Thanks to Skybound Games for Providing a Copy for the Purposes of Coverage.
After nearly eight years, the story of one of The Walking Dead’s most iconic characters, even in the comics and television programs, is drawing to a definitive close. But also reaching the finish line is unfortunately the remnants of what used to be Telltale Games. After going essentially bankrupt before the launch of the second episode in this season, Telltalelaid off all of its staff with no severance pay and the remainder of this project was considered doomed. But just a few weeks later, Skybound, the parent company of The Walking Dead brand itself, stepped in and called to its still in infancy stage division Skybound Games to round up the team and end Clementine’s story right. And in that regard with all the heftiness that the fans of this season has gone on, this final episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is everything that they have hoped it would be and much, much more.
It has all the hallmarks of a Telltale episode, complete with warts in the form of a few frame rate stutters and the sometimes predictable storytelling. But with that template set firmly in stone, it allows this episode to be a fitting farewell to a studio that has certainly produced its highs and lows but has remained true to its integral essence. And even more than that, it is thankfully a meaningful and satisfying conclusion to Clementine’s story despite being plagued with plot holes and a technical performance that just can’t keep up with the personal story at play.
Kicking off after the climactic conclusion and cliffhanger of the preceding episode, Clementine and company must escape the exploding ship, launching them into a frightening and tense journey to get home. Identifying it as a certainly rare outlier in Telltale’s truly massive portfolio, decisions have serious and immediate consequences and are propelled and meaningfully linked to previous episodes, making the possibility of binging the entire season far more enjoyable and likely. Like the best of Telltale’s choices, the decisions the player has to endure are morally rooted and grounded. Even though a certain decision would lead to a notably better outcome, in the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a right answer, making the tension impeccable.
When discussing the gameplay, it’s a section that is always lackluster, particularly within these choice-based narrative titles. However, Telltale, now Skybound Games has been making genuine efforts to evolve the system from the standard “Pick A for this option” style. In fact, towards the end, excluding spoilers, that system of choice making is flipped entirely on its head as the final story beats are naturally and organically chosen and doled out based on your previous choices. The same third-person action system from previous episodes is present here and outside of one frustrating instance, it worked fine. The refreshing fragrance of the system was extinguished by the second episode and the scenarios that Skybound throws the players are repetitive and designed similarly. They rely almost entirely on either shooting or stunning walkers using the buggy and unresponsive ridicule, controlled by the right analog stick. But these issues feel like minor flaws at best when examining the grand picture and the achievement that the talented group of developers have made.
Clementine’s journey has come to an end that is bittersweet yet richly satisfying. Outside of its decisive conclusion feeling more like a strained ending rather than a cohesive one, Skybound Games has finished her journey and ultimately the entire studio of Telltale Games with a personal and meaningful note. It doesn’t rely on the bombastic nature of what some developers would resort to. It doesn’t rely on cheap tricks to manipulate your emotions as all the emotions in this episode are genuine. Take Us Back is Telltale’s legacy and I am extremely proud and satisfied, despite all of its frequent warts, of what this studio accomplished. Thank you Telltale for creating these stories for us.
Clementine, now a fierce and capable survivor, has reached the final chapter in her journey. In this gripping and emotional final episode, she’ll have to fight her greatest battle yet. You will define your relationships, fight the undead, and determine how Clementine’s story ends.
THE WALKING DEAD: THE FINAL SEASON EPISODE 4 - TAKE US BACK is Available Now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on the Epic Games Store.