Come with me on my merry adventure as I discuss the second episode of Walking Dead the Game. Oh and be warned, there are some spoilers (but I’ll try to keep the bigger stuff under wraps).
I don’t remember any video game in recent times where in the first five minutes or so, I either have to chop the leg off a dude I am trying to save or leave him for dead. Usually I’m pretty good at making utilitarian decisions, but by god, there was just something so uncannily real about the way Telltale Games has drawn, animated, and given voice to their human characters. At first, I thought the cartoony graphics was going to detract from the bleakness of the writing, but once you’ve gotten into the groove, it’s realistically grim. When people get hurt or die, it is not pretty.
Which is why making decisions is this game is such a tense affair. Saving people, getting into fights with others, choosing who lives or dies; I just want to be nice to everybody but Telltale Games makes it so damn hard for that to happen. This is Good Writing 101 – put the hero through a gauntlet of tough moments, don’t even let him catch a break until the very end.
I’m glad that another company other than Bioware decided to pursue the persistent-choices type game mechanic, and it certainly works in Telltale’s favor for their episodic releases. In this episode, one of my choices from the previous episode made me rather unpopular with a father and mother, who reprimanded me for not choosing to put their son first in a dangerous situation earlier in the game. I was surprised they carried the resentment over to the second game, but that’s an entirely human response. I got back into their good books by giving their kid what little food we had, but it was only at the end when the husband killed another guy in cold blood did I fall out completely with him. We always hate on Rick Grimes in the Walking Dead TV show for being too much of a pussy to make some hard-line decisions, but when we’re really in his shoes, it’s not as easy as we think.
The puzzles this time round are alright. Most of them were easy to figure out, not too challenging, enough to keep the pace of the game up. There was one boring bit where we had to hunt through every clickable object in an abandoned encampment which is seriously excess that could’ve been cut with no problem to the game.
I’m not a fan that the majority of the episode was spent on a farm. I’m a bit fatigued by how draggy the second season of the TV show was when it took place entirely on a farm too. I even thought at first that episode 2’s plot was going to be a complete rip-off of the graphic novel/TV show, but it turned out to be a far darker story than either of those may have dared to tell – so kudos to the writers of the game. And the climatic ending to the arc, when the farm is hit by a heavy storm and you beat one of the villains into the ground, the visuals for that was spot-on. It was helluva cinematic but in the right way. So another bonus point to Telltale.
There are some overarching mysteries introduced like a stalker woman who gets killed but leaves behind a video recording on Clementine, your young ward. Also bandits are presented as a threat for the first time, and they aren’t here to play nice.
It is refreshing to take a break from playing a freeform zombie survival horror like DayZ, for something more structured but still centered around my favorite theme of zombies. But it was always on the back of my mind as I played Walking Dead Episode 2 that I wanted to play more DayZ. Like when the group decides it was best to go check out the farm EVEN THOUGH I SAID THAT IT WASN’T A GOOD IDEA, but the game made me go anyway. When it turned out I was right about it being a bad decision and I shouted at the screen “I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU SO”, I realized, if I wanted a game that gave me free reign over every decision I made, then DayZ was the one for me.
So yeah, in that sense, DayZ is still the best zombie survival horror game because every choice you make is your own. But that’s not what Walking Dead is really about anyway. You play Walking Dead because you care about Lee. He’s a swell guy, and he just wants to get Clementine and himself out of this shitstorm of zombies. And that’s enough to keep me coming back for more each time.