It's fair to say that I have played a lot of Telltale games over the years and the dynamics have remained mostly unchanged, for good and bad. I have a particular fascination towards Telltale's style of games which was instilled by TWD series. No other game in their portfolio is more suitable for this type of episodic, decision-based storytelling than this series. Which brings us to this season's review and hence a disclaimer:
The following review contains plot spoilers from this season and the previous ones, read at your own discretion.
For those of you who have played A New Frontier will remember that Clementine leaves the group and continues the journey on her own, in search of AJ. This season fast forwards to the point where Clementine and AJ are reunited. Now, this is a bummer for me because, in the last season, she spent half of the time trying to figure where AJ was and she was so out of control that she was about to kill someone. And suddenly in this season, they are reunited and their priorities are survival, of course. Contextually it just feels off, a lurch forward in the plot where perhaps some backstory may have been required.
Clementine and AJ are looking for a place to settle down. In the last season, Clementine was offered a place to stay in the New Frontier by Javier and if she had found AJ, why did she not go back? Oh, because Telltale needed to make a new game in its most successful franchise.
Moving on to the storyline, without giving any spoilers, you can understand the scenario of this episode or should I say this entire season by considering this: What Lee was to Clementine is now Clementine to AJ with the minor difference that AJ is more savage and has no control on his emotions. For Telltale, blowing the storyline outwards is fairly easy by making the kid a murderer unless Clementine is able to nurture him otherwise.
This episode lays the foundation for an intense plot, which is a characteristic of every Telltale game, but in comparison to previous seasons' respective first episodes, it's bland and, well, predictable. That's not to say you'll be able to predict everything. After all, this is Telltale, but the overall twists and turns which we are used to in TWD games are present here but in an extremely toned down version.
In regards to combat, if you're at a specific distance from a walker then you can stun and kill him or use traps nearby if they are available. Telltale has made sure that you will get your hands dirty by keeping guns usage to an absolute minimum. That leaves you with daggers and close combat with the walkers, more blood to you.
Initially, both Clementine and AJ are continuously on a road trip and later on the scenery changes to an abandoned school where the kids are in command. Talk about a Code Name: Kids Next Door type scenario right? Number 1 would be so proud.
Ahem, coming back to the environment, there is the free roam element which actually suits the setting. You'll help AJ make friends and develop his personality, and the ideal setting to roam around and settle is a school. And this roaming, social element is a particular thing that was missing from the previous games, the protagonists would either be locked inside a house or would be too busy doing side missions or so.
The episode is not related to AJ only, Clementine will be personally involved in other's affairs. Telltale takes "It's easier to talk to strangers" rule quite seriously and almost everyone will be looking for Clem's advice in helping them solve their relationship issues or misunderstandings. The dialogues are interesting and create a scenario worthy of a Telltale game.
There is very little wrong with this episode but for someone who critically analyzes the storyline and how the events unfold, I would have preferred a little insight into how AJ's personality was shaped from past events. This scenario could probably become an episode itself. That being said, this episode is a fitting but perhaps a little bland start to the final season of The Walking Dead.