Almost a year to the date of the first season concluding with its gut-wrenching finale, we get the first episode of the eagerly anticipated second season. All That Remains continues the story of Clementine, the moral compass of season 1, who graduated from escort mission to main protagonist. When we last saw Clementine, she was wandering the fields of Atlanta before coming across two silhouettes in the distance. Who were they? And were they friend or foe? Well, that’s kind of been spoiled by the media as Omid and, by extension, Christa. It turns out they were Clementine’s saviors, and as such, succeed Lee as her guardians. But after what Clementine’s been through, and the undisclosed amount of time she’s been alone before encountering Omid and Christa, it would’ve been nice to see her warmly embrace familiar faces. Instead, the game opts to jump six months ahead where the trio, including a very pregnant Christa, are on a routine scavenging run. Banter ensues, displaying the tight-knit relationship that developed between them. However, things take a dramatic turn, and we’re now transported 16 months from that date, and take control of a much more mature Clementine.
This first episode serves to get you acclimated with the progression of Clementine’s character. There’s a greater focus on characterization, so don’t expect any improvements on the gameplay front. That said, there are some interesting segments that, because of Clementine’s small frame, relies heavily on her cunning. But the pacing is slow and the choreographed fight scenes that stood out in The Wolf Among Us are nowhere to be found. Slight changes include having the screen turn red whenever you take time performing an action, or if you perform an action for too long. Also, they made the whole “holding a button while pressing another button” action a lot more intuitive. And of course you have the standard mechanics of having actions naturally mapped to buttons.
Visually, there’s really nothing much to say; it’s not as vibrant as The Wolf Among Us, but it’s consistent with its predecessor. The animation is still pretty good, though you see awkwardness of directing Clementine to an object and having her painstakingly walk to it most indirect way possible. Telltale is quickly becoming known for two things: dark, mature storytelling, and distracting frame rate issues. It’s frustrating that they’ve yet to address what’s essentially been plaguing their games since – FOREVER. Transitioning from one scene to the next, or from one camera angle to the next is always met with graphical stuttering that just makes you sigh with annoyance. It’s hard to ignore and makes you wonder if any console port of a Telltale game will ever run smoothly. Probably not, but for now it’s just something that has to be dealt with until they switch to the next/current-gen consoles, or a better game engine.
As far as choices go, there are a lot of minor ones, but nothing potentially game-changing. Season 2 imports the completed game save from season 1, but before Telltale provided a patch, it couldn’t be read, which somewhat delayed starting season 2. Also, it’s disappointing that none of the choices you made you in season 1 have any effect on the story so far. Granted it’s just the first episode, but it appears you can play it without having played season 1 at all and still have the same experience. Presumably they’re saving the potentially alive characters from season 1 for later episodes (the “next on” segment hints towards that), but that just leaves us with new characters who more or less act like stand-ins for member’s of Clementine’s previous group. However, the real joy of playing All That Remains has nothing to do with seeing the ripple effect of season 1, but rather with seeing how the sweet little girl we all once knew comes into her own as a survivor.
The stark contrast between Clementine then and now is startling and heartbreaking. In two short years, Clementine went from a naive but endearing child to a world-weary young survivor. She’s less enthusiastic about being saved by strangers, more suspicious of their intentions, and sounds generally malaise – as if all the hardships she had to face in her lifetime are beginning to weigh down on her. She’s not afraid to manipulate people; whether it’s appealing to their sense of morality in dealing with a young child, or preying on their need for friendship, and that can lead to some scary propositions. Concerning the latter, Clementine meets up with a girl around the same age-range as her. But this girl’s been sheltered from the harsh reality she’s currently living in, and you can’t shake the feeling that eventually you’ll be given the choice to betray her trust in the most brutal fashion imaginable.
In season 1, you had to make some tough decisions as a fully grown adult. Now, it’ll be interesting this time around to see if Telltale opts for the same severity for a character that comes off as more mature, but is still very much a child. Clementine has been taught well by her former guardian and father-figure, Lee. Every now and then you’re given dialogue choices that allow Clementine to fondly remember how Lee saved her and taught her how to survive. But up until now, she’s merely been all talk; never once having to get her hands dirty. You wonder once that time comes if she’ll be filled with regret like the ill-fated teen she crossed paths with earlier in the episode, or whether she’ll callously consider her actions to be necessitated. I can’t remember a game going that route with a pre-teen character, and after playing the first episode of season 2, it’s very much in the cards.
The first episode of season 2, kind of like season 1 and AMC’s The Walking Dead, shows there’s very little time to bask in the simple joy of being alive. It’s inevitable that once characters accept their predicament, misfortune shatters any delusions of peace they may have once had. And all that remains (eh?) is the bleak, post-apocalyptic world in which surviving means using all the resources at your disposal – even people. Here’s to hoping Lee’s sacrifice didn’t leave Clementine too jaded, and that she continues to remain the source of light in a world shrouded in darkness.
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