Telltale's The Walking Dead: Choice Words

A video analysis on the illusion of choice presented over each season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead along with some more general thoughts on each season. Some useful notes below.


Video Links
Game Footage from Myself and:

CommentaryComms playthrough:

– A lot of the footage in this is upscaled 720p, I recorded a lot of this footage years ago, so I mostly reached out to others for extra footage, but had to use mine for certain choices and segments.
– My season 2 segment got a bit out of hand with extra bits recorded in post as goodness, I have a lot of issues with season 2. This said if you enjoy it, more power to you, we’re free to disagree, just try and be civil if you’re going to, hell, be civil if you’re going to agree with me.
– I consider The New Frontier an improvement over Season 2 generally
– I tried to pick interesting camera angles to present with my information but obviously have to mix it with footage that backs up what I’m saying. luckily later seasons saved me the bother as my word the cinematography (would that even be the term?) is dull for a lot of S2 and New Frontier.
– Yes, I haven’t played Episode 2 of Final season, I probably will at some point.
– I don’t cover it in this video, at least not in great detail, but my sympathies are with the former Telltale staff and I wish them only the best, I didn’t know until recently that the Telltale tool was a stodgy nightmare to work with and was labouring under a false assumption otherwise.
– Yes, I am aware there’s no small irony in a video about storytelling in a videogame being uploaded after that Ardnut video.
– Remember how around the time of S2 all the discourse was Kenny versus Jane? Regardless of the fact they’re both terrible.


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37 thoughts on “Telltale's The Walking Dead: Choice Words

  1. Hello there, I was interested in seeing views on a series I kind of hold dear to me and I saw your video which is really great. I completely agree that Season One nailed the illusion of choice, it's one of my favorite seasons. Season 2 definitely did not have elements from Season One, whenever I did a choice, I didn't really feel anything, the last one made me cry (I picked Wellington), but despite that it still bothers me how they ruined the illusion of choice. Season 3, they went fucking nuts, at least that's what I think. I can understand why you didn't want to go further into The Final Season considering what the series has become, I honestly think one of the most flawed parts of it is Episode 4, I won't spoil it, but it tries to do a big pay off with Clem and AJ but I felt it doesn't work as well as it should.
    Anyways, thank you for the informative video.

  2. I can watch the season 2 ending with out feeling an inch of the emotion I felt at season 1's ending. Yes, killing Kenny is sad, but it isn't the same as killing Lee. Because Lee's death represented Clem no longer being a hopeless kid. What does season two ending represent? That you either side with piece of shit Kenny, or slightly less piece of shit Jane? Yes you can go by yourself, but why would you? Clem is still a kid. And season 2 ruined the thought that Clem is her own person. She has to rely on Kenny or Luke. She is just the loose string tying the group together. She never shows a sign of "I can do this myself". She always needs a form of help, because she is a fucking kid. So why would you pick the right option of going by yourself when Clem has never proved that she could hold her own? So you either go with piece of shit Kenny, or lesser piece of shit Jane. Season 4, though, that one kicks in. Almost no one who was on your side dies in season 4 unlike 2 where your whole squad is dead by the end. In season two, by the end, I believe only 3 or 4 of your people die compared to the 7 or 8 in season 2. So it hits better. Clem succeeds. She has done what Lee started. Basically for filling what Lee hoped for. That this little girl will do the same as Lee, teach someone what this world is. But the reason why it hits so hard is because we made Clem. We were Lee and we raised Clem and then built her from there. So when we see that Clem went from a girl needing a protector to the protector and knowing that we made her into that protector, it hits.

  3. Problem was, ironically given the failure of the company, although actually the failure was because of this. They sought out money over creating a better game.

    The first season worked for all the reasons you said, some people didn't like it from the beginning because of the "lack of choice and gameplay" whatever, fuck them, the game isn't for them.

