Friday, August 31, 2012

Telltale's The Walking Dead: Episode 2

Please note that this is the rough draft for a review I wrote for Please check out the published draft of the review here.

So, it took a month longer than expected, but Episode 2 of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead came out a couple weeks ago. Was the wait worth it? I'd like to make some sort of "in short" joke, but in all honesty, no single word or sentence, no matter how humorous, could do this episode justice. I mean, yes it's worth it, but what does that mean, really?

Let's start at the beginning. Episode two (subtitled "Starved for Help") takes place about three months after episode one. It's winter, it's cold, and food is running dangerously short. Right off the bat, you're introduced to a new character. Apparently, the group saved his life and he reciprocated by sharing his food. However, you better catch your breath right off the bat, since it isn't very long before you're presented with some tough choices again. And boy, are they tough. I hesitate to even mention what kind of decisions it forces you to make, event he early ones, because it feels too much like giving up spoilers. Well, not too far in, you meet up with a couple of brothers from a dairy farm. They say they have food that they're willing to trade for fuel so they can keep their electric fence running. But along the way you also find out about raiders nearby who don't hesitate to kill for what they want. Your soon going to start asking if the dairy farm is really as safe as it appears and what you need to do to keep yourself and the group alive, and whether or not you can keep the group together.

This episode really starts delving into some deep questions, but more than that, it makes you face what it might really mean to be in a zombie apocalypse. Oh, sure, we've all got our plans laid out and potential strongholds scouted out, but how many of us have asked ourselves what we would be willing to do to survive? Not just immediately, but long-term. The zombie apocalypse wouldn't be all scavenging and headshots. Remember, in a zombie apocalypse, the biggest danger is never the zombies, but other people. These questions of survival are what's always intrigued me about the zombie apocalypse, what Telltale's The Walking Dead is breaking ground in so well is not simply presenting these questions, but it's forcing you to answer them yourself, rather than answering them for you. It is amazing, and at the same time horrifying. Bravo Telltale. Please keep it up.

I do have to mention one brief spoiler, just because I was kind of touched by it. Telltale keeps tabs on every choice that everyone makes, down to the dialog options you choose. One of the first major choices you're presented with is divvying up the rations. You have four food items to distribute to ten people. More than half of you are going hungry. Telltale released a while ago that more than 95% of people who have played episode two have opted to feed the two children at the expense of the adults. Honestly, it really warms my heart to know that in our modern internet, full of trolls and in this game full of reasons to replay, the vast, vast majority of people still have the simple human decency to feed the children when it counts.

Bottom Line: Episode 2 is an excellent follow-up to the first episode. It's not perfect, and to be honest, it's imperfections really stick out, but only because the rest of the game is so polished and there's such an attention to detail, that the imperfections seems worse than they are by comparison. If you can look past those few minor flaws, you won't be disappointed by the experience you have.

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