video games, you need to play  The Walking Dead before anything else this year. With such an emotional and engaging story that is refreshing for the medium, Telltale's risk was well worth the reward. Without a doubt, this series is my Game of the Year.   
The Good
  • Excellent Story and Writing
  • Great Voice Acting
  • Solid Sound and Art Design
The Bad
  • Could have been a little longer
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tanHoisington on November 24, 2012
Because I am isuper  /iclever, I titled each section with episode names. So just imagine the final section is called A New Day.
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