Saying goodbye is difficult. And yet, as we come to the last episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, that’s exactly what we’ll need to do. Episode 4, titled Take Us Back, does just as it implies. It’s not just taking you “home” or towards any “conclusion,” but it also recalls past events in a series fans have grown fond of for the last seven years. The story of Clementine and AJ wraps up in a satisfyingly spectacular manner, filled with emotionally impactful moments and themes that resonate.
The Story So Far
Telltale’s The Walking Dead game series has often focused on your relationships with characters, and The Final Season is a testament to that. At the end of the third episode — you can see our review here — we were left with an explosive cliffhanger, with the fates of Clementine, AJ, and their friends left ambiguous.
Take Us Back opens just where we left off. Lilly’s gang is in disarray after your rescue attempt. Their ship is burning just as the undead walkers go in for the kill. A few setpiece sequences happen which lead to your reunion with the other survivors.
From here, the group splits up while chased by the undead and even a familiar face out for vengeance. Your relationships with various characters are explored and some choices you make will have grave consequences.
Choices And Consequences
It isn’t a Walking Dead game, or even one handcrafted in the past by Telltale if there weren’t any major decisions to make. There are a few of these in Take Us Back and you can even compare your choices with what the rest of the player base picked. Some call back to your decisions in previous episodes, such as Clementine’s love interest. Others are more direct, such as your responses to Clementine’s ward, AJ.
Clementine has acted as an adoptive mother or a big sister to AJ these past few years. There’s even a nifty flashback that adds the final piece to the puzzle. As such, Alvin Jr. has always looked up to our heroine, asking for her approval, seeking a boost of confidence, or just being teased as a “goofball.”
Growing up is hard. A child raising another kid in a post-apocalyptic world is damn near impossible, yet Clementine has been built up as such. Her characterization in the games has evolved from the naive and innocent girl once protected by Lee, to the hardened guardian that she’s become to AJ and her group. At no point is this more meaningful than when the game explores morality and upbringing while lost in a cave.
Clementine seeks to aid AJ’s development, but doing so in a brutal and unforgiving world creates that conflict. How do you talk to a kid about murder when you’re shooting “bad people” in the head left and right? How do you find resolution in letting a child decide right from wrong when your character is just a teenager?
QTEs Aren’t Cute
The Walking Dead: The Final Season explores these themes and more. Growing pains, maturity, leadership roles, sacrifice, hope, and even young love. The narrative and writing for the final episode are wonderfully created by the people at Still Not Bitten and Skybound Games after Telltale’s fall from grace.
Sadly, the game’s biggest shortcomings will come from the series’ own mechanics. Quick-time events (QTEs) and short bursts of action make for a rather tense but uninspired experience. Take Us Back has loads of these, and it feels like the developers just tried to throw as many as they could. Unfortunately, that also means you’re playing a game to listen to the story or make decisions, all while simply waiting for the next action sequence.
If ever Skybound decides to make more Telltale-esque games, I can’t help but worry that we’ll see the same old sequences and setpieces, and the need to press “Shift+E” or “Q” immediately. It didn’t help matters that if you fail one attempt, you’d have to rewatch a short scene that preceded it. Also, you still can’t skip any cutscenes at all if you wish to replay the episodes.
Length can also be an issue. Take Us Back clocked in at just a little less than two hours, although you can still replay it to discover other outcomes. I’m not enthused at all about episodic releases of content as opposed to a full game right from the beginning, especially if it’s story-driven.
In terms of technical factors, I did not experience a single crash or slowdown. Everything chugged along just fine even while using Epic’s launcher. One downside, however, was the lack of a screenshot key which meant having to use a separate overlay or just copy-pasting a screengrab to a program.
Artistically, characters and environments are still beautifully rendered in cel-shaded detail. The audio remains crisp as you hear gunshots and the “splotch” of impaled heads. The music is also fitting, from somber tones to a creepy moment when a villain sings while leading a zombie herd. Even the way the credits were presented had a touch of creativity.
Although I wasn’t too impressed with the game’s mechanics, the story and the writing made up for that inherent flaw. Take Us Back, and, indeed, The Walking Dead: The Final Season in its entirety managed to cap off a journey like no other.
From resonant themes delivered profoundly, to poignant reminders of past moments in the franchise, The Walking Dead: The Final Season and its last episode have it all. The story of Clementine deserved to have a fitting end, and I’m happy to have seen that conclusion.