    By the time the second season came around (and we are forgetting 400 days because who doesn't) they decided that what made TWD work was deaths out of nowhere and bleak stories, which was actually at odds with why people liked it. The same thing happened to the TV show which is why I stopped watching after whichever episode they decided to rejoin a massive too good to be true community after the first time that went to shit. Series jumped the shark, stopped making sense, I stopped giving a shit. And some people did before that.

    TellTale chased the money and saw their formula worked, they had this almost unique game style that although people would try to imitate (Life is Strange, and the way worse Life is Strange 2 worse for all the reasons I'm about to explain here) they began to just slap a cosmetic layer over their engine, bam there's a fantasy TWD, bam a Batman TWD, oop there's a Game Of Thrones TWD with the team stretched making all these cash grab games and the company profits being reinvested into making all this at the same time as TWD it's no wonder the writing suffered and the gameplay (the choices and branching narrative as that is actually what we play the game for, thus the gameplay) suffered.

    I loved (TT'sTWD S1?) and actually despite all the flaws with the second series I forgave it, I thought that the first episode was a breakneck pace to get us invested in being Clementine now, with no respite to think about anything else until we were already hooked, then I thought the introduction of Lee was interesting, a fan favourite but now changed, he's the best shot Clem has, or he was but now he's different so is he? It had something going for it, but ultimately the illusion of choice lets it down, the ending feels rushed and implausible and ultimately the choice between Lee and Jane not properly explained or acted on.

    If I was in charge I'd have taken the money and time from S1 and forgot all the other bullshit that they made and gone straight into S2, allowing more choice, even keeping the narrative similar, but with that extra time and money been able to make an actually impactful ending with real choice so that by the time you get S3 it's actually 2 different games depending on the choice you make. Because then there's actually reason to start a second save in S2, make the other choice and then continue on to play the second part of S3. We should have seen how far branching narrative can be taken.

    The final nail in the coffin was that because of the oversaturation of TellTale games they made themselves a parody and shot themselves in the foot, S3 opened, bad writing, I no longer understood or cared what was going on, I gave up within the first half an hour. No change to the gameplay this was just going to be S2 all over again. S3 SHOULD have been what S4 tried to do, a genuine change in gameplay, adding in the elements of 3rd person style action and breaching the divide between this series and so called "proper games" by the time they actually tried it it was a dollar short (actually the company was more than few dollars short lol) and a day late, or years late.

    TLDR; The biggest problem wasn't the illusion of choice it was that they never changed from that, that they sought easy money over the artistic merit and thereby gave up what I think to be the easier FORTUNE that could have come from what they had.

  4. "AVA, NO!….. 30 seconds later Well, like Ava always said, no use crying over spilled milk. Best get a move on, the sun's settin'."

    Though still my favorite Tell Tale Games Joke:
    Tell Tale's The Camping Life, survival wilderness game, where your choices matter. Drinks from stream. >The Glaciers will Remember That.<

  5. I often wondered why they always left the majority of responsibilities on clementines shoulders . They b like “ we need somebody to sneak into the crazy mans office who murdered 4 of our friends for some Walky talkies … if only we had somebody small enough to get around unnoticed …..👀(everybody looks at clementine) “

  6. The worst part about all of this is fucking AJ. I wanted to like him, and season four for that matter, I really did, but god knows I don't give a rats ass about this little kid because season three chose to complete skip any emotional attachment I could have to him. This ends up in season four having this weird: Well I care about Clementine and she cares about AJ so I guess I should care about him too?? This series could've been a beautiful look at survival and one idea of humanity's purpose that is teaching and parenting but it falls completely apart after season 1.

