In preparation for The Walking Dead: The Final Season, which premieres later this month, Telltale recently unveiled their Story Builder, a tool which allows players to construct a past for Clementine in just a few minutes, in case they don’t feel like playing twenty to thirty hours of past seasons to catch up. The player is asked how they would deal with specific scenarios, all of which occurred in the series at some point or another. At the end, the player’s Clementine is given a certain personality trait, such as “selfless” or “brutal” to name a couple, which can then be carried over into The Final Season. It’s possible that the new game won’t rely on choices made in previous seasons almost at all and only use this personality trait as a means of altering the narrative, but it’s possible that it won’t be as simple as that. Maybe the specific choices you make in the Story Builder, such as what Lee’s advice to Clementine is, will make some sort of impression on the final chapter, even if it’s something as small as Clem passing this advice on to AJ in one scene. So in this article, I’ll go through the few choices the player has to make in the Story Builder and discuss what those choices could mean for the final game. And before I continue, note that this article will contain MASSIVE SPOILERS for The Walking Dead: Season One, Season Two and A New Frontier, as well as potential spoilers for The Final Season. And also spoilers for the Story Builder, I guess.
A New Frontier Choices
I think it’ll actually be easier to work backwards, so we’re going to start with the Story Builder choices based on the most recent season, A New Frontier. Or rather, the Story Builder choice, since the entirety of the series’ third season is represented with a single decision. The Story Builder asks if, when Clem is being kicked out of The New Frontier, she fights to keep AJ with her or if she accepts that the group is taking him away from her. It makes sense that this is the decision from A New Frontier that they’re going with, since The Final Season seems to be all about Clem and AJ’s relationship, and this choice clearly gives some background into that relationship. That being said, I don’t see this choice being anything more than background info for these characters’ relationship. In A New Frontier, the outcome is the same regardless of your decision; AJ gets taken away from Clem, no matter if you tried to fight to keep him or if you accepted that you’re losing him. So it’s not like the narrative of The Final Season or The Walking Dead series as a whole will be substantially changed based on this relatively small decision. Rather, it will probably just serve as a small talking point at some point in The Final Season when AJ decides to be rebellious and question Clem’s loyalty to him, at which point Clem can either state that she fought to keep him or she did what she thought was responsible and let him be taken care of by more competent adults, or something like that. But ultimately, this decision wasn’t something that altered the events of A New Frontier very much (on its own, at least) and I don’t particularly see it altering the events of The Final Season very much either.
What I actually find more interesting about the A New Frontier section of the Story Builder is how much wasn’t included. There’s nothing about Clem’s relationship with Javier or whether she chose to go after Gabe or not or really anything about the Garcias at all. And if we’re to believe that someone can start The Final Season having just gone through this Story Builder and not having played the last three games, then theoretically how Clem left it with the Garcias (and even which Garcias are still alive) won’t have an impact on The Final Season. After all, if any of the Garcias make a reappearance in The Final Season, wouldn’t it probably be good to know which Garcias are still alive, which ones Clem has a good relationship with, etc.? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be useful for the Story Builder to ask questions about the Garcias? Given that all of A New Frontier is summed up in the Story Builder with just a single, seemingly inconsequential decision, we can probably assume that most choices players made in A New Frontier won’t impact The Final Season, which would seem to imply that Clem is not returning to The New Frontier, she’s not meeting back up with the Garcias, loose ends in A New Frontier won’t be tied up and the events of A New Frontier in general won’t have a lasting effect on Clem’s story. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; hopefully The Final Season will be able to stand as a great game on its own without having to rely on past entries to prop it up. That being said, fans were pretty upset when A New Frontier seemed to retcon players’ decisions from Season Two, so it would be understandable if they were to be upset if A New Frontier was also largely retconned by The Final Season.
