Let me put this out there right off the bat: I couldn’t ask for a better ending to Telltale’s first season of episodic Walking Dead games. Episode 5 goes above and beyond in terms of storytelling and character progression. More than any episode before it, No Time Left was, expectedly, the most heart wrenching one. If you’ve played Episode 4, then you probably know why. If not, then don’t worry; you’ll find no spoilers here–just the ramblings of a critic who’s absolutely in love with this series as a whole.
Starting precisely where Episode 4 left off, this episode reflects past decisions and situations right from the get-go. Whomever you’ve chosen to accompany you on your final mission will be ready and waiting to give you a hand (ha) with an optional, farfetched idea. You, as the player, are once again subjected to a brutal and gory start to an episode that is tasked with wrapping up (almost) all story threads woven in the first four episodes. That means that now, more than ever, you’ll meet the consequences of all the decisions you’ve made so far—a feat that I can only imagine was a nightmare for Telltale to develop. Again, don’t worry: they pulled it off.
As far as gameplay goes, the game plays exactly the same as it always has (see review of Episode 1), but Episode 5 is way less action-oriented than Episode 4. However, that doesn’t mean you’re not on the edge of your seat from one moment to the next. Quite the opposite, actually; even though you spend a lot of time in conversation, you’ll find yourself having to make quick decisions at the drop of a dime. The stakes are high, and Lee, the character you control, is the team leader after all. Whether you’re delegating tasks to other members of your group, choosing what to do with your resources, or partaking in a verbal debate, just like the name of this episode implies, you’ll be forced to think quickly and use both logic and speed when making decisions.
This episode did feel shorter than most others, but not to its detriment. This is probably due to the fact that there are so many branching paths that had to have been meshed together. There isn’t any less game here; you’re just seeing a smaller portion of it played out.
Audio and presentation are again at an all-time high for the series. Nothing has changed with the aesthetic, but frame rate issues and transition hitches are, thankfully, a thing of the past. It seems as though Telltale learned from creating Episode 4 and incorporated that same eerie feeling we felt last time, through audio queues. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you’ll always hear the distant zombie moaning and groaning; a constant reminder that you’re always in danger.
Voice acting is really where Episode 5 steps up. It’s been great this whole time, but without getting too specific, there are certain scenes that are pretty damn emotional, so the actors had to really give it their all when recording this stuff. How emotional, you ask? Well I’m not embarrassed to admit that my eyes teared up at a point. This isn’t the first game to have this effect on me, but games that do are so few and far between that I can probably count them on one hand. The fact that The Walking Dead is a game that can make you feel so much that you cry is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Lee’s voice acting, performed by Dave Fennoy, was impeccable. However, Clementine, the little girl you’re working so hard to protect (voiced by Melissa Hutchison) is one of the pillars of this series for me. Throughout this season, she’s gone through such a subtle but important character progression, and in turn, has me caring for her most. She’s so innocent, adorable, and charming that it made me think of how I’d like to raise a child one day. Again, something not many games can do, and no game has ever done for me.
Episode 5 is just as good as every episode before it, if not better. The writing was deep, well thought out, and even humorous at some points. That’s right: you laugh and cry in Episode 5. You can’t ask for more in a story-driven adventure video game.
No Time Left wraps up this story very well, but there are still some loose ends that haven’t been tied up. What’s even worse is that a brief cut-scene is played after the credits, which leads season 1 to end on a cliff-hanger. This isn’t a problem if we’ll learn more in the future, but Telltale hasn’t given any details on which characters and/or storylines will be making an appearance in season 2. If the ending of season 1 goes on unexplained, then that’s a bad thing. I need to know what happened.
The journey is over, and throughout it, I learned to love, hate, and even fear these fictional characters brought forth and made so real by Telltale’s take on Robert Kirkman’s ‘The Walking Dead’ universe. From Episode 1 through 5, I was hooked, emotionally invested, and blown away with how much I actually cared about Clementine.
The Walking Dead is one of the best downloadable games of all time, a statement I have no problem making. Being the best example of episodic gaming to date, I implore you all to give season 1 a try. It’ll take you for a ride.