So…where were we? Ah, yes! Episode 1 wrapped up with our darlin’ Clementine meeting up with a new group of survivors. These folks were skeptical of Clem due to her having bite marks on her arm… from a dog of course! Well, after gaining their trust, Clem is sent off to get supplies with Pete and Nick. Everything goes to hell pretty quickly and poor Clementine is forced to choose between them. That choice is just the first of many that will shape a truly great game.
Telltale Games, makers of the previous Walking Dead games, have always touted their games as having choices make significant changes to the game. Never have I felt that impact more than Episode 2: A House Divided. Conversations had much more weight to them and every decision held potentially drastic consequences. Talking to Walter, one of the newer additions to the story, during a tense moment at the end of the game was very nerve racking and seemed to flash by before I could make my conversation choice. Telltale knows how to grab you and hold you in their stories like no other company and all of these critical moments are handled so well that at certain times it feels less like a game and more like deciding someone’s fate. And oftentimes, it does.
A House Divided also brings in choices from previous games into the mix. Finally! If you read my review on Episode 1, you’d remember that I was very disappointed in nothing from the previous game mattering at all. In a setting where everything is supposed to carry over and effect the outcomes of events, it felt like an odd to choice to omit the events/choices of Season 1 and (especially) 400 Days. Well, my fears about that trend continuing were quashed (it’s a legit word…look it up) in this latest iteration of Clementine’s story. A person, whom I felt had one of the better stories told in 400 Days, shows up and I was very excited! Not that they were actually here in this game interacting with Clem and her group, but that Telltale connected the emotional dots between characters that I love from two different games. It was masterfully done and got me hooked immediately.
I have to say that what the writers at Telltale have done with Clementine’s story is nothing short of genius. When I started to play Season 2 I was worried that Clem would have to find some sort of father figure; someone to latch on to to protect her in times of strife. Well, Telltale has done something I thought nearly impossible in making this little girl not only NOT need someone to protect her, but she does the protecting! People in her new group are looking to her for advice, critical choices on companions or even their own survival. Clem is still very young and her story has a lot of unfolding to do, but up to this point she is one of my favorite characters in fiction…ever.
Let’s talk evil. No, not those shuffling dummies! Zombies are just a backdrop in The Walking Dead franchise and are not villains here. People (crazy people in point of fact) are the real evil doers in this post-apocalyptic nightmare and A House Divided introduces us to a doozy! Carver, voiced to perfection by the uber-creepy (don’t hurt me!) Michael Madsen, is an initially non-imposing southern man looking for his missing friends. See, ol’ Carver has another camp just down the way from Clem’s new buddies and he’s just worried about ’em. Yeah, right! As Carver skulks around the empty house interrogating Clementine about the whereabouts of the absent group (they’re out looking for one of their own who went AWOL), it is obvious that he is not only inquiring about his “friends” but also figuring things out. Plotting. Even when he asks Clem an innocent question like “Who’s shirt is this? I had a friend in my camp who wore a shirt just like it” you can see how he looks through Clem like a window, scheming as to what tactics he’ll use next. His creepy demeanor and even creepier voice belays the underlying genius of this man. He is cunning, ruthless and doesn’t let his obvious sociopathic tendencies stop him from getting what he wants. He is also my second favorite character in this entire run of games and rivals anything that is in the graphic novels. Bravo, Telltale….bravo.
The problems that I have for this iteration of The Walking Dead are slight but bothersome. Again, the technical issues reared it’s ugly head. I will admit that it didn’t happen a lot, but it is worth mentioning…it’s still as frustrating as ever. Some people had bigger issues with it than others and all to different degrees of glitchy; this is so baffling to me and something Telltale needs to address. But to be honest, why would they? No review scores hurt the games for it and everyone continues to buy them so it will probably never be fixed. Sigh. Lastly, I had a couple of instances in my game where I was supposed to do something to avoid being eaten, but the way that the screen was laid out mixed with the lack of time I had to react…I was gobbled up like a pot pie. I appreciate the need for action in these games and the danger needs to be real and have real repercussions, but every time that you die it totally takes you out of the game. Immersion is a big part of what Telltale is trying to create here in the Walking Dead franchise, but if there is one item that I need to grab in order to not be zombie-nip and it’s waaaaaaay over to the left and out of the way. Telltale should know that they don’t have to hide weapons to create a palpable sense of dread. I hope this trend doesn’t continue, but it did start with Episode 1 and got worse here. Time will tell and all that.
Thoughts From Trey Elliott, Editor and Chief