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The Walking Dead: Season 2.5 - No Going Back (PC) artwork

The Walking Dead: Season 2.5 - No Going Back (PC) review

"The deconstruction of Clementine."


If Amid The Ruins taught me anything, it was that I didnít really care for the majority of Season 2ís cast. As the penultimate chapter put its head down and bullrushed clumsily from start to finish, caring only about setting things up for the finale, Telltaleís purposefully truncated episodes proved that by sacrificing the groundwork, the overall product suffered. People I was supposed to care about Ė people who the series clearly expected me to care about Ė were gruesomely despatched, and my indifference was apathetically matched by the in-game cast. Making me wonder why I should care about people Iíve only known for a handful of hours when their virtual family couldnít give a damn about their demise. Fact is, beyond establishing pre-determined tropes, characters were rarely given the time to stand out and establish themselves. Season One demanded downtime where you could stroll around a bubble of safety and chat to your group of survivors, getting a feel for who they were, making you begrudgingly like or even care for them. So that when whatever awful travesties finally befall them, it hit you so much harder.

No Going Back, whatever youíve done in the past, is whittled down to the final group of survivors. Bonnie represents the blandest character from the Season One DLC, while the much more interesting cast members are relegated to five-second cameos three episodes ago. Mikeís been afforded the least screen time out of everyone, and all we really know about him is that he can carry water bottles and has a cool scar. Damn it, though, I canít help but really like Luke; and I know itís going to not going to end well, but heís been afforded the time to grow on me. Heís forced into a faux leadership heís not really cut out for, but has moments when you have to remember that heís just a twenty-something guy scared out of his wits. And then thereís Kenny. Thank god for Kenny.

If anything, Season Two has been Kennyís tale just as much as itís been Clementineís, as youíre forced time and time again to try and re-evaluate just how much faith you have left in the man as he slowly turns into a rage-filled monster. As Clementine, itís been wholly up to you how to fill the oppressive atmosphere his frequent outbursts cause. Thereís only so many times you can talk him down, to listen to pledges on how heís going to get on top of the darkness rising inside him. Thereís only so many times the rest of the group will heed your pleas to cut him some slack; to put whatever vile things heís said or done behind them. Thereís a growing sense of segregation, and youíre stuck right in the middle of it. In the second episode, the hardest thing in the world was something as pedestrian as picking which table to sit at for dinner. Do you honour the history you and Kenny have and favour him, or try to bolster the budding trust between yourself and your new group of survivors?

Now, your new group is telling you that Kenny is either going to get people killed, or kill someone himself next time his mind goes somewhere dark. And theyíre right; theyíre absolutely 100% correct and any excuse you make for him falls flat in the face of his constantly simmering wrath. But, this is punctuated by his moments of understanding, where he pulls himself back from the abyss and shows thereís hope for him yet. Heís still in there, firmly believing extreme measures are the only hope to surviving the world as it is. That, in the centre of his insanity, he desperately wants to keep the few people he still cares about safe and canít help but crumble when he fails. Every confrontation, every disagreement, every word uttered in anger ushers closer and closer to the realisation that youíre going to have to make a very, very hard choice soon. I honestly found myself wishing it was once again something as innocent as picking a clique to eat dinner with.

Itís a balancing of loyalties, and itís exhausting. Even if you come into the final chapter already firmly planted on one side, you canít help but see the merit in the opposing argument. No Going Back teases avenues of reconciliation where you can fool yourself into believing that everything is going to turn out okay for everyone, rare moments of honest happiness amongst the grind and the horror only to get slammed back into reality. Tragedy hits, and you pick yourself up and move on. You patch up whatís left of your group as best you can, and you drive forward. Revelations hit, and youíre forced to finally realise that dusting yourself off and stumbling onwards might not be enough anymore. It might be time to put the strongest of the group first. It might be time to decide you need to focus effort on those who lack the means to protect themselves. It might be time to cut your losses and give up on everyone for the sake of yourself.

For all the impotent veneer of choice offered in that last chapter, what you do in No Going Back has dramatic and long reaching consequences. The choices you make, the sides you take, the blood you shed, it all impacts which of the very different and multiple endings might act as final bookend to Clemís horrific journey. Thereís a few heart-wrenching twists yet to come that made me want to abandon the game and go sit somewhere quietly for a few hours so I wouldnít do the things I knew I had to do, and while no conclusion is perfect, theyíre all silently fitting. I knew what my Clem would have to do, how I could balance her morality with her need to survive, and Iíve done hugely regrettable things to get her there. Perhaps for the first real time since Telltale lurched into the world of The Walking Dead will you see the illusion of choice banished, and all those little choices you made throughout the two seasons finally start to come together in a meaningful fashion.

And now, itís over. Unspeakable things have been done, and the vastly differing endings on offer suggest an end to Clementineís adventures. I canít tell you or even begin to imagine where the third season could possibly take us, but Iím honestly not sure if I canít wait to find out, or am openly dreading the emotional wreck itíll turn me into.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (August 27, 2014)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted August 28, 2014:

Brilliant stuff. And you got it out so quickly! I just finished the game last night and the decisions you have to make... It's definitely the team's best work in a long time.
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EmP posted August 29, 2014:

Thanks, Marc. Yeah, it was certainly a big step up, and it was nice to have choices be more than cosmetic.
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EmP posted August 31, 2014:

I build the bloody database tabs on the sodding game; you'd think I know what the actual chapter title was.

The Luke thing was a huge turning point for me, too. I was surprised at how few people wanted to try and save him.

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