The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 1: Done Running (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 19.08.2018

Review for The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 1: Done Running on Nintendo Switch

The Walking Dead series from Telltale has been the subject of much praise over the years for its great storytelling and presentation, led by a cast of captivating characters reaching legendary status right out the gate. The emotional impact of the franchise cannot be overstated. Clementine has become an icon of videogaming and one of the characters in the industry that has created the strongest bond with players. This is especially true since the player doesn't just see her grow up from the cute innocent little girl from the suburbs of Atlanta into a fierce surviving warrior, but also because the player gets to pour their own flavour of education into her, especially in Season 1 by the intermediate of Lee's character, a fatherly figure to her. Clementine's character has over the years become kind of every player's own child that they want to see making it out alive and well, either as a pure-hearted grown up or as one that won't let anyone stand in her way. Now, the painful time to conclude her story is here, starting with The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 1: Done Running, and for the first time ever, the franchise hits a Nintendo system with this Switch version.

It is safe to assume that anyone reading this review is interested in getting this for themselves for two possible reasons. Either they have played the previous seasons, or some of them at least, and are interested in experiencing the remainder of the story at last, or perhaps, since this is the first time that the series has hit a Nintendo platform, they have never played any of those and are interested in sampling it for the first time with this Nintendo Switch release. The most ideal way of experiencing it will obviously be for those who have already played the previous seasons. It is not indispensable, but highly recommended nonetheless. The Walking Dead: Final Season starts off with a summary of past events. It is possible to import a save file from previous seasons, even if those were played on a different platform, by syncing this game copy to a Telltale account, where past determinant choices can be carried over. Otherwise, the summary introduction offers the possibility to pick certain key choices again manually, kind of like what certain Mass Effect games in the past have allowed for those who did not play previous games in the original trilogy. Not all choices can be picked again, though. It is still very early to say whether or not other past choices that can't be picked up in the intro to Episode 1 will be picked at random in the future, or whether they won't matter in the slightest in the final season. Choices from the first season seem to matter the most, however, while other choices from seasons 2 and 3 appear to not matter quite as much. In this first episode, however, past events only seem to matter in conversational details and not so much in the outcome of events and do not determine whether any specific event occurs or not. This may yet happen in subsequent episodes this season, though.

For those who did not play any of the previous seasons and who do not plan on doing so before, perhaps playing this for the first time on Nintendo Switch, a brief summary, as spoiler free as possible, may be in order. The summary in the game itself will serve that purpose once a purchase of this game on the Nintendo eShop has been made but for those who want to know here and now, here it goes. Clementine was a little girl in Season 1, whose parents left her with a babysitter at home when a zombie outbreak occurred. Lee Everett, a man found guilty of murdering his cheating wife's lover, was being taken to prison when the police car he was in got involved in a crash with a walking dead corpse. Lee finds Clementine on her own right after the crash and will keep on looking out for her throughout the season, keeping her from harm as best he can as the world is not just turning into hell because of the zombies, but also because surviving people start showing that they will go to any length to survive themselves, even at the cost of other human lives if it comes to it. By the end of Season 1, however, the both of them get separated in a most cruel way that remains arguably one of the most emotionally intense scenes in all of videogaming that won the series many awards and accolades.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 1: Done Running on Nintendo Switch

The climax of the first season shaped her into what she would become later, although the events of Season 2 where Clementine, now a child in her early teens, continues to shape her social skills with other people, which will both teach her the harsh reality of having to deal with others' sometimes unbearable personalities, while also facing the harsh reality that she cannot survive entirely on her own. Season 2 also introduced a character that is central to the final season: Alvin Junior, or A.J. for short, a baby who Clementine finds herself having to care for on her own by the end of the season. Season 3 marks a slightly disappointing departure, since the story is rather centred on the character of Javier Garcia, and not Clementine herself, although her relationship with AJ still gets a strong focus. Javier's character, while not uninteresting in the slightest, does not incite quite the same level of bond, but the season still features a teenage, hardened Clementine in search of AJ who got taken from her by a group of people known as the New Frontier. As the prologue of the final season reminds players, however, she manages to get him back in the end, bringing the story to the point that it is at now at the start of the final season.

This final season, judging from all that happens in this first episode, seems to bring things back to something closer to Season 1, where Clementine now gets to teach AJ about survival. AJ isn't quite the same character, however. He didn't get to know the world before the zombie outbreak, so this new hellish world is all he's ever known and that shaped him into a very different kid to how Clementine was at the same age. Therefore, while indeed the focus is on guiding AJ, Clementine's decisions, choices and actions shaping up what he will become, the way to make him become like Clementine, seems very compromised right from the start, giving this new season an identity of its own.

It's a harsh thing to say for sure but AJ didn't come off as a very likeable character in the few flashbacks seen in Season 3. Perhaps there is something to be said about the blind love of a parent for their child, even at their most unbearable moments, but AJ was presented as a whiny and bratty toddler in the previous season that got everyone's favourite female character in trouble more often than not, although this is more suggested than actually shown. In Episode 1 of the final season, while obviously the kid has matured quite a bit since he now looks to be more or less about the age that Clementine was in Season 1, he doesn't seem to have quite grown out of his attitude. He complains a lot and is a rather difficult child all around, yet naturally it is hard to imagine how children growing in such an environment all their life could turn out to be, especially cut off from other kids his age. It is then not quite the same feeling as with Clementine in Season 1, but not uninteresting either for that matter, since that means that players, finally controlling Clementine again who now looks to be in her late teens, get to try and shape AJ into the person they would like him to be.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 1: Done Running on Nintendo Switch

The events of Done Running bring Clementine and AJ to a former boarding school for troubled youths, which now serves as a home for said children who were abandoned behind by the adults that used to care for them. The challenges offered by such events will naturally involve the immaturity of said characters who had to find a way to survive on their own without being prepared for it but, as expected, things may not be all as they seem in that place and it would be unwise to unveil those any further now in these lines.

