7.5
Score

Pros

  • Interesting first-person segment
  • Much needed character development
  • Clementine's adventures in romance continue
  • Raising a kid feels appropriately though and stressful
  • The party scene helps create a good pace

Cons

  • Controls are unresponsive at times
  • Unclear button prompts
  • Annoying combat and stealth sections
  • The feeling that this is all just meant for us to gear up toward the end

Final Verdict

It's a lot of build up, and there's some interesting new content, but The Walking Dead no longer the shocker it was. As nice as it is to see this season back on track, this episode shows this series can't last much longer as-is.

SMOOTH SAILING TOWARDS THE END

The dramatic developments over the course of Telltale’s last season of The Walking Dead have had serious effects on the industry, from helping push chronic labor issues into the foreground, to reminding everyone that there are artists behind these games that get seriously affected when studios close. In the last few months, Skybound Games has swooped in to resurrect the last two episodes of Telltale’s series, hired back as much staff as they could for a “Still Not Bitten” team, and tried, for better or worse, to put fans at ease. This week saw the first results of their effort: the release of Episode 3: Broken Toys, and a new release date for the last episode – March 26.

As the penultimate episode, a lot of Broken Toys is set-up, or rising action. Every plot point serves to ratchet up the stakes, as Clementine, AJ, and the newest gang of survivors plan for a war to take back their friends, kidnapped by a nearby rival group. Now that the story has settled into a groove, I was delighted to see that some of the pacing issues I had with previous episodes disappeared, with a good mix of loud and climactic moments to balance out the quiet and more informative scenes. Take, for example, a party held before the assault, where Clementine helps set up the festivities, and has a chance to learn more about her new friends. Some of the stories they tell are humorous, some are depressing, but the scene as a whole helps break up the action, and gives players a breather.

Clear objective help keep players on the right track…not that there’s much else to do, anyway.

Another interesting surprise is the inclusion of a first-person segment. In what seems to be a continued effort to experiment and try new things (if the last episode’s swing into romance is any indication), players are placed behind the eyes of Clementine as she’s asked to perform the ultimate trust exercise to get supplies she needs. The functionality is not all that great – it amounts to a glorified on-rails segment – and appears to stretch the Telltale engine as far as it’ll go. However, its importance to the story makes it interesting. This experience adds a layer of tension, by limiting the player’s control of the camera and making the Walkers a closer threat than ever before.

What brings the first-person segment down though, as it does for the rest of the episode, is the unresponsive controls. There were multiple points where I had to keep hitting the same button before my dialogue choice was recognized, and in the first person segment I was unable to move at all until, suddenly, I was. There are also instances where the game gives players prompts for a button press, but doesn’t always say which button it’s looking for. This becomes a problem in tense moments where you’re expected to act quickly, but end up flailing at the controls, hitting buttons until something works, or you die. On the bright side, as much as the controls need work, the graphical engine seems more stable than it’s ever been. I never noticed any hitches or bugs, which feels oddly basic, but important to say.

Clementine’s romantic interests remain integrated in the story.

With an episode dedicated to building tension, I feel like there is only so much you can put into a two hour chunk of gameplay. This episode ends on a cliffhanger, which shouldn’t be a surprise, except I would argue that if they’d cut a few minutes sooner, the ending would feel much more powerful and intriguing. There are the standard screwed up moments, bullet-sweat conversations, and clash of ideals throughout the story, but these moments feel boilerplate now more than anything. For a series once known for shocking and awing its audience, this is a step down; but one that feels natural all the same.

With one installment left, this episode just feels like a primer. It’s not bad, it’s not amazing; it’s just a straight shot through the content. The series has been through worse, and for the money there are even worse things to do with your time. The new stuff is intriguing, but not something that can be repeated again and again. It might be because of the tired combat, or perhaps the constant conga line of bad things happening to good characters, but at the end I was just left wondering if Clementine had had enough once and for all – and I suspect it’s trying to make the larger audience feel the same way.

-7.5/10

Here’s one of the more interesting quiet moments from this episode – spoilers abound, of course.

 

This episode was played using a PS4 download of the game I received as part of this season’s Digital Pass. It is also available on PC, Switch, and Xbox One. If you’d like to contact me about this review, or just in general, you can message me on Twitter, or email me at dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios.com.