Walking Dead Episode 5: Enjoying the Bittersweet End
No Time Left brings players back to the familiar world of the Walking Dead. Here, people who die will come back to life as a zombie –regardless of how they died. So while zombie bites are not a complete death sentence, but getting one sure hastens your kicking the bucket. Speaking of bites, our leading protagonist, Lee, just received a nice bite on on his wrist at the end of episode 4. Those of you familiar with horror movie troupes may have predicted this to happen early on (we know some of us here did), after all, the developers at Telltale Games have made sure to make it clear that the series would only span 5 parts. But regardless of whether this is expected or a surprise, it certainly makes for a real bizarre twist on the whole apocalypse survival thing.
Eyes on the Prize
Most of the first four Walking Dead episodes have been about getting Lee and company to safety, acquiring resources, equipment, lodging, transportation, –basically stuff we would all imagine ourselves taking care of if we had been in their shoes. Episode 5, however, takes away all those little goals and brings one thing to the forefront: getting Clementine back.
Here is a quick recap of the end of episode 4, after the great escape from the fort, the last of the Macon survivors heads back to the savannah mansion to get some much needed rest. Lee wakes up to find Clementine missing. Worried, he heads to the backyard, there he sees her cap and outside of the fence and on the street, her walkie-talkie. As Lee bends down to grab the radio, a walker ambushes him and quickly takes a bite on his wrist. Lee is able to bring down the walker, but the injury was all but unavoidable. It is then up to the player if they will discuss the bite wound to the other characters or if they will keep it hidden.
At this point, survival is no longer the end goal. With a bite wound, Lee is as good as dead. But he still has one last thing left to do –make sure that Clementine survives. And to do that, he has to find her captor, rescue her, and bring her to safety all before he finally turns into a walker himself. If you played your cards right (ergo, depending on your previous decisions in the 4 games before this last one), you would not have to take this dangerous trip on your own. Worst case scenario is that Lee would not have much help along the way.
As Good as the Others
The visual and audio delivery of No Time Life is on par with the rest of the Walking Dead series. If you play them non-stop one after another, you will find yourself enjoying a seamless gaming experience. If you played them months apart, then it would feel as if you are coming back to a very familiar place. Either way, it works great in terms of keeping the experience feel cohesive.
Cel-shaded 3D graphics give the game a very artificial feel –which is good since it sort of evens out the amount of serious matter that this game delivers. There is no denying that a game about zombies would have plenty of blood and gore, but there is also plenty of non-undead animated violence. The visual delivery ensures that the shock factor is not too overbearing while the overall delivery keeps everything grounded.
The music of the game is more like an ambient noise. Wind rustling, footsteps, creaks, the inevitable zombie groans, and more –it makes you feel as if you are truly there with Lee and the others. The game also supports 5.1 surround, so if your media setup has it, be sure to hook your system in to enjoy the experience fully.
The controls are as simple as ever, everything is mostly controlled by a few keys on the keyboard and the mouse button (and for those playing on consoles, the controller setup is nothing short of intuitive; the tablet release of the game naturally adapts well to the touch interface).
The best part of the controls are still in the dialogue scenario –and for one important reason: you have a time limit. NPCs will not wait till forever for you to make a comment or make a move. You are given a few choices in responses (and in some cases, you may want to trigger certain actions), but in the end, you need to do something. This makes decisions feel less strategic and more gut-responsive; which makes it more likely that your decisions in your first run-through to be more true to the reaction you would give in a real life scenario. The way that game forces this makes it feel that each decision made is truly yours, making you more emotionally invested.
Depending on what you say (or not say), NPCs will always remember and react accordingly. It may seem a little frustrating at times –particularly on those occasions when two NPCs is fighting and you have to side with one. Normally, other games would let players find a way to find a way and make everyone happy. But Walking Dead is making its characters a lot more lifelike –and we all know that some people in real life simply cannot get along, so you can choose a side (much to the favor of the one you chose and the dismay of the other party, or you can be silent and not choose, in which case, they will both (most likely) hate you).
Is This It?
The sad part about finales to good games is that it always leaves you hanging for more, and it is not surprising that this also applies to The Walking Dead. Lee’s journey is long, painful, and ultimately, sad. But it also has plenty of great moments that makes you wish there was more to be done. Even the NPCs leave a very strong mark on the story, and the cruel way the game takes them away from you is nothing short of disconcertingly memorable. Some character deaths are dramatic, some are sudden, but all of them make an impact. And with so many moments like that happening, it was certainly a feat for the developers to make each event worth going through.
One thing we did like however, is that the end scene is much like what we see in other suspense/horror genres –the hint of more to come. Or at the very least, an ending that has something to continue from; Clementine’s expression as she looks towards the two figures walking on the hill is one of surprise, but it can neither be interpreted as shocked or excited. Lee’s story may end here, but Clementine is sure to have a story of her own to tell.
What We Think
The first episode of this series was enough to make us want to play it all the way till the end, but it left one important question: can the developers successfully pull it off for four more episodes in a row? With No Time Left finally out (and for those of you who missed out, the compilation is now available as a whole set, downloadable and on-disc), the answer is clear: yes they can. Telltale games has pulled off in several months what Bioware took a few years to accomplish: a solid, over-arching storyline that carries the weight of the player’s decisions till the very end (and many would argue that Mass Effect 3 was not as good as the first two). But that comparison is not the point; Walking Dead stands out on its own. The story driven interactive point-and-click gameplay is a formula that Telltale has been working on for quite some time now (with several other series). But none of their previous games have been as good as this.
The visuals are beautifully made, each scene feels like it was framed for a comic book cover. The voice acting is so lifelike that it makes each character seem alive. The story is so rich, so tragic, so purpose driven, that it is easy to lose yourself in the game. It is not often that a game series is this immersive, and the Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left certainly makes for a fitting climactic end to it all.