Walking Dead: No Going Back

(Yes, well, it’s the holidays. I can’t use the mouse too much, but games which are heavily or primarily keyboard-accessible? I am all over those.)

So, I finished Walking Dead: Season 2–the story game, not the TV show, definitely not the Walking Dead™: Survival Instinct game which from what I’ve heard is absolutely terrible–and it was good. (I generally find the Telltale Games stuff to be really good; the only work of theirs I haven’t picked up is the Game of Thrones one, and if they ever do a 100 Bullets game I will probably go missing for several hours at regularly spaced intervals. I find they don’t branch as much as the Choice of Games narrative fiction, but they are very good at inspiring an emotional connection with the characters.)

Anyway, the game’s been out for a year or for four months (depending on whether you count from the first or last episode), but I realize some people may not have played it yet, so I’m putting the rest behind a cut.

The ending–my ending–had me in tears. Not the final scene, but in the process of getting there… well.

Early on in the season, you find Kenny, a character from the first game. (I will admit to cheering at this point, and not discussing it has meant I mostly haven’t talked about the game at all.) Kenny means well. He has a collection of unexamined casual prejudices, and he can be frustratingly stubborn, but if things don’t get too bad, I suspect many people would consider him okay to decent (the precise point along the line depending on exactly how much weight you give to intent).

This is a Walking Dead game, so there is no expectation that things won’t get too bad. They were bad in the last season, where Kenny’s wife and son died. They start off better for him in this season (better than they ended, that is), and then they degrade. You can maintain a relationship with him–he trusts you, and he always liked you–but it gets harder.

Kenny steadily gets worse and worse–angrier, more violent, more stubborn. With more and more things sliding away from him, he clings harder and harder to the very few things left. By the end of the game, the survivor’s group is down to you, Kenny, a terrifyingly practical loner named Jane, and a newborn infant who Kenny has adopted and imprinted on as his hope for the future. He’s going to be a good father, you see. He’s not going to be like his own dad was, and he’s not going to screw up like he did with his son Duke. It’ll be better.

Kenny goes off to find more gas for the truck, zombies attack, and you’re split off from Jane and the infant. You manage to find Kenny again… and then Jane comes out of the snow, without the baby.

Kenny loses it. Completely.

Your options, at the end, are to shoot Kenny or to look away as he murders Jane.

And I shot him.

And he forgave me.

And then I found out that Jane had hidden the baby so that I could see how unstable Kenny could be.

I’d have cried for Kenny anyway; he was a friend, and I cared about him, and everyone was starting to crack by that point. And if we could have gotten over that point, if we could have gotten him somewhere safe or stable, made it to Wellington… I think that he might have been okay. Not good-okay, but good enough. I think he might have restabilized, a little.

But to find out that Jane had instigated that breakdown, that even if she didn’t expect Kenny to try to kill her (and I’m not sure she didn’t; I think she might have simply thought that she could have taken him out, lethally or not, or she might simply not have been thinking very well at all) she had deliberately pushed him to that point. To find out that he didn’t need to be subjected to that last moment of pressure…

It was a more bitter ending than that of the first Walking Dead game. I’m glad I played it, but good god, was that a kick in the teeth.

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