It’s always hard to say goodbye to something that’s been a part of your life for so many years.
Sure, maybe that thing involves made up characters in a made up universe, but that doesn’t make it any less significant.
Yesterday marked the release of the final episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. Season one began in 2012 and was the beginning of what would be a great run for the studio. Season one followed Lee Everett, a former university professor accused of murdering a state senator for sleeping with his wife. After the police car transporting him crashes and the police officer turns into a zombie, Lee realises that something has got horribly wrong with the world he once new. Eventually, Lee finds a little girl named Clementine, all alone at the start of the zombie apocalypse and the two set off together to find her parents.
In season two, players take on the role of Clementine, a little older, continuing to learn the ways of the dangerous world around her. Season three takes a step away from Clementine into the shoes of Javier, a former baseball star trying to protect his family in the apocalypse.
Finally, in season four we’re back with Clementine; now a teenager trying to protect a young boy named AJ who she’s raised since he was born. It isn’t easy being a mother-figure, especially not when you’re still a kid yourself, but as Clementine you’re able to decide how to raise AJ in this dog-eat-dog (or zombie-eat-human) world.
Episode four of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, titled “Take Us Back”, picks up immediately after episode three. A group of kids from Ericson’s School for Troubled Youth have gone to save some of their friends who have been kidnapped by a familiar face from Clementine’s past. After the battle is over, you have to pick up the pieces and, most importantly, find your way back home.
The underlying theme of this season has been what it really means to be human in this horrific world. You have to decide when to kill, when to have mercy and when to walk away. The entire time you’re making these choices AJ is watching your every move trying to take in every lesson and learn from you. You have to be extremely careful and make choices wisely to avoid influencing him negatively. That’s one of the biggest issues that you’ll encounter when you play Take Us Back. How do you make sure you’re teaching AJ the right things? This world is all he’s ever known so players will likely find it hard to decide what to say and do.
When it comes to gameplay, Take Us Back features a lot of fast-paced action sequences involving the undead and otherwise. You’ll be getting a lot of practice firing Clementine’s awesome bow as well as ducking and dodging incoming hordes of walkers. The controls were a bit wonky during these sequences so I found myself dying unnecessarily, but once you memorise the locations of walkers (after four or five deaths), things get easier. During certain moments you’ll also be able to walk around freely collecting items. Some items you collect will help you continue the story, and others you’ll be able to add your room back at Ericson’s.
When you aren’t walking around or dealing with endless waves of zombies you’ll be making dialogue choices. The Walking Dead has always made it seem like your decisions mean something adding the “so-and-so will remember that” after many of the choices. But in previous instalments it’s never really felt like those choices truly mattered in the long run. Take Us Back uses AJ as a way to show how incredibly significant your choices really are as he reflects them back at you through his actions. Something you didn’t even think twice about in episode one or two may come back to haunt you during this final episode. AJ might remember the rules for surviving in the zombie apocalypse – but living and being human is an entirely different set of rules.
Not only will you be dealing with AJ and making sure he understands your lessons, you’ll have to handle Clementine’s internal conflicts as well. When others begin to question whether or not you’ve raised him right, you’ll be forced to defend yourself or agree that things with AJ need to change. You’ll also be nurturing relationships that you’ve built in the previous episodes, love interests if you decided to go that route, and friendships with the children at Ericson’s.
With Take Us Back finally here, it’s time to say goodbye to this beloved series. Since 2012, Telltale gave players a chance to jump into the world of The Walking Dead through the actions of these characters – and we absolutely fell in love. Fans were totally and completely taken over by how real the characters were and how desperately we felt for them. Actual tears were shed, and hours upon hours of arguments between friends were had. Telltale may be gone, but the games it created and the characters its moulded will be with us for a long time.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 4 – Take Us Back is a triumph of a finale that gives the players – and the characters – the ending they deserved.