Friday, 27 June 2014

Clementine will remember...

Back in 2012 when I finished playing the final chapter of Telltale Game's The Walking Dead I was an emotional wreck by the end. I know I wasn't alone judging by the critical acclaim the game received and the volume of articles dedicated to Lee and Clementine's final scene together. This was one of the best story lines I've ever seen in my 30 years of gaming and it's one that still resonates. I frequently find myself mentally revisiting the game and the decisions I made while playing it well over a year later.

This week I finally bought Season 2 of the game after some significant delay in my decisison-making process. Sony's PSN deal of the week meant that the game was under £6 so it was too good a deal to pass up.

There were a couple of reasons (other than price!) why I have been holding back from buying and playing Season 2, despite having bought the 400 Days DLC. The main reason is that Telltale were keen to continue on from the decisions each player made in Season 1, and that due to a twist of fate, my final game save from that season was erased accidentally.

This meant that in order for my decisions to have any legacy in Season 2, I'd have to play the final chapter of Season 1 over again. In order for my gaming experience of distress and sorrow to be optimal, I'd need to revisit the traumatic Season 1 finale again. However, there's no guarantee that the decisions I'd make this time around would perfectly match my second play through.

This inability to guarantee the original trauma could be repeated was off-putting in some ways. Other than not really wanting to revisit around 3 hours worth of gameplay just to be able to play Season 2 (time is precious since becoming a father!), the fact that I might not make the exact same decisions that left me so emotionally bereft the first time around also stood in the way.

I needn't have let this nagging doubt paralyse me as much as it did. As I loaded up Season 2 and the game scanned for my missing save file, I was confronted with a  message that suggested that the gaps would be filled by the game rather than my decisions. This forced me to revisit the final chapter of Season 1 again - and I'm glad I did. I took this opportunity to changes some of the decisions I initially took first time around - in order to see how little or great an impact they had on the game experience. For example, my initial play through saw me take Lee's arm off in homage to Rick in the graphic novels. This time, however, I kept the arm and it allowed for a very minor modification to the gameplay. I also saved Clementine from the trauma of finishing Lee off.

Ultimately, the decision tree forces the player along the pre-scripted narrative path with only minor adjustments. Even though I know what was coming, I still felt the heart-wrenching impact of my decisions and now I'm content enough to know that my actions as Lee will have some legacy for Clementine.

And yes, I did choke back a few wet ones. Again.