The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3 Review
Hey, Sweet Pea
Whenever someone seems to die in The Walking Dead’s many forms of fiction, fans always ask themselves how they will return. Will they come back like all the millions who’ve died around the world, shambling along as a zombie? Or will their death have been an epic fake-out leading to them surprisingly walking back into everyone’s life down the road? For The Walking Dead: The Final Season, its apparent death came when developer/publisher Telltale surprisingly shut down last year.
Thanks to some behind-the-scenes wrangling though, it has returned. But those two questions still lingered over its triumphant rise from the dead. Would it be a zombie of its former self, or would it be just like it always had been. As the credits rolled on The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3 ‘Broken Toys’ it was clearly the latter, arriving like nothing had happened, and bringing all the charm, drama, and character back with it.
The story picks up right where things left at the conclusion of Episode 2. Following Clementine’s lead, the survivors at Ericson School for Troubled Youth have just fought off a massive attack by nearby raiders, led by Clem’s old “friend” Lily. While they survived the attack, all did not go according to plan. The raiders have captured some of their friends, while Clem’s group has one of their’s. Clem will have to figure out how to rescue their old friends while dealing with this group of raiders that’s set on capturing them all and using them as slave soldiers. Did Lee teach her well enough for this situation? Can she navigate all of this danger and violence while still keeping AJ sane and good?
If you had any doubt that Skybound was in complete control of The Walking Dead: The Final Season and could deliver on the last two episodes just as well as Telltale, that should disappear about five minutes into Episode 3. The game picks up right where Episode 2 ended in both story and overall feel. If one wasn’t following gaming news and knew the drama that went on last year, there’d be little to indicate anything of significance had happened. So, now that that’s settled, how does Episode 3 hold up as a whole?
Episode 3 ‘Broken Toys’ is another treat in terms of plot and the people you get to interact with
Playing out as another feature-length episode, it’s clear that the shortened episode schedule was not meant to shorten the season-long game length. This is a long and rewarding episode of gaming. Players will deal with the aftermath of the attack, interact with their new friends at Ericson, plan out a counter-attack, and much more. All along the way there’s Clementine, a character that players have known, loved, and shaped over the years this series has developed. How strong she is in the face of this danger falls back on you and the choices you’ve made (in classic Telltale fashion, of course).
The developers play on this strength a lot too, and to the episode’s benefit. Callbacks, flashbacks, and references will cement how much time you’ve spent with this character, and how much she has grown. Billed from the beginning as “The Final Season”, we all knew there’d be a heavy emphasis on Clem and her past. However, it’s still tough to see this acting as a grand, epic finale for the character. It instead feels like seeing her grow into the adult we’ve anticipated this whole time, then either killing her or letting her walk off into the sunset. Maybe that’s for the best though, so we’ll leave that for next episode to show; one way or the other.
But without the weight of finality to the season, Episode 3 ‘Broken Toys’ is another treat in terms of plot and the people you get to interact with. The kids of Ericson’s are all fun to talk to, and have true personality behind everything they do and say. Something as simple as organizing a get-together before a big battle can feel important and fun as you decide on decorations and then chat with everyone about their past. Along the way players will have to make big decisions about who lives, who dies, and what sort of example Clem is setting for AJ. It’s strange how much more important everything feels when there’s a potential future psychopath sitting there, judging everything you do.
Outside of the well-written story and characters, The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3 ‘Broken Toys’ offers up more of the enhanced gameplay that seemed to signal great things in Telltale’s future. Segmented into setpieces and chapters, the episode delivers some really great moments of both action and drama. However, both of these are undercut by the one way in which this episode struggles to live up to its predecessors.
While Telltale releases have always had spotty records when it comes to performance The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3 has some truly rough spots. Key moments, including a major action scene near the end, are dampened by framerate stutters and other tech issues. These can and hopefully will be resolved by updates, but it was unfortunate to see when everything else worked so well. And these aren’t momentary stutters that don’t impact the experience either. Mine were game impacting to the point that I rebooted and stepped away for awhile. It didn’t help though, suggesting that many others will have the same experience.
A smaller disappointment with The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3 is its ending. While it’s solidly enjoyable in the moment, the major decision Clem and the player are forced to make feels exactly that: forced. Of course, every cliffhanger’s quality is decided by how its followup carries it forward, but this one just didn’t land like it should have. The choice is so binary, when there are a multitude of other options available, and the consequences are pretty obvious, no matter which way you go. While it doesn’t destroy the experience of what came before, it detracts from it somewhat and will require solid storytelling to really feel like a worthy ending to this great series.
The mere fact that The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3 ‘Broken Toys’ exists is cause for celebration. Rising from the ashes of Telltale’s sudden closing, Skybound has helped bring this episode to life as if it had never had any issues at all. The result is another solid entry into this franchise, though it still isn’t feeling like a major finale is right around the corner. With its movie length though, we could be in for anything with Episode 4. What we’re left with in Episode 3 is a great penultimate entry to this series, which would have been even better with a less contrived ending and more stable gameplay in the larger scenes.
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Skybound Games
- Developed By: Skybound Games
- Genre: Graphic Adventure
- US Release Date: January 15th, 2019
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "The mere fact that The Walking Dead: The Final Season – Episode 3 'Broken Toys' exists is cause for celebration."