A seven-year-long journey comes to a close as The Walking Dead: The Final Season episode 4 brings Clementine’s story to a righteous conclusion.
Title: The Walking Dead: The Final Season episode 4 – Take Us Back
Publisher: Skybound Games
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 26, 2019
As the final credits rolled on “Take Us Back,” the fourth and final episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want this series, one I have adored since 2012, to bring closure to a story that deepened my love of video games as a medium of entertainment worth investing. I didn’t want to face reality. I wanted an easier pill to swallow.
So I replayed the entire mainline series immediately after completing this last episode, seeing the seeds of choice such as licking a salt lick or eating human flesh and seeing the fruits of my labor bear fruit before my eyes. Though the road was rough at times, it made me appreciate the hell out of Team StillNotBitten; the developers who, much like Clementine, saw so many friends fall on the path towards the end.
Unfortunately, it did little to prevent the inevitable. The Walking Dead: The Final Season episode 4, “Take Us Back,” is a bittersweet farewell that shows the potential of what the series could have accomplished had this final chapter come a year or two earlier.
Following the events of the last episode, Clementine, AJ and the Academy students face uncertainty and panic amid an explosion of chaos. The fate of several key characters quickly fade to the background as we focus on what strikes to the heart of the players; the ongoing strife of Clementine and AJ as she struggles to find her footing in the role as a parent to a child in a world without children.
Though the numerous series of dichotomous choices bring about the normal endgame consequences, “Take Us Back” tries to toe the line as a three-hour chapter, an end to a season, the end of a franchise and the swan song of Telltale Games’ legacy. Unfortunately, it is near impossible of a task to complete, as the end result is a saccharine but bloated checklist, marking off everything Telltale’s developers wanted to accomplish in one giant push.
As we’ve seen throughout The Walking Dead: The Final Season, episode 4 performs best when it masterfully blends gameplay and story. Here we see Clementine and AJ explore new ways to take on the zombie threats, and more importantly, we see how the remaining staffers explored new ways of using those moments to showcase how they wanted to see Clementine’s journey end.
We even see moments of changing perspectives and compelling new ways of how other characters see the zombie world they all live in without retreading either Telltale or The Walking Dead standards. We actually see part of the formula in choice-based narrative change, both functionally and stylistically!
Therein lies the frustration; we see great new ideas form only at the end, teasing game design opportunities that will never see the light again. Not only does it come off as too little, too late, but its complexity adds another layer atop a very busy conclusion that starts to drag on in reaching the end.
It’s hard to discuss the (im)potency of a story without getting into spoilers, but for me, I found “Take Us Back” tries to have its cake and eat it, too, only to be unsuccessful in its venture. I only found this to be the case on the second time through after running the franchise, as the episode tries to be a bit too familiar in paying homage to the past while also trying to take things a step further.
While not nearly as nostalgic in its approach as episode 3 of this season, it became harder to ignore how other seasons came to a more natural conclusion. Here, depending on your choices, the opposing forces of nature don’t come to an end gracefully, dropping characters and plot points off as quickly as possible so we can pad more of Clementine and AJ’s important story beats.
One thing I greatly appreciated was after it was all said and done, your choice menu shows you all the branching options for this season’s major options. Considering the series once had scene selection that made it easier to see all the possible story points, it makes seeing the ending of The Walking Dead that much easier.
I initially found myself more appreciative of The Walking Dead: The Final Season’s final episode on my first playthrough and a bit mildly frustrated on the second approach. Though there are a dozen or so iterations of what you can see in the final moments, the nagging notion of “your choices don’t matter” rears its head a final time as, no matter which option you choose near the end for one branching path, the result is a disappointingly linear one.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.