Game Review: The Walking Dead DE: Season 3 – PS4

Title The Walking Dead: Season 3 (via Definitive Edition all-in-one disc)
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre:zombies, telltale, story driven, adventure, point and click
Date completed:September 2021
Information on game

Summary review: If you’re going to completely switch a story point view to an entirely new set of characters you better make sure they’re the most compelling thing ever. While the characters and story are not terrible, this is not that.
Graphics: I would say an improvement over season 2 but won’t “wow” anyone.
Music: The only time I actually noticed the music was the end of the last episode when what I call “Ode to Lee” started playing. I don’t know what the song title is. I’m calling it Ode to Lee. Outside of that I would say it’s about on par with the prior seasons.
Controls: This game might have gone too far to the side of “push button, watch movie”. The controls do work and prompts are always easy to get through. Just might have gone a little too far in that direction. Which is more of a personal preference.
Replayability: Bearing mind as I write this I haven’t started the final season/season 4, the only reason I can think of to replay this is one is to bridge the gap from season 2 to season 4. If this were a spin-off series I don’t think I would even think about replaying it.
Total score: 80 / 100 – Not a terrible experience, each individual episode isn’t very long (good for those us who have to get up in the morning), a little too far on the auto-play for me and…the decision to make an entire new cast of characters with a new player character is…interesting but ultimately disappointing.

Introduction

Reviews for the rest of the seasons:

  1. Game Review: The Walking Dead DE: Season 1 + 400 days – PS4
  2. Game Review: The Walking Dead DE: Season 2 – PS4

Note: This review will not contain spoilers for the story of season 3, just some commentary on the story without going into details and some information on the play mechanics.

I have already made a post reviewing season two of TellTale’s The Walking Dead. Since it’s a little hard to talk about season 3 without seasons 1 and 2 and since the events of season 2 flow directly into season 3 I will include many spoilers of both season 1 and season 2. Why in the world would anyone read a review of season 3 of a game that’s so dependent on prior seasons? Not sure. Felt somehow obligated to post a warning as best I could.

The Premise

Season 3 is a definite departure from the first two seasons, both in story structure and in gameplay.

I think I’ve gone through this before in another medium: book 4 of the Dark Tower series of books was…one big origin story for the main character instead of continuing the story that had such momentum. And I didn’t understand at the time why that wasn’t a separate book outside of the main story books. I still still don’t know actually.

Season 3 features Clementine prominently, but does not revolve around Clementine.

Really want to know what happens after the ending of season 2? Wasn’t that a great cliffhanger? Well too bad. You’ll be told but only pieces at a time through…flashbacks? The other side of the coin of time jumps? Alright. Interesting choice. Kind of kills the momentum from season 2 but…interesting.

Season 3 revolves around a new character, Javi. At the very start of episode one, Javi is racing through traffic (he doesn’t know it’s the start the outbreak) to get to his father on his deathbed, but is too late.

So there’s some family drama and politics, some traumatizing stuff outside of the player’s/Javi’s direct control happens, and…well lets just say I wasn’t really that invested in Javi’s story, family, kids or much of anything related.

Even better with the gamepad

I complained about the lack of gemepad optimization for season 1, I thought it was perfect enough I could focus criticisms on the actual story for season 2 and for season 3…I’m going to say they may have gone a little too far with the quicktime prompts. I mean generally speaking as long as you hit the right button in time you’re going to succeed. Not a lot of aiming involved.

I suppose it’s better than the alternative but a lot of times it felt like a little too much of a watchable experience with occasional button prompts.

A new story (seasons 1 and 2 spoilers)

I remembered from the first time I played season 2 in whatever year that was that I went with Kenny at the end of the episode. I think pretty much everybody goes with Kenny. I wanted to see where Jane took me though so I chose her this time. Now I want to go back and see how season 3 starts after choosing Kenny’s fate at the very end of season 2 (enter the city with baby AJ and no Kenny or reject the city and stay with Kenny). I’m assuming Kenny isn’t in season 3 no matter what. As nice as that would be. I’d still like to know.

As I mentioned you play a brand new character named Javi. As the game opens you are in a van with what is technically your brother David’s wife, David is assumed dead. You’ve been on the road in a van with your step sister and her kids who are both teenagers (well step kids technically) for about four years.

I won’t go into more detail than that. Javi’s character and back story get expanded upon through a number of flashbacks to before the zombie times. I had trouble with these – narratively – because I had already been playing Javi so I didn’t understand what difference it could make if I argued with my brother in flashback one way or another. I mean I already know how he’ll react regardless. But actually it does matter indirectly at the end.

