[As Read on GIO.]
Continuing the Adventure
One Grim Step at a Time
Howdy folks. It’s been awhile since I reviewed the previous episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season Two, but you can still find that particular review here. Since before Season Two started, Telltale has also been working on several other projects- most notably Bill Willingham’s Fables episodic series as well, of which you can find reviews for episodes one and two on my reviews list. I will also be reviewing episode three here shortly, but that is mostly beside the point. You may have noticed that I actually gave episode one of Season Two (TWD) a lower score than some of my other reviews of the Season One episodes. As I explained, that was because it was good and demanded a decent score score, but also fell prey to some of the same issues as Season One- which I had been more lenient on, being the premiere season and all, but was not so this time around. With that little background check out of the way, I’ll deliver the final verdict on this most recent episode.
Things are starting to get really desperate again, and in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, that’s saying something. As in Season One’s second episode, people’s mental states are continually growing more harried and worse day by day, and though starvation isn’t the biggest factor this time around, past secrets surfacing and familiar faces turning up are. Clementine is now forced to grow up faster than she has been, and whether or not even that will ensure her survival remains unseen for the time being. As much as I would like to say Telltale wouldn’t kill the adorable yet tough little girl off in some way, I’m not entirely comfortable believing in that. After all, we’ve all come to see that in universes such as Game of Thrones and Walking Dead- morals are often the first things tossed out the window, especially in cases of weddings or the apocalypse.
If you thought the decision making forced upon you and simultaneously Clementine and her new group of compatriots was difficult to handle and keep pace with in the first episode of Season Two, then you’re going to be in for yet another series of unpleasant surprises. Expect more curveballs, more tension, and best of all- more tragic revelations. Throwing it back to several memorable moments of Season One, you’ll see the progress you’ve made thus far, and the lack of headway your group seems to be making for the duration of this particular episode as they come up against some strong adversaries- both within and without, and fall down…hard. It’s only just begun, as we’ve realized (or you will after completion of this episode, anyway), yet things look bleak once more for the future… As energetic, frenetic, and fast-paced as episode one was for the most part, two contains more action, more difficult choices, and more things that would even make Lee shiver and shudder and regret- all placed on the small shoulders of a tough little girl alone in a sea of zombies. She may not be literally alone, but at times she may as well be, and after all- who can you really trust out here? And who is really the walking dead- us “living” creatures, or the soulless husks roaming the countryside and cities?
Episode two follows much the same format as episode one and previous episodes in the series, picking up pretty much directly after a major decision you had to make at the last second in the first episode of this season- or close enough thereto the end of that decision, anyways. Group morale is decreasing daily- even hourly, trust and friendship are in low supply, and some people are literally breaking apart. What doesn’t help is the introduction of a new power as well as the need to relocate and find a new hide-hole to hunker down in for the foreseeable future. It is interesting to see some of the group dynamics still functioning to some extent- such as Clem’s deepening bond with certain characters, or the potential for that depending upon your choices in the previous episode(s). Whereas episode one’s main point was driving home the new dynamics in this group and Clem’s forced adjustment to the changes around her, this episode further explores that charted territory but also dives off into the deep end in some interesting new side activities and stray thoughts.
It’s neat to see the interactions with the character who you will inevitably be at odds with for the time being, and who seems to be evolving into the role of main antagonist- a person who is, maybe understandably, discontent and disillusioned, and scarily persuasive a la the Gov, but not quite to that extent from what we’ve thus far seen. It’s also a character who has an interesting name-drop connection to the comics, but was never really developed upon in that specific area as such. What’s also neat is the reemergence of previously seen faces and mentions of others, although we’ll have to wait to find out more on that whole thing in the next episode as well. The writing for characters and prompted actions really stands out in this episode in particular, and definitely brings me fully back into the fold moreso than episode one did. The plot developments feel more natural and less rushed, and they blend together otherwise contrasting themes and elements quite well in addition to that, which is definitely very impressive.