It is important to understand that, especially for newcomers, The Walking Dead series of point-and- click games in general, although they do fall into that category of course, have always downplayed actual action and puzzles that are usually found in games belonging to said genre in favour of the actual storytelling. This series really is about the story itself and shaping its events to some extent through meaningful dialogue choices. Sure, objects have to be picked up in the environment to advance the story forward, but the component of where does it go or who to give it to is absent of those games. This may sound like a criticism but anyone who has followed the story of the franchise up to this point knows that this plays very much in its favour since that gives this series its own distinct personality. Episode 1 here follows in those footsteps, although it does introduce a new element not found previously in the form of collectibles. These do not seem to matter in terms of story progression, but there are six non-compulsory items to be collected from various locations that can be used to decorate Clementine and AJ's room. While it is speculation at this point, their room seems to be a central location that they will come back to often over the course of the season, that the otherwise useless opportunity is given to players to decorate it. Those seem to only matter for completion so far but, again, it may be too early to tell at this point.

Telltale's The Walking Dead series has graced many types of devices over the years, from the PC, to the PlayStation Vita on the handheld front, to home consoles and to smart devices in-between, both on the iOS and Android sides of things. It was, therefore, interesting to see where Telltale was going to take this Switch version, since the system is a hybrid console. The version at hand, however, is, by and large, just the console version crammed onto the small system that you can take with you wherever you want. The touch screen isn't supported at all, yet there is a valid argument to be made about that. This, perhaps more so than previous ones, really does not require a pointer of any kind most of the time since it plays out with a controller in-hand very much like a 3D third-person adventure. The left control stick moves Clementine, while the right control stick controls camera movement and, walking up to interactive elements of the scenery, the latter can be interacted with at a simple press of the A button.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 1: Done Running on Nintendo Switch

In key action sequences, the right control stick is used to move a cursor at the centre of the screen onto targets for shooting or quickly grabbing items, similar to scenes in Season 3. In fact, the interface and Quick-Time Events appear very similar to the way things were handled in Season 3. The presentation itself, however, has now taken things one step further. The smooth cel-shaded look of the third season is used again here, with a strong emphasis on lighting not seen very much in the first two, but now the art style tries even harder to replicate a comic book feel to the environments. Distant objects, actors, and background elements are rendered with less colours the further away from the camera they are, all the way down to a simple two shades of colours, mostly black and another colour relevant to the location, that give of an amazing vibe. It not only saves on performance since more distant objects are less detailed, but it works in favour of a successful artistic choice.

Speaking of performance, the Switch version runs at what appears to be a full 1080p docked and 720p undocked, while the frame-rate appears to be targeting 30fps and manages for the most part to hit that target. Only the most large open areas, like the school's courtyard and some forest scenes, seem to dip a little bit below 30, but this game being the type that it is, it is not detrimental to the experience in the slightest and, by and large, the Switch version seems to hold up pretty well in side by side comparisons with other console versions, especially in the texture department. The only immediately apparent compromises seem to be the frame-rate and the resolution of shadow maps, which are much less detailed on Switch. If anything, the 30fps frame-rate gives the Switch version a more cinematic look over an otherwise preferable 60fps that may induce a soap opera effect. The Switch version is less realistic in that sense, but more cinematic as a result. Like other games on Switch that go for very high resolution textures, however, there is one downside to the high level of graphical fidelity that The Walking Dead: Final Season goes for: load times.

Similarly to Resident Evil Revelations 2 on the same system, load times can prove very lengthy indeed, with the system's memory bandwidth perhaps proving to be a choking point once again. They hover around the 30 seconds mark every time in-between scenes, when a different area gets loaded into memory. There are only a few changes of area over the course of the whole episode, but when those load times happen, the perception of their length stands out noticeably. There is, therefore, that trade-off to consider when it comes to choose versatility between handheld and docked play that only this version can offer... and faster load times on other versions. The Switch version remains, however, absolutely gorgeous. Everything about this screams artistic achievement. The cinematic direction appears to have been pushed even further, with scenes that now take on even more dynamic camera pans and angles rarely seen in previous episodes. The voice-over is also absolutely stellar, as is customary with Telltale games in general but with it's the Walking Dead series in particular. No character seems badly voiced over, and there is a high level of professionalism throughout. Like other games of this type and other The Walking Dead episodes, this one isn't very long but, like always, replayability will be extremely high to see how other choices at key points can shape the outcome of events or future story scenes.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 1: Done Running on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The Walking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 1: Done Running lays down a strong foundation for upcoming events of the season, although it focuses strongly on re-establishing past events and linking them to current ones. It ends on a strong cliffhanger that is going to make the wait until next month's release really hard. The story delivery is the strongest seen so far, with improved presentation and voice acting being as good as ever. Now, if only Telltale would release the previous seasons on Switch with just as much care as it poured into this port, hopefully with shorter load times in those cases since they are older titles, then that would be perfect.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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