Developed by: Telltale
Release Date: 9/25/2018
MSRP: $4.99 (episode) / $19.99 (full season)
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (played on PS4)
Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
With the devastating collapse of Telltale, the fate of The Walking Dead’s final season was unknown. Thankfully, Skybound Entertainment has stepped in to finish the season with assistance from former members of the story-focused video game studio. While this is certainly good news, the reality of the situation is that many talented developers lost their jobs, and gamers have lost the main source of modern adventure games.
It’s fitting, then, that the final episode of The Walking Dead developed by Telltale represents the greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses of their games. Suffer The Children has moments that genuinely feel like filler, and it. sets up a story that The Walking Dead fans have seen time and time again. However, it remains enjoyable due to several strong character moments.
For a full review (with spoilers), read on...
WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
Relationships and Romance
As soon as the episode starts, the repercussions from the season premiere’s ending are felt. This shows in AJ’s first interaction with Clementine, as it involves him asking if he’s a murderer. At the time, I think that I’m confident in my response, yet I contradict myself just five minutes later when the group begins to attack him and demand that we leave. Even AJ points out that I changed my position, and it’s a great example of Telltale’s smart writing. Moments like these where players shape AJ into the type of person they want him to be are reminiscent of how the Joker was handled in Telltale’s Batman series, and it’s clear that the studio is allowing players to create multiple different versions of AJ. It’s a move that adds an extra level of importance to the choices in the game, and there’s plenty of potential for the next two episodes to expand upon Clementine’s teachings.
The episode features both an incredibly interesting new character and a surprising return from part of the season one cast. The former is named James, a member of the comic book group known as The Whisperers. The Whisperers use stealth to survive the apocalypse, wearing the skin of the undead to blend in and direct the hordes. James is quickly established as being a bit weird, but wildly kind and trustworthy. It will be interesting to see if he’ll return later in the season, as there are plenty of ways to take his character. As for the returning cast member, fans of the series will be surprised to see Lilly as one of the leaders of the enemy group. The surprise is an effective one, and it will take no time at all for players to remember why they hated her. She’s as heartless as ever, and she’ll make a great antagonist for the final two episodes of the series.
The two strongest supporting cast members from the first episode get even more development in “Suffer The Children”, as Louis and Violet are both romance options for Clementine. Given Telltale’s Relationships system, it was only a matter of time before this happened. I’m glad options like these are in the game now, because I loved the opportunity to take Clementine’s relationship with Violet to the next level. The scene where they share how they really feel about each other is brilliantly handled, and the stakes are even higher now that Clementine has more to lose than just AJ.
A Fun New Mechanic, Some Filler, and A Familiar Setup
In the final act of the episode, the combat system gets a bit deeper with the addition of the compound bow. It lets players take out zombies with a single clean shot to the head, and while it’s only used here in an on-the-rails scenario, there’s plenty of potential for it to make future fights more dynamic.
While the romance options and bow make the episode another entertaining two hours in Clementine’s story, there are a few issues that stop this second episode from being as good as the first.
One of the issues comes in the form of the Greenhouse sequence, as it feels completely like filler. Not only does it make little sense narratively (there are three zombies in here and plenty of resources, so the group certainly should have taken this area back before Clem and AJ arrived), but it’s far less than the rest of the episode and is slow enough to hurt the pacing. Getting to know Ruby and Mitch a bit better is fine, but nothing in this lengthy scene feels crucial to the story.
The other key problem is the episode’s predictable, cliffhanger ending. After an enjoyable fight against Lilly’s group (known as Delta) and some zombies, the episode sets up a bigger conflict at their base for episode 3. Members of Clem’s new crew get captured regardless of what you do in the fight, forcing you into this new conflict in the same way that many critics of Telltale’s work find annoying. Further, it’s more of the same Walking Dead formula. The first episode certainly touched on the same tropes of the series, but “Suffer the Children” has set up a third episode that is anything but unique. For those like myself who have grown tired of the constant fighting between survivors on the show, in the books or in this very series, it’s disappointing to see Telltale doing more of the same.
In addition to an ending that sets up another tired “group vs. group” story, there’s an entire sequence that fills like filler in Suffer the Children. Thankfully, these two flaws are the only issues with the episode. Having romance options is excellent, and the bow has potential. Clementine and AJ’s relationship is still tremendously strong, and I’m excited to see more of James and Lilly.
As with most of Telltale’s games, strong characters moments are the reason to play "Suffer The Children".
Clem and AJ’s Relationship +3
The strong introductions of James and Lilly +3
Romance Options +2.5
The new Bow mechanic has potential +1.5
Greenhouse sequence feels like length padding and little more -2
Uninteresting Episode 3 setup -1
FINAL SCORE: 7