The Walking Dead: The Final Season (Switch) Review
Clementine’s tragic undead saga has finally come to a close in The Walking Dead: The Final Season. Famously known for its tumultuous development, where Skybound stepped in to complete the game after Telltale Games folded, The Final Season does a remarkable job of continuing the series’ dramatic storytelling despite some moments of clunkiness.
The Final Season parallels the first season’s theme of trying to equip a child with the skills to survive a zombie apocalypse without losing the morals that define humanity. Where in the first season we saw the convict Lee attempt to guide Clementine in a scary world overrun by monsters, The Final Season sees Clementine repeating history by mentoring the impressionable AJ. Much of the finale saga is set in a run-down boarding school run by a group of rough teenagers, where the dwindling supplies and personality clashes lead to fatal consequences.
In line with previous Walking Dead games, The Final Season involves light exploration within small areas, along with interacting with various objects and characters to progress the story. You can interact with objects if a prompt appears, which will usually result in Clementine commenting on the item, but other times you can use or collect objects for more tangible interactions.
Most of the game’s action takes the form of quick-time-events (QTEs), requiring quick presses of buttons as they appear on-screen, especially during combat sections when the undead walkers get mad. However, many of the QTEs are poorly explained in the heat of the moment. For example, I frequently couldn’t tell if buttons needed to be held or pressed repeatedly, which lead to a few early deaths due to the clumsiness of the controls. Thankfully, sections where you need to aim using the control stick tend to be generous and don’t require your aiming reticule to line up perfectly with the target.
Throughout The Final Season’s four episodes, there are multiple engaging subplots and interesting characters to keep you on edge and guessing as to whose allegiances lie where. Your decisions and dialogue choices impact how others perceive you and how likely you’ll be able to rely on them for help in a pinch. Based on my experience, it appears the most significant choice-driven outcomes are which handful of major characters survive at the story’s conclusion. As is the case with Telltale’s vast conglomerate of digital choose-your-own-adventures, the major narrative beats remain relatively static despite your decisions. However, more importantly, this narrative is gripping enough to make you care regardless of the smoke-and-mirrors approach to choice. Additionally, The Final Season’s four-episode length mostly does away with some of the pacing issues previous seasons are guilty of, where the middle episodes occasionally lean too heavily on setting up future episodes instead of delivering their own payoffs.
Another factor to The Final Season’s storytelling success is the consistently strong voice acting, especially for Clementine and AJ. You feel every stress Clementine goes through in her attempts to do right by AJ and the ragtag group of teens, while AJ’s childlike immaturity and naivety comes through superbly, providing equal amounts of comic relief and horror at the atrocities he witnesses. The relationship between the lead duo is reason enough to play this season. Unfortunately, some characters don’t receive much development due to the large ensemble cast and the reliance on death as a plot driver, but the major characters add plenty of interesting variety and conflict to the story.
If you haven’t kept up to date with the Telltale Walking Dead games, The Final Season opens with an interactive comic outlining the major plot points so far. Here, you’re able to make several decisions from previous games to influence some of what you’ll encounter in the final episodes. It’s an imperfect solution, as it’s no replacement for playing the games, only a small handful of choices are present, and there’s little context to inform your decisions. For example, the comic asks you to choose between exiling or retaining a group member from an earlier game after they killed another person. However, no reasoning was provided for their actions, so making an informed decision was impossible if you had no prior experience with the series. If you’re keen to dive straight into The Final Season, I recommend reading up or watching some recap videos beforehand to get up to speed.
For the most part, The Final Season runs reasonably well on the Switch, but there are some minor performance issues. A few action sequences generate frame drops, which result in clunky gameplay, particularly when trying to hold off several walkers at once. Thankfully, checkpoints are aplenty and you are seldom excessively punished for inadvertently getting chomped by a necromantic being.
Although some of the action and interactive elements of The Walking Dead: The Final Season retain the clunkiness of prior games, the satisfying way in which Clementine’s story wraps up makes jumping into the Telltale-Skybound tandem effort worth it.
+ A satisfying dramatic conclusion to Clementine’s saga
+ Strong voice acting
+ Four-episode length delivers better story pacing than prior seasons
- Clunky action sequences
- Some sluggish technical performance on Switch