I have been dreading this moment for the past week; the finality of writing this review. The last four episodes of The Walking Dead have told an amazing tale of survival and what one man will do to protect the person he cares about the most. Lee and the other members of this group of survivors have endured, suffered and (some) somehow survived. Throughout the entire ordeal I have been forced to make quick and painful decisions; decisions that would haunt me long after the episode had ended. However, nothing could have prepared me for the moment when this first season ended and the credits rolled. Trust me when I say that after finishing all five episodes, Telltale Games was able to accomplish something that I have never experienced in a video game before. I remembered everything, I felt everything. In doing so, the final episode brings to a close the finest gaming experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of.
Episode 5 begins right where we previously left off during in the ending moments of the previous episode, where one sentence could potentially be the deciding factor between life and death. Lee is fighting like a man with nothing left to lose, and honestly there is only one thing that he is afraid to lose throughout all of this. He is a man willing to sacrifice everything and anything to protect the one thing that is worth living for, while everything else around him dies. In my opinion the gameplay finds the perfect formula of action, puzzle solving and spectacular dialog opportunities. Where certain shooting moments in the previous entries felt forced and unbalanced, the few moments where Lee is staring down the crosshairs feels natural and tense, where each shot counts and creates enough distance between survivor and undead. From the very start the action continues to keep the mood tense and barely gave me a chance to catch my breath.
The moments that were devoid of zombies, however brief they may be, were an opportunity to reflect on the other moments that lead to this final encounter. Choices that were made in an instant were again brought to light and reminded me of how the line between right and wrong could so easily be blurred and compromised. Staring at Kenny as he continues to fight and survive, when every instinct tells him to stop and accept the fate that he has been forced to endure. Handing a drink to Christa, as she loses whatever faith was left in humanity and a normal life. These moments played out without text, or any words. Even with the graphics of a motion comic Telltale is able to convey so many different emotions. The attachment that is created and maintained throughout this season makes every moment painful and very draining.
Two specific moments in this final episode were accompanied by a score that perfectly set the tone and enhanced the overall experience. The first is a tense and almost unthinkable battle where Lee is carving through a large mob of zombies as the crunchy guitar riffs push through the horde, slicing through dead bodies without hesitation or remorse charging towards the only family he has left. The second is the ending, and regardless of how events played out for other players the music will have an effect.
The voice that has accompanied Lee throughout a good part of this adventure is finally materialized, and their meeting is full of uneasiness and during their conversation I could not know for sure what the outcome would be. This was not the first time where the game transcended the normal concept of "push a button and progress the dialog." It was my version of Lee, trying to persuade the stranger and perhaps even himself that the actions and decisions that were made throughout their travels were justified and for the best. This reflection on the entire season left me with no words, only the feeling that I was a survivor, a protector and hero. I really cannot stress this point enough; this is the most emotional I have found myself in any experience involving media with the only potential exception being watching the movie Up. You cannot have a soul and not be somehow moved by the experience that has been expertly crafted by Telltale Games. To say that adventure games are going to be back in the spotlight is an understatement.
I’ve pretty much run out of words to describe how amazing this final episode was to me. So I'll finish off by saying once more that if you have not yet played The Walking Dead, find some time and do it. It stands in a place of honor with other games that have changed the landscape of gaming and will be discussed for a long time to come.
To get the full break down of every review for each episode in case you need more info, here's quick list with all of them readily available to jump to.