Season Two Choices
Season Two is also represented in the Story Builder with a small number of decisions, implying that it probably won’t have a huge impact on The Final Season either. However, unlike with A New Frontier for which the single decision in the Story Builder was one that was pretty unimportant to the overall game, the two decisions representing Season Two in the Story Builder are pretty much the ones that shaped which ending players got in Season Two. The two Season Two-related questions in the Story Builder are whether Clem shot Kenny or let him kill Jane, and then if Clem decided to stay with Kenny/Jane in the aftermath or if she decided to go it alone after that. So it’s possible that the player’s Season Two ending will hold more weight in The Final Season. However, these decisions only give a vague idea of what the player’s Season Two ending actually was. Just knowing that Clem ended up with Kenny, for example, doesn’t let the Story Builder know which of the two Kenny endings the player got (did Clem end up at Wellington or stay with Kenny?). So maybe the specific ending the player got in Season Two won’t make much impact in The Final Season. Rather, Clem will probably just mention at a few points that she was either with AJ alone, or she tried to take care of AJ with either Kenny or Jane. But, once again, I don’t see which character Clem ended up with at the end of Season Two being super important to the narrative of The Final Season, let alone shaping it in one direction or another. Instead, it probably just lays down some groundwork for Clem and AJ’s relationship based on past events, like the A New Frontier choice in the Story Builder.
Season One Choices
Season One got by far the most representation in the Story Builder, making up four of its seven questions. This makes sense, given that Season One is by far the most popular season in the series. But it also potentially means that the choices made in the first season will have the biggest impact on The Final Season.
Two of the Season One choices in the Story Builder have to do with the season’s final scene in which Lee gives Clem his last advice as he’s succumbing to his Walker bite. The Story Builder asks if Lee’s advice was “Always keep moving,” “Stay away from Cities” or “Keep your hair short” before asking if Clem shot Lee to prevent him from turning or if Lee told her to leave to spare her from having to kill him. There are some hopeful fans who might see this as a sign that Lee may make an appearance in The Final Season, like if you chose to not shoot him he could have miraculously recovered and he ends up escaping and finding Clem again, but let’s be real, that’s not going to happen. Lee’s dead. More likely, whatever advice Lee gave Clem is the advice Clem will give to AJ at some point (hopefully under different circumstances), and whether Lee had Clem shoot him or leave him may influence what kind of mentor Clem will be for AJ as well. For example, players who chose to have Clem shoot Lee may be given dialogue options that are more cold but pragmatic, while players who had Clem leave Lee may be given options that are more emotional but potentially dangerous. Or maybe these decisions will just lead to a scene where Clem tells someone about her past, what she had to do to Lee and what he said to her, but won’t severely impact the gameplay or narrative or anything.
The other two Season One decisions in the Story Builder, however, have to do with Lilly. I mean, they have to do with Lee to the extent that he was the one making them, but hear me out. The first question you’re asked in the Story Builder is whether Lee saved Doug or Carley in the first episode of the first season. On its own, it would seem that this decision would just be more conversation fodder for some new character Clem will talk about her past with in The Final Season. However, this decision substantially affects the second decision in the Story Builder, which is what Lee does with Lilly once she kills Doug/Carley. Like the more Lee-related questions, this could influence what kind of mentor Clem is to AJ. Did she learn pragmatism from Lee when he kicked Lilly out of the group, or did she learn forgiveness when he let Lilly stay with the group? Which of these traits will she pass on to AJ?
There is another possibility, however. Telltale has yet to outright deny that any previous characters from the series will be reappearing in The Final Season (except Clem and AJ, obviously). This has led to fans theorizing which previous character could potentially return. One recent theory is that Nate from Season One‘s “400 Days” DLC may return in The Final Season, though there are obviously plenty of fans who are skeptical of this theory. Other past characters whose fates are unknown include Christa and Lilly. And if Lilly was to return in this final chapter, it would probably be helpful to know both who she killed and what Lee did with her once she committed the murder. So maybe the Story Builder’s first two questions are just giving some background to Clem’s character to determine what kind of person she’d be by the events of The Final Season. But maybe those two questions are also necessary information for how Lilly’s interactions with Clem would be like if the two are to meet up again.
That being said, if Lilly really was to return in the new season, there’s a lot more information from Season One that would probably have to be taken into consideration. For example, did Lee help Kenny kill Lilly’s dad, Larry, or did Lee try to help Lilly save him? If Lilly and Clem did reconnect, it’s probably pretty likely that that is something one of them would bring up, so it’s something that the Story Builder probably should have asked about if Lilly is in fact making a return. So Lilly fans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up.
In any case, we’ll probably see, at least to some extent, how choices from past seasons will affect The Final Season when the first episode premieres on August 14. The hype is real.