Updated: Jan 20, 2019
When it comes to the second episode of most seasons from seasoned developer Telltale Games, they are usually one of the weaker installments of the entire series. If that assumption should be applied to Suffer the Children, the second episode in what is the final leg of Clementine’s heart wrenching journey, beginning in 2012, does lay a promising finish to the season, even if this installment is both drab and lacking of both originality and cohesive storytelling. But with the recent closure of Telltale Games and the growing uncertainty of Clementine’s story ever being concluded, it ultimately places this second episode in a desperate situation as it is intended to be the finale that its developers did not make it to be. And with such a tight expectation, it ultimately falls short, highlighting what caused the progressive downfall of the narrative-driven developer and creating a bittersweet note that is neither satisfying or wanted.
In the scope of a larger story and arc, this second episode accomplishes what its writers clearly envisioned it to. It effectively is a set-up episode as it leaves and develops both characters and plot threads to presumably be used in future episodes for great effect. Following the shocking events of episode one, both Clementine and AJ find themselves in a tense situation as they are both hated and cast out by where they usually called home. After an unexpected and disastrous with a familiar face from episode one, the episode begins to swing with full force, ricocheting into a pace that carries steadily until the second half of the episode. Characters are introduced at a monstrously fast pace, an attribute that usually would benefit most game releases. However, with such a narratively-driven predecessor as the first episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, it feels both unnecessary and jarring. The first episode leaned into characterizing and fully fleshing out a central roster of characters. In almost the first fifteen minutes, this second episode almost completely removes that progress with a story point that is clumsily ignored. New characters, such as the mysterious character entitled “James,” never leave a lasting impact, even including a returning character from season one who strives to wreak havoc on our central protagonists.
However, after the adrenaline rush of the first half, the episode finally begins to find its groove and even footing. It attempts to repair on what the first episode built and what the first half of the second episode destroyed in its juvenile storytelling. Both Violet and Louis, primary side characters in the first episode, are given full development, depending on which character the player leans towards. It’s an interesting attribute, with the player being given more freedom on how side characters are portrayed. In fact, it goes far deeper than any player may expect with Clementine’s sexuality even being able to be decided by the player. However, outside of these choices that do prove somewhat meaningful, there is no denying that there is no other choice that feels half as remote. The final choice of the entire episode, usually a pivotal moment of the season, ended up feeling washed-out, clichéd and above all disappointing as the consequences of my actions felt virtual and hollow.
When it comes to gameplay, it was the aspect that was the most surprising and impressive of the first episode. Most of the systems are continued here, however there is a much greater emphasis on quick-time events and exploration, the latter of which is decimated by a poorly aligned camera angle that is far too jittery and sensitive. These elements unfortunately detract from the progress that Telltale made with the first episode, and with such an apparent appeasement of innovation, it becomes unsurprising why sales for their titles have been so low recently.
As a whole, this second episode is expected to do accomplish wonders. By having to continue and set the groundwork of future episodes proves to be a task that it is capable of. But not once were any of the plot points or threads either shocking or even half-original. It may have gleams of brightness due to some excellent characterization that feels truly controlled by the player. However, it ultimately still falls short of the expectations that players will set on it, being a poignant finale to one of gaming’s greatest characters, a statement that this episode is anything but.
Score: 4.7 out of 10