** SPOILERS AHEAD**

Do not read this post unless you’ve finished The Walking Dead from TellTale Games. If you haven’t finished it and want to read this because you’ll never play this game — stop anyway. Stop and go play it.

Where does one start with an experience like The Walking Dead? Do I commend it for its incredible character-building story, or for its stellar voice acting? Do I praise the industry’s additional attempt to bring Point-and-Click adventure games back into the mainstream forefront (L.A. Noire is also commendable)? How about its offering of branching story lines that allow you to decide the fate of others (and ultimately yourself)?

Or, conversely, do I fault it for its messiness — its texture glitches, its sometimes-choppy animation, and its excruciatingly-frustrating (but incredibly effective) ability to pressure you into dialogue choices before you’re ready?

Those are topics worth discussing, but let me briefly touch on the game’s main and all-important tent-pole: choice.

It states it as clear as day from the outset of each episode of The Walking Dead: “the story tailors to your choices.” How much it truly alters is up for debate, and there’s certainly specific plot points (specifically character deaths) that will not change no matter how hard you wish they could, but it changes — and substantially enough to warrant forum discussion in the post-game… that’s always a good sign.

Below are my personal story choices made in Episodes 1 through 5, taken on an iPhone because… well, I didn’t have capture equipment hooked up to take the screens for me and it works well enough. Shut up.

Episode One:

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Episode Two:

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Episode Three:

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Episode Four:

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Episode Five:

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There’s more in me that I want to discuss regarding Season One and the choices I made, but having just finished the game in its entirety moments ago, I’ll have to let it simmer awhile. Like a fine pot of chili. Or a hearty meatloaf, whatever your fancy.

As brief as they are at the moment, though, I have thoughts for Season 2, which TellTale has already announced is underway and will be delivered… at some point. Yeah, anticipation is killing me too, folks.

TellTale has done a wonderful job with Season One, despite the game’s problems. It’s not a technical wonder, I’ll give it that — but it’s done what it set out to do: tell a story, and let you, Lee, tell it how you’d behave if placed in the situation yourself. You have a driving goal through it all in Clementine, and even that comes to a head when the curtain falls (but you’d better wait through all the credits). It’s an impactful, character-focused story that has a high probability of invoking that I’m-just-chopping-onions-guys-I’m-not-crying feeling in its last few moments.

I want Season 2 to be as emotionally-devastating as Season 1. That means TellTale and its team of writers (of which the talented Garry Whita of Book of Eli fame is a part) will require time and much, much thought. And given the fact that TTG has had to slog through a number of licensed games in the past that didn’t fall on extremely-successful ground, the fact that TWD has been such an astounding success is a new turning point for them. It’s a hot license, and the story so far is as about as engrossing as it gets.

The next season doesn’t have to be a technical marvel, it doesn’t even have to shamble from this point-and-click, lightly-puzzle-sprinkled formula.

If they can make me care about the characters in the next season as much as they have in this, if they can give me a singular goal and characters to build, they’ll have succeeded — and that’s certainly enough for me.

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