What is there to say about Telltale Games’ work on the adventure game The Walking Dead other than they seem to have gotten exactly what has made the comic book series so popular with both readers and critics. The show has slowly gotten to the same level, but not until Telltale Games has a spin-off of Robert Kirkman’s title gotten it all right. The first two episodes has been a great exercise in showing the panic, strain and utter despair that falls on the remaining living survivors of a zombie apocalypse that has descended on the world.
Episode 3, “Long Road Ahead”, continues where the previous episode left off with Lee, Clementine and the rest of the group back at their walled off motel compound outside of Macon, Georgia. It’s only been a couple weeks or so since the events at the dairy farm and we see the added strain of dwindling supplies has brought on. We also see the decisions made by certain characters at the farm affecting the group and creating even bigger divisions between Lily and Kenny. Stuck in between these two strong personalities is Lee (the player) and this episode does an even greater job of making his decisions that much harder to pick when situations (usually stressful ones) come up.
This episode has been seen by fans of the games as the turning point which has cemented this title as one of the best games of 2012. The writing continued to improve under the pen of Gary Whitta who seem to be channeling his inner Kirkman as some heartwrenching moments and deaths occur throughout Episode 3. One such death has become one of the biggest WTF moments in gaming for 2012 that I would be surprised if it doesn’t make many top 10 lists for the year when it comes to gaming’s biggest moments. I know that the sequence surprised me which led to lots of stunned silence, followed up by screaming at my TV then admiration for actually pulling off something that could turn off many players, but instead hooked those still on the fence about whether they should continue playing this episodic title.
The other deaths in this episode were more of a slow burn where we already know the fate of one of the characters and the reaction of another to this situation was unbearably sad, but understandable considering the situation which led up to it. All througout these situations the player as Lee was forefront in how things developed and the choices one gets to choose from doesn’t telegraph how things would unfold. It didn’t help that the timer on making each decision still added a level of stress that most games never fully grasp despite higher budgets and better graphics.
If there was one thing that kept this episode from becoming truly great it’s the controls when something interactive actually occurs where players have to do more than choose what to say. It’s still clunky and awkward on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, but not as much on the PC which tells me that Telltale Games have been porting the title from a PC base rather than the other way around. For some gamers this keeps the game from becoming immersive despite the great writing, but for me it was a minor inconvenience that never took away from the narrative and the visuals.
The episode ends with a bit of hope as Lee and his group picks up three new faces, but also ends in an ominous cliffhanger as we find out that Clementine may have been keeping things from Lee that could endanger (this being the world of The Walking Dead its a good bet it’ll be dangerous) not just her, but the rest of the group. The fourth episode has now been released for all systems and with the new season of the tv show set to premiere it looks like now is a good time to get back to the Walking Dead state-of-mind.