What is also particularly intriguing is the further allusion to some more backstory, which could be taken at face value or ignored, as it stems mainly from some interesting encounters with the main power in opposition to your little group. He sure has a history with them, that’s for sure- but whether that is actually good or not remains to be seen, though I’d wager it’s not and he isn’t walking the path of the righteous whatsoever. It is neat to see the occasional reference to actions from Season One, even if they aren’t fully acknowledged- though I am sure Telltale knew exactly what they were doing in doing things this way, subtly. In this vein, I’m truly interested in seeing how things progress and what Season Two’s giant impact will be, because surely there must be one, as in the first season… From the further refined conversation mechanics to the writing of the dialogue itself, the story firmly cements itself as the undoubtedly better portion of the episode(s), despite the frantic action also being well-done and especially great in this episode- better even than other frantic encounters in the later chapters of last season’s episodes three and four and even five.
Whereas most elements of the story are pretty believable- I mean, we’re talking about believable in a zombie apocalypse anyway, so that’s all pretty relative, there are some that are just too difficult and overbearing to ignore. One such major element would be the degree of influence and control Clem can assert when it steers the plot in a desirable direction, and the then one hundred and eighty degree turn her influence takes to the point where literally nobody trusts her to be able to get things done on her own, also when the plot demands it. As much as these episodes are well-paced even with this factor, it is too commonly employed to be ignored, and definitely the sacrificial lamb of the content in this episode in particular in many instances. I know she’s just as experienced as any adult in the apocalypse, but seriously- you’d rely on a little girl to do the heavy lifting? They don’t even rely on Carl to do most things in the comic or series (television), and look how much more he’s had to go through even than Clementine. Point made.
Although we could see the beginning of some heavy and impactful decisions being made in episode one, and saw a few returning tides from Season One, this episode in particular is where things really start to show strain and an emphasis on important decisions is made. There are definitely more choices in this episode than any of the previous ones- in action segments and in plot driven ones alike, you’re forced to make the tough choices nobody likes to be in charge of. No matter what you choose, you’ll most likely regret it- and not always because it was a wrong decision, but simply because you won’t know what may have happened had you not acted as you did. One can only imagine this boosts replayability tenfold, however, you’d have to replay things several times in very similar ways in order to be sure you’re creating the same catalysts and situations that should turn out in nearly the same fashion, or else things could spin off in an entirely new direction. Curses, Telltale, you intelligent devils!
One thing is certain in A House Divided, and this is that your consequences will change the very course of the game. Inevitably, some people are going to die- maybe now, maybe later, and you have somewhat of a say in that. Some people will be disillusioned with you and others impressed. Old and new allies alike will turn to you or against you. Such is the way of this world, it seems. Interestingly enough, you won’t just be dealing with the same old decisions from this episode and this particular season, but from the entire series as a whole- Season One and 400 Days included in varying degrees. Tough choices, tough choices… The connections you build- however shaky or however firm are definitely going to play a large, important role later, as I would imagine the people you form them with will to boot.
Concept: Continue the journey of an adorable little girl and her companions in the desolate, bleak world they now inhabit- fleeing both from the rotten dead and those walking in their path, the living come to kill them or otherwise harm them.
Graphics: These graphics aren’t anything you haven’t already seen seven times over up until this point, and I am sure will be something you will continue to see afterwards as well. However, it must be said that this and the previous episode have been two of the most varied color schemes- especially in comparison to the dreary shades of grey present for the majority of Season One. Don’t let that lift your spirits however- things are far from rosier in outlook…
Sound: Although many voices will seem familiar, they never seem entirely reused- though I am sure they have been. The musical accompaniment underscores the tense moments and action perfectly, and complements the cast work as well as the story itself.
Playability: Easy as ever to grasp, the controls have been refined well this season, and continue to handle good enough for me to thoroughly enjoy the experience beyond the story itself. It’s definitely taken some good cues from Wolf Among Us.
Entertainment: You might not enjoy the choices you’re given, but you can’t doubt the excitement and anticipation their immediate and not-so immediate results bring. Surely this sets the tone for some future episodes, and will be one to remember later as well…
Replay Value: High.
Overall Score: 8.5