This review contains spoilers for episodes 1-4 of The Walking Dead.
It’s been a long journey to get here but it’s finally time for season 1 of The Walking Dead to conclude. This season has been building anticipation about as often as it’s been breaking hearts. It seems like only weeks ago when I was just meeting Kenny and his family, getting to know them while settling in on Herschel’s farm. Things are far from that simple now and in the newest episode, No Time Left, you learn that early and often. The story angles are finally all coming to a head and while we sit and hope for a happy conclusion, we all know that in Walking Dead land, no story ends happily.
Though it compromises the review a bit, honestly, you already know if you want to play The Walking Dead or not. In No Time Left, the puzzles and point and click aspects are few and far between as most of the episode is simply dialogue and story conclusions. That’s to be expected with a final episode and it’s definitely not a flaw as all the dialogue reflects the situation you’re in perfectly and only manages to suck you into that desolate world even further. The voice performances by the entire cast remain immaculate and are only hindered by the occasional sync issue with the mouth movement.
This episode obviously begins where the last left off as you and whoever wanted to come with set off to find Clem and along the way begin to experience a few hindrances yourself. Though the narrative up to this point has been near flawless, I was admittedly scared how they would wrap up the stories of the remaining individual characters. I was afraid they’d cop out and leave it all open for the (hopefully) inevitable season 2. Tell Tale did far from that, giving each character a solid ending, even if their endings are not necessarily happy ones. They also introduce a new, absolutely fascinating character who is only around for a scene but he manages to capture that scene while telling a disastrous yet relatable story.
With this being the season finale the decision making is at an all-time high as game changing choices seem to present themselves every 15 minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotionally affected by choices in a video game. There were some choices that made me squirm in my seat with nervousness that I may be making the choice that hurts not only me but my whole group. One brilliant thing Tell Tale did was add in cards at the end of the episode for each character in the game and on the cards are all the major choices you made relating to them. It’s a really nice bow on an unforgettable series.
One issue I ran into countless times throughout episode 5 and throughout the series were frame rate drops and animation hitches everywhere I turn. That issue was stepped up to another level in this installment as one entire section was a big frame rate drop for me. It wasn’t even a graphically intense section, it was simply Lee attempting to climb up a ladder. The actual art style that The Walking Dead has is still brilliant and they introduce some nice, zombie filled environments in No Time Left. Thankfully, the story and dialogue help you easily look past the occasional graphical frustrations.
It hasn’t been the best year for games but if there’s one thing that hasn’t disappointed since its original release, that thing is The Walking Dead. I’m not sure Tell Tale could have done a better job than they did with this already hit series. Could they have fixed some of the graphical issues and removed the shooting mechanics? Sure they could have but in the end I doubt it would have made me love this series more than I already do. With the Xbox 360 nearing its death, The Walking Dead has managed to appear and provide a fascinating storytelling experience while also revolutionizing the point and click genre on consoles. If you would have told me this time last year that I would be getting ready to name The Walking Dead series my Game of the Year 2012, I would have called you insane. But here I am, and there it is.
Bravo, Tell Tale. Bravo.
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