When news broke that fans of Telltale’s Walking Dead series wouldn’t be reprising their role as Clementine in the third outing of the critically-acclaimed franchise, people weren’t happy.
The character that everyone had fallen in love with during the first season, and who they had been able to take charge of for the second, had been wrested from their hands and handed a supporting role instead.
Cue plenty of backlash, outcry and negative reactions all over the internet.
With the third season – or to give its proper title: ‘The Walking Dead: A New Frontier’ – now all wrapped up, however, Telltale’s decision to make Clementine a supporting character this time out was the right decision to make in the end.
Of course, fans of the series have become accustomed to the narrative-based games being built around her experience of the zombie acopalypse, and seeing her grow from a frightened little child into a teenage stone-cold killer with her own baggage and survivor’s guilt.
In reducing Clementine’s – or Clem for brevity reasons – role and allowing her to take a step back in proceedings, Telltale managed to provide players with a new dilemma that would pose them other problems in taking up the reins of a new character.
Javier Garcia – or Javi – is the character that gamers now take up in the absence of being able to control Clem, and his introduction poses a new complication in the Walking Dead‘s over-arcing story and gameplay.
Those players, who will have already played season one and two, have grown up alongside Clem as they have played through her travels, and will have a greater connection and sense of who she is – particularly having controlled her in season two.
By forcing the player to guide Javi’s actions and choices in-game, especially those interactions that concern Clem, a new predicament is introduced whereby the player is conflicted by their previous allegiance to Clem and what they, as an individual, would do if they were Javi himself and had only just met Clem for the first time.
It gives rise to a new perspective within the narrative of A New Frontier, and adds an interesting plot point into the game’s style of play that could have become a tad stale if Clem had been the person that the player controlled.
Of course, Clem is not just a mere spectator to proceedings in A New Frontier. (Warning: Spoilers for A New Frontier from this point on!)
By way of a series of flashbacks, gamers are given the opportunity to play as Clem on a few brief occasions – glimpses that help to fill in the gaps between season two and her introduction to Javi in A New Frontier.
In doing this, Telltale very cleverly give gamers what they want (playing as Clem) in small chunks to tide them over and placate the baying mob who had cried foul when word spread that she would not be the primary character in this season.
Changing this format up prevented Telltale from re-telling a similar story arc to that of season two and, whilst it can be argued that players would not have grown tired of playing as Clem by the end of A New Frontier, freshening up proceedings with a new playable character helped to keep their franchise up-to-date and original.
It would appear that Telltale will hand the reins back to Clementine when season four is put in the hands of gamers, and a season away from her as the main protagonist will switch the format up once more.
Telltale have a knack for this type of narrative-gaming by now, and it’s reasonable to suggest that they should be given credit for sticking to their guns and making players control Javi for much of their latest veture.
Clementine will always be their Walking Dead poster girl, and fans will always want more of her. In reducing their role in A New Frontier, though, Telltale did the right thing to keep things fresh and interesting.