The following contains (implied but not specific) spoilers for the finale of Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season.
The final episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead not only marks the end of one of the most influential story-based franchises of all-time, but also the last Telltale project ever to be released — unless there’s a secret The Wolf Among Us Season 2 prototype lurking somewhere, of course. With Skybound Games stepping up to finish the story’s last sentences, Telltale’s The Walking Dead concludes on one of the most definitive and satisfying full stops imaginable.
Following the events of the previous episode (think “troubled water” if you need a refresher), Take Us Back starts off with a bang, again giving the chance to show off how much more immediate this season has been compared to the last two. As much as I may defend A New Frontier, I can’t deny that it made the player switch off at points with long stretches without any input. Recognising that, Telltale were really trying to change their DNA to be more gameplay-oriented before their closure, and Take Us Back continues that theme — you can barely sit back for a second. It’s no God of War, but The Final Season should at least be recognised as a sincere effort to give more control back to the player.
After a rocky start to the “adoption” in terms of performance, it looks like Skybound and the Still Not Bitten team have figured out the transition. Take Us Back is a smooth ride with almost no technical problems on PlayStation 4 apart from one or two hitches, but even then it’s negligible. There are a couple sequences here that I would highlight as some of the franchise’s best (the bridge scene in particular stands out), and all while running smoothly. It seems like the Telltale Tool had a little bit left to give, and while the engine is certainly flawed and outdated, it will be sad to see no more games make use of something that changed the game, as it were.
Take Us Back packs a lot in to its hour and a half of gameplay, but it is wise to focus mostly on the relationship that has anchored the whole season: AJ and Clementine. Their relationship is every bit as (if not arguably more) charming as the one Clem and Lee shared, though with higher stakes. While I’ve not been able to steer AJ in the exact direction I would have liked, he has evolved into a hardened survivor just like Clem, though without much of the same wide-eyed innocence that she began with. He’s killed people, but he has never revelled in it. I don’t think the early promise of your choices shaping him were quite as significant as Telltale made them out to be, but I still came away from The Final Season with the belief that he was my AJ.
As for Clementine herself, Melissa Hutchison gave it her all this episode, which comes into focus when her own morality and judgement is questioned. To be clear, Clementine is no angel herself, and her being forced to recognise this during the episode gives more depth to a character fans have treated as a little sister since 2012. That being said, Take Us Back does do a disservice to some of its side characters, specifically your love interest. Perhaps it’s down to Skybound and the Still Not Bitten team struggling to reconnect so many frayed threads following the closure of Telltale, but my romantic choices never felt critical or that engaging. All that considered, it’s a marvel that this even exists to begin with. It’s not entirely clear how much work had been done on this finale before Telltale’s closure, but its “saviours” have done a remarkable job at filling in the blanks.
While it would have been nice to wrap things up in a very pretty bow (a Javier cameo would have been welcomed), the end of Clem’s arc is a refreshingly hopeful one for The Walking Dead. Seldom has anything with the The Walking Dead name attached been able to just sit back and be content without some devastating caveat, and while the late twist may feel too preposterous for some, the big reveal left me fist-pumping the air — a refreshing change for a franchise that is always preparing the gut-punch. Telltale’s The Walking Dead concludes on a hopeful note, and I also hope that Take Us Back will be recognised as the perfect goodbye that it is.