The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left | Review
Despite some absurd game-breaking issues, No Time Left sets a new bar for storytelling in games.
It took me about an hour and a half to get The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left running properly. Between mouse problems (fixed by changing the resolution and then changing it back), save import bugs (especially hard to solve on this Mac laptop), and the metaphorical Sword of Damocles that is review season creating a limit on how much time I can spend fixing the game, it’s safe to say that a few PC/Mac gamers will have issues. But I guess that doesn’t really matter in the long run, because No Time Left has the distinct honor of joining an elite pantheon. Specifically, a pantheon that consists entirely of media that gave me a severe case of the Man Tears. Ah, who am I kidding. I blubbered like a child.
And such a reaction could not have been attained through conventional means. Sure, when Shooter Guy #471 dies in Bland War Men 5: The Empire Strikes Back, you can see that whoever penned that scene meant for the audience to feel sad. But most people never feel anything for a variety of reasons. It could be that said game never gave the characters or situations any real levity. Maybe it was the general lack of character development? Perhaps it was the studio not taking full advantage of video games’ potential for interactive storytelling? Whatever the reason, these mistakes are common among developers, but not Telltale if this game is anything to go by. Each of these missteps is carefully avoided, resulting in a game that is actually emotional, not just full of poorly animated paper dolls looking sad.
It’s a bit difficult for me to call out specific moments that got to me without spoiling anything, much like the previous releases. Can I say that Around Every Corner ended on a bit of a cliffhanger? And it’s also fair to hint that, in a game that literally opens by letting you know your decisions affect the game, some decisions come back to haunt you? A choice that appeared to be morality-only from a previous episode does comes back in a big way, but perhaps it could have been handled a little better. I don’t know. To be honest, I’ve been going back and forth on this. If Telltale went along with any of the theories I had, it would have come out of nowhere, and at least this is set up within gameplay. But it maybe could have been foreshadowed just a little better.
Said reveal isn’t the biggest thing that happens in No Time Left, however. As befits a season finale, it’s very story-heavy. Perhaps the most of the five releases. The game seems more concerned with ending this particular story in a satisfying – although not particularly happy – way. That doesn’t mean you are a completely passive participant, however. You are forced to make difficult choices, and they don’t always end well; that’s par for the course. If you’ve played an episode of The Walking Dead, you know how this goes. However, by this point, these characters (and the player) have been through so much together. When things get rough, they get rough. The end of the game wasn’t the only time where my tear ducts started warming themselves up.
Luckily for my heart, the harrowing action that I praised so much in my previous reviews decided to punch out a little earlier. The quick time events are minimal, and there’s maybe one puzzle? I’m not saying there aren’t parts where you straight up kill some walkers, because there are a few. No zombie game would be complete without them. But you do spend more time watching cutscenes than before, which is by no means a bad thing. Each one is wonderfully executed, even if – much like my sister – you can occasionally see the roots when the game halts for a second to remember which choices you made. That analogy kind of falls apart when you consider my sister is not a choice-based adventure game, but never mind.
Yes, The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left is emotional, brilliant, surprisingly funny, much like the other episodes. Unlike the other episodes, however, it is given the unenviable task of providing a fitting conclusion to the series, which it does with aplomb. It certainly has its fair share of technical problems, but considering how many things are going on behind the scenes, that’s kind of inevitable. And if a game grabbed me to the point where I cried, that makes it kind of worth seeing just for that alone, no? I now have even more faith in Telltale Games than I did before, and I can’t wait for Season 2.
(Notes: No Time Left was played on the reviewer’s one and a half year old MacBook Pro through Steam and ran perfectly fine on the highest settings, except for the technical hiccups mentioned. We’ll also have another Walking Dead-themed episode of the podcast, where we talk about this episode along with some other goodies due sometime this weekend)