It’s been 7 years since Clementine’s journey began and seeing her story reaching its end is bittersweet. Despite a few years away from the series, having missed out on A New Frontier, Clem feels like an old friend. The Final Season does a great job of concisely recapping the series while allowing players without a prior save to shape their current Clem with a set of key decisions.
This season follows Clem, now in her late teens, and AJ, a hardened 5-year-old, on the road as they search for refuge from the zombie ridden wilds. In Episode 1: Done Running, Clem and AJ came across Ericson’s Boarding School, a community of troubled youths run by Marlon, a paranoid teen with a striking resemblance to Kiefer Sutherland’s David from The Lost Boys. This first episode came to a dramatic climax as tensions built and Marlon’s secret was revealed to the group.
Episode 2: Suffer the Children saw Clem and AJ exiled leading them to encounter a new ally and new threat, forcing them to return to the divided group at Ericson’s. Culminating in a heated battle as raiders attacked the school, relationships were tested, and friends were taken. These first two episodes did an excellent job of establishing the distinct characters in your group of survivors, while exploring the relationship between your protagonists, as Clem struggled with AJ’s growing anger.
With half your group captured by raiders, Episode 3: Broken Toys takes Clem and co out into the danger zone beyond their compound to confront the raiders and bring back their allies. The episode’s opening scene continues to explore how Clem shapes AJ’s morals, developing your sense of responsibility for his actions. As AJ becomes increasingly accustomed to the brutality of this world, the reassurance I felt in his survivalist attitude has turned to concern for his callousness. Tough decisions are not the only challenging aspect of this final season; combat, while refined, is a lot less forgiving with any misstep resulting in an instantaneous gory end. This can result in replaying scenarios several times, leading to some frustration.
With Clem taking on the role of guardian and moral compass to AJ, much like Lee did for her, a sense of duty influences every decision you make. Balancing survival with setting an example for AJ regularly made me pause while I considered the ramifications of my choices. I did my best to remain level-headed and diplomatic, but my need to protect AJ led me to several ruthless decisions, making for some of the toughest and most affecting moments in any Telltale game yet.
The writing in this final season is excellent, capitalizing on the player’s long history with Clem. She truly feels like a character shaped by her past, one which you helped created, and seeing her growth from the scared little girl in Season 1 to the world-weary woman she is now is quite profound. Each and every supporting character is equally well written and fleshed out, from allies and villains to close friends and love interests, they all have a fully-formed personality and role in your story.
Broken Toys is perfectly structured, contrasting violence and drama with humour and poignancy to great effect. A party the teens throw before they set off to rescue their friends juxtaposes the treacherous mission to come as they enjoy one another’s companionship, sharing anecdotes and joking. One scene with James, a zombie whisperer we met in Episode 2, presents you with questions about the humanity and sentience of zombies in an intriguing and original twist on zombie fiction. Similarly, a particularly moving moment of introspection for Clem has her consulting Lee in her thoughts, voicing her fears and seeking his advice.
This penultimate episode comes to a climactic head in a tense confrontation between Clem and her allies and the raider’s all too familiar leader. AJ anger peaks and the cost of your choices becomes apparent. The outcome of my final decision shocked me, and I sat there, mouth agape as the screen faded to black. Reloading to make the opposite choice yielded a seemingly better outcome but I still felt conflicted about what was the best thing to do. While the ending is abrupt it has me anxious and eager to see how Clem’s journey will end on the 26th of March.
Broken Toys is an excellent penultimate episode, managing to pack horror, humour, action and intimacy into its 3-hour run-time. Beyond improvements to controls, UI, visual presentation and performance, The Final Season’s greatest feat is in how it has refined the Telltale formula. Choice and consequence feeling more tangible and meaningful than ever, perfectly complimenting the superb writing and making this story feel truly your own. I am surprised at just how enduring my connection to Clem is after such a long time apart, but my affection for her is testament to the strength of her character.
The Waking Dead: The Final Season - Episode 3: Broken Toys PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
The Final Season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead is an excellently written conclusive chapter to Clementine’s long running story and Broken Toys marks the most exhilarating and affecting episode yet.
– Excellent storytelling and writing
– Meaningful choices
– Improved presentation and controls
– Very easy to die, making some scenarios frustrating
– I need to know how it all ends!
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.