There are also some flashbacks for Clementine. These also seem pointless at first as you already know how it turned out through the story. But it does indirectly matter for forging Clementine’s as a character. Flashbacks are also how some of the loose story threads get tied up. Not sure why I couldn’t just play Clementine to resolve those story beats but it’s nice the threads are tied up.

I realized eventually what this reminds me of: some TV shows, for instance, will have an occasional episode where your main characters are shown from the point of view of an outsider/random stranger. A recent episode of Archer did this. And it usually works narratively for an episode. But a whole season?

Still, it was interesting seeing what kind of person Clementine is from an outsider’s point of view.

Clementine’s arc crystalizes(?) – side note/stream of consciousness (sorry)

This is kind of a step back from the review of season 3 in particular, but I’ve started to realize what these seasons are really about relative to Clementine: basically, you’re forming her childhood up to adolescence. She’s definitely a different person than that little eight year old girl naively talking on a radio to a stranger. And she’s tougher than then eleven year old who had to choose between Jane and Kenny in a heart breaking moment. All these events she’s been lead through have piled on top of each other to form a seemingly real person.

I don’t know if I’m expressing this clearly. All I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to see how the choices are making a real impact because the people who get left on the side of the road are left on the side of the road and the people who are fated to die when they do aren’t possible to save. But the decisions made in those choice moments – my choices as the player – are forming this character into a person. So choices do matter, just not in a 999 endings kind of way but in a “why is she the person she is?” sort of way.

I don’t know, it only just occurred to me after season 3. Because despite not directly playing as Clementine, her character is further forged through this story and directly/indirectly via Javi.

Now some negatives…

Does this sound strangely familiar? Sequel game set in a zombie apocalypse with a sudden and unexpected POV swap?

I’m not actually trying to make a drinking game out of my mentioning Last of Us games in these reviews, but here I am again, aren’t I?

The only real negative about this game is the story line. I wasn’t expecting flashbacks to flesh out characters or tie up story loose ends and I wasn’t expecting an entire new cast of characters to center around. Maybe that’s just “subverting expectations”?

I also didn’t find the story or characters that interesting. I don’t know if shooting a guy or not is going to have long term ramifications, especially in the last episode of the season.

The story is also a quite smaller scale. By which I mean it largely takes place in only few places and group of characters don’t change nearly as often as season 2.

One thing actually did stand out to me that I didn’t notice in 2, actually: when I would choose a dialog option sometimes the character I’m speaking to would jump to a different place to start speaking their dialog. That didn’t even happen in season 1. Having just played the Mass Effect trilogy, I’m kind of used to that jumping around in dialog scenes. I just don’t know why it’s happening in season 3 if it didn’t happen in the first two seasons.

Conclusion

Again, I haven’t played season 4 as I write this. Assuming I’m not disappointed with it, this season will always be “that other one” that doesn’t feel like it fits some how.

It’s an okay story that is relatively short and I would say worth experiencing at least once. But I can’t imagine it sticking with me or my continuing to think about it 24 hours after completing it.

Bonus thoughts

I do have one thing to think about since since I have that second fresh save game: do I go back and catch that save game up to season 4, re-playing 400 days, season 2 and season 3 or do I just continue on through season 4?

Or perhaps option 3: copy/paste this up-to-season-3 save game into a another save slot. That way if I wanted to replay season 4 again I could. It wouldn’t be with the mirror-mirror version of Clementine of the second save game that’s still all the way back at the end of season 1, but it would be a quick way to re-experience season 4 if I wanted to. Which I probably will.

Okay I did make a copy of this season 3 game. And I think I want to continue on to season 4. Keep the momentum going. And I won’t get confused on which choices I made in which story line.


Metadata

Method of control used Regular PS4 gamepad
Controllable via both one analog stick or digital four-way (“HAT”) n/a
Hardware requirements: n/a
Supports 21:9 aspect ratio screens?n/a
Device(s) tried on PS4 (non-pro)
TV2020-era 55″ 4k TV with HDR specialness
Initial setup required Turned on subtitles
Sound setup5.1 surround system/receiver
Total time to completion~10 hours (the game and PS4 don’t track time elapsed so best guess)
difficulty level“Normal” difficulty, turned on some visual click points to be less frustrating.
Random assortment of meta data

2 thoughts on “Game Review: The Walking Dead DE: Season 3 – PS4

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