We’ve come to the end of the long, bloody road through Georgia for Lee, Clementine, and whatever remains of his group of survivors. There’s been blood, tears, the occasional (very occasional) chuckle, and some of the most solid writing ever committed to the gaming format. Does Episode 5—No Time Left go out with guns a-blazing, or does it merely shuffle towards a rotten end? Here’s an unexpected warning from me, as I try not to do this often, but there will be some spoilers—albeit necessary ones—as I cover the final episode in one of the most unexpectedly fantastic games of the year.
If you haven’t played any of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: The Video Game, know this: stop reading (like right now) and go get it. It doesn’t matter what the platform is, whether you download it or wait for the retail release, just get it. I don’t care if you hate adventure games (Philistine!) or don’t even get the whole zombie thing. Telltale has crafted a game that has wrought more emotion from me than any game I have ever played. The ending of the last episode presented a truly horrible twist: Lee had been bitten by a walker and his young sidekick Clementine had been kidnapped, leaving little time for him to rescue her before he inevitably turned.
Episode 5 falls in step with this sense of urgency, setting a pace that feels far more brisk than some of the episodes that have preceded it. The conversational interludes of the past episodes are all but nonexistent, replaced by breakneck pacing that almost borders on action and a series of brutal set pieces that establish that Lee is going to rescue Clementine no matter what his final fate may be. There’s a QTE-peppered stomp through a horde of walkers, with Lee using only a meat cleaver in his remaining hand (you have the option to amputate the bitten arm) to hack his way through the rotting ranks, never slowing for a moment as he storms the hotel where Clementine is being held. This is a man who is driven by his love for another, and we feel it as he buries his cutlery in zombie after zombie.
There is one small misstep once the main “villain” of the episode is revealed, as it feels a little hollow once he steps out of the shadows to confront you. I won’t say who he was (it took me a moment to realize myself), but it’s a strange turn of events that didn’t have the impact that the writer was hoping for.
However, the meeting of the minds between the two is intense, with questions of morality being raised and the debate volleying back and forth with extra introspection required on the part of the player. Do you regret your actions? Would you do things the same if you were given the chance? Even as you race towards the finish line, the game keeps asking you to make split-second decisions that feel even more critical than ever, as now there’s no time for a do-over because this really is the end.
Oh, the ending. Maybe it was the sizable amount of Sailor Jerry I had stirred into my Dr Pepper, but the ending left me blubbering like a child, a quivering heap of snot, tears, and rum. Despite the different writers across the five episodes, the investment in the characters was real and any attachment you got to them was genuine. Like any good experience, you’re truly sad to see it end, but a suggestive stinger post-credits (as well as Telltale Games’ own confession) reveal that this is only the end of the first “season” of the game. If the second season is half as good as the first, it will be worth the wait.