The Walking Dead: The Final Season kicked off last month, and marks the final time we’ll be seeing Clementine. It’s been a long, tired old journey from the debut season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, back when we were raising Clementine through the eyes of Lee.
At Gamescom 2018 in Cologne, we spoke to Telltale executive producer Brodie Andersen about Clementine’s swansong, whether this is truly the end of The Walking Dead series as a whole, and how the Telltale Tool has evolved over the last few years in the face of criticism.
Can you talk about the decision to leave the Garcia family behind in A New Frontier and bring Clementine back as protagonist for The Final Season?
Brodie Andersen: Season 3 was really the story of the Garcias, it was Javi’s story. We certainly heard from the fans that they missed playing as Clementine, for Season 3 we tried something different, but for Season 4 it was a no brainer to bring back Clementine.
In Clementine and Alvin Jr., has Telltale seen any backlash to casting two African American characters in the lead roles for The Walking Dead: The Final Season?
BA: I believe not, not that I can think of. The Walking Dead, whether it’s the TV show or the game or the comics is generally diverse.
With two characters of minority backgrounds in the beginning with Lee and Clementine, and now in The Final Season with Clementine and A.J., how important do you think it is to tell these stories from the perspective of a minority?
BA: We do wanna be diverse and representative of the current landscape. We don’t really think about it that much, it’s really the characters that we’re focusing on, and their own internal perspectives and how the world is affecting them.
Can you talk about the process behind the improvements you’ve made to the Telltale Engine for this final season of The Walking Dead.
BA: At the start of the season we took a step back and said okay, there’s a number of things that we want to do better. So one of the big places that you can see that in is the render style, we’re using full dynamic lighting, which is a big upgrade for us. Facial animations have improved, and lip sync has improved so we’ve incorporated French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.
You talked about taking a step back before the season kicked off. What prompted that reassessment from Telltale?
BA: We do always want to try and improve and do better where we can, but we did hear some comments and some frustrations from bugs that had been in previous seasons. As you can see we have less products in the marketplace this year, and Pete Holly coming on board as CEO had a mantra of ‘do less better’, and we’ve really taken that to heart.
You’ve scheduled new episodes of The Final Season to be released roughly every six weeks. That’s a lot shorter than in past Telltale seasons, what’s the thinking behind that?
BA: In the past there would be a number of weeks, sometimes months between episodes, not just on the walking dead. The goal is to not have the players wondering when it’s going to be coming out, and with ‘doing less better’ we’ve been able to take a more pragmatic approach, and we feel really good about letting players know exactly when the new episodes are coming out.
Playing the new episode of The Final Season, I got the ending where Brody is killed by Marlon, who is then killed by Alvin Jr. Is there an alternate outcome for this ending to the opening episode?
BA: So there are critical path moments in the episode that everyone experiences together, and this is one of them. What Alvin Jr. says after he shoots Marlon is going to be dictated by what you tell him in previous scenes, whether it’s “always aim for the head”, or “save the last bullet for yourself.”
The other night I saw Life is Strange 2, which has similar parallels to The Walking Dead: The Final Season in that you play a mentor to a younger person, and your decisions influence their behaviour. Is this the beginning of a new trend in video games?
BA: That’s an interesting question, I actually wasn’t aware that Life is Strange 2 had that parallel with The Walking Dead: The Final Season. How we conduct ourselves in video games and how that’s perceived by other characters is an interesting space to be in. I think a lot of good topics for discussion can come out of that, and in The Walking Dead: The Final Season you are very much shaping A.J., how you conduct yourself around him plays a pivotal role in the person he evolves into.
I’ve read that this is Clementine’s last season, but is this it for Telltale’s The Walking Dead as a whole?
BA: The latter we don’t really have too much to say about right now, but the former this is absolutely the end to Clementine’s tale.
The second episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season will launch for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on September 25. For our full thoughts on the opening episode of Clementine’s final chapter, head over to our Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 1 review.