Quoting my review of the first three episodes: “It’s been a very long road for The Walking Dead, and an even longer one for Telltale Games. Amidst numerous allegations of mismanagement over the years, the studio shut its doors late last year, leaving members of the staff unpaid and without a job. Their final project, the last season of its landmark series, The Walking Dead, was left unfinished, with only two of the four episodes released. While the loss of Telltale is definitely a shame and hopefully all the people affected by its closure have found, or are in the process of finding new job opportunities, it was good to hear that Skybound, the label behind the The Walking Dead comics was picking up the series in order to close it off, via their own internal development studio, also bringing in to the project some of the team behind the season.”
We finally got to the final fourth entry, one that after all that drama wouldn’t ever believe would see the light of day. But here we are, and for better or for worse, The Walking Dead in the form of an adventure game is now over. Telltale Games’ big hit and ultimate swan song reaches its conclusion on an uplifting note, and although it plays around with a lot of clichés and false endings, still manages to bring closure to the story as a whole, and to Clementine’s journey as a character.
Things pick up straight after the end of the previous episode, with Clem and crew having to escape from a sinking ship, following whatever decision you made in dealing with Lily and her people. As soon as that’s through, Take Us Back, as the episode is titled, follows a pretty tight pace as it rushes to reach a conclusion, even managing to have enough time to drop everything and connect this last season with the previous, A New Frontier, which pleased me a whole lot, considering how big of a gap there is between the two. It’s a short sequence, sure, but it’s grim and works extremely well.
If nothing was really going on behind the scenes at Telltale Games and they were still around to see it to conclusion, it would be easy to pin The Walking Dead Final Season as their most technically impressive release to date, but given that it’s taken its toll on that studio and that it’s no longer around, with only a part of the team still around as it was fished up by Skybound Games, it would be a big bummer to give all the credit to only a fraction of that group at this point. Still, as a whole, this was an impressive effort that could have really turned things around, especially taking into account how shaky some of their past releases were.
It was great to see part of that team bring closure to The Walking Dead, though, and regardless of what you might come to think of the way that everything is done to that end, it’s satisfying to see a story arc reach a conclusion in an industry such as games, where series are cut short at the drop of a hat. Given how impressively long the comics that this has been brought up by have lived so far, it’s great to get the book closed on it for sure. This final season introduced a lot of new characters, and their development was mostly alright, taking into account that it’s really Clem and AJ’s stories that are the main focus here, it’s warming to see that in whatever live they live from here on out in our imaginations, that they’ll be part of theirs. AJ’s evolution is especially impressive, considering our decisions in Clem’s shoes have helped mold his personality, which culminate in some of this episode’s most dramatic sequences, that without delving into spoiler territory, sometimes don’t go the way you’d expect them to go, and will probably have you going like “they wouldn’t do that, would they?”
While I could’ve done with way less of the action bits that this season leaned a little too heavy on, this episode even more so, with more than one very quick reaction-based button prompt section (QTE) that give a very short window before a failure screen pops up, it showed that Telltale had something in mind and was working in making it better with each new season. The end result is still nowhere near what I would call fantastic, but it didn’t really get in my way for too long, aside from forcing me to watch a few sections of unskippable scenes a few times.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season marks the end of a journey in many aspects. For its characters, it manages to feel uplifting, although clichéd, and for the studio that brought it up, it bookends its rocky existence with a high mark. I don’t know how contracts worked between Skybound Games and Telltale Games’ former employees, but if they’re sticking around post-TWD, I’ll be curious to see where they’d be heading next. Skybound as a comic book publisher has a number of franchises that work would extremely well as adventure games, like almost The Walking Dead length long-running series Invincible. Fingers crossed everything works out for the best for the Telltale Games team — they’ve done phenomenal work, and it’s been an honor to be around to follow them all this time. Here’s to many more years, wherever they land, and whatever they develop.