  7. Tell tale ruined my favorite game of all time 7 days to die on console so i effin hate the walking dead and everything else theyve touched with gaming. They made the game and aboneded it with only 1 update. And the creators of 7 days just let it happen they sold hundreds of thousands if not millions of console copies (still over 30 dollars on psn) full price for an unfinished game. It seems to me that if u had a contract with tell tale they would be legally obligated to finish the game….. but yet the devs of 7days had to pay 1 million dollars to get the rights back from tell tale even after they went bankrupt. So the 7days team made a killing selling unfinished alpha 15 copies of the game. I know the 7 days isnt technically a finished game but its like 4 or 5 years old as thing point. They technically should be on 7 days 3 or 4 rn they updated the graphics like 3 or 4 times and had major overhauls of the game since it was first released. It just pisses me off that so many studios and companies release games unfinished it hurts them so much more then just finishing the game. When u release a small team game 99% of the sells ur getting is word of mouth since ur not running comercials and ur pretty much relying on lets plays and big youtubers and magizines to talk about your game for free. So when u release an unfinished game by the time its finished years later people either already own copies that ur updating and putting work into for free or theyve lost intrest in it. So yes companies can release that half finished game and get a few million dollars (and screw over the fans in a way) or they could kick start the rest of the game showing how much work went into it and finish the damn thing and make way more

  8. I love how he went from "I'm trying to immerse myself" to watching the playthrough where he just screws with everyone

  9. Ever since the option in Season 3 where you could flirt with the medic lady, I was an absolute bastard to Kate because I thoughtI could eventually be with the medic. I wasted so much of my time chasing a misleading option.

  10. Can’t lie but Javier was cool but everyone else he was around just made me want to fuck over everyone.

  11. Please finish the game. Skybound did it justice imo and made me cry three times, after crying once at the end of S1 and not at all in S2 and S3/TNF. The way you interact with and teach AJ leads to some difficult moral dilemmas.

  12. I always felt for season 2, the season with the least amount of matter to your choices was the purpose (although, the dev team didn't really want it to be but it turned out that way). I always thought it was to teach us that, no matter what you do, some things will happen regardless, even if that means the death of others. Though, that statement being taken to a somewhat dramatic degree in regards to the game.

  13. I will never get over the wasted potential of a character like Luke in season 2.
    The biggest reason as to why the second season is so shitty is that the lead writer, Sean Vanaman, left. Dude's a great writer. Jake Rodkin too, as he was one of the co-creators and directors of the first season and episode respectively.

  14. Ben was the reason why I enjoyed clim but killing ben made clim not love you and Kenny but ben was like a older brother to clim if you let him die she doesn't love you as much

  15. I wanna see him playing through the games like at 21:19 with a friend. That would be cool for a second channel or something

  16. I feel like people miss the point of these choices, and expext too much from them. Sometimes in life it doesn't matter what you pick because things will always happen the same way, or the chamge will be very miniscule. Also, the choices are here not necessarily to decide the outcomes of the story and characters, but rather to provide insight into the story, characters, and even yourself.

  17. Can I just say, I find the whole scene where the party walks across a frozen lake to be the dumbest thing I have ever seen? "It's early winter in Georgia and there is no help around save for us. The ice on this pond is probably about half an inch thick at best and we have no way of gauging it. Let's walk straight across instead of hugging the coastline like reasonable people, because it's marginally faster."

  18. Haven't watched the video yet, but I saw the title, thought "huh, choice words, that's clever wordplay, reminds me of tehsnakerers titles" then checked and saw it was a tehsnakerer video. Nice.

  19. i maintain that TWD Season 1 Game is the best piece of Walking Dead media ever created, including the comic. Clementine must be protected at all costs. You describe it well. Your not just making decisions for yourself, your teaching Clem how to live in this new world. And the game is really successful at immersing you in that.

  20. The problem with the illusion of choice that I hear so many people praise Telltales for is that there's just no reason for me to not just watch a free playthrough of the game. I get the story and the same level of engagement because I get the same level of effect on the story as a viewer vs the player. If the player has no real agency, then I might as well just watch the game instead of play it.

  21. This was an interesting video while I don't think S2 is bad as you do something definitely felt "off" about it. S1 is the best but I think S1 isn't that amazing either.

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