Aylon takes a look at the second of five chapters in Telltale's latest multi-part adventure game. If you're not already aware of the title, which is based on the hit The Walking Dead comic books, be sure to check out his first review for a bit of background.
While it may start off quietly, it takes less than five minutes for the second episode of The Walking Dead to remind you of what a shockingly horrifying world the undead do not live in. As for living survivors (the truly walking dead), they have a tough road ahead of them and, as the player, you will have some very difficult and disturbing decisions to make.
The thing I love the most about the decisions you make in this game is that many of them have no immediate impact on the action; you cannot change what will happen at that point in time. Instead, the importance of your decisions comes into how they change your relationships with the other characters and what actions they might make later on. It’s a refreshing approach to the “choose your direction” gameplay mechanics we’ve seen in many games recently. It's also the ultimate key to adding a thick layer of tension to all the drama in the game. Make no mistake, while the game’s genre is Adventure, the genre of the story is most definitely drama - with a dash of horror thrown in.
Picking up three months after the first episode, Lee’s group is running out of food, and some members are fighting for the position of leadership. Without spoiling things too much, you will visit some new and interesting locations, and spend a good amount of time developing your protective relationship with Clementine (the little girl you found in Episode 1).
The gameplay is similar to point & click style games, with a few well handled action sequences played out as mini quick time events (QTEs). There are also a few basic puzzles in there, but for the most part this is about the story, and the gameplay serves more as a vehicle for the character drama between the survivors and the people they meet.
Meeting other survivors and figuring out whether or not you can trust them is a big part of the comics, and so far it has been handled it very well by the games. Even when you are suspicious of people, you can’t be sure you are right to be or if you are just being paranoid. The storytelling is good, which is only strengthened by the excellent art style and voice acting.
The main issues I have with Episode 2 (and The Walking Dead games in general so far) are all technical. Besides the obvious framerate issues and odd graphical glitches here and there, my main issue is getting the damn game running at all.
I still cannot play through Steam. In order to get the game to play, I have to run the .exe file as an administrator. When I finally got Episode 2 to run, I found out all my saved games were magically deleted (joy). This meant that all the decisions I made in Episode 1 were gone, and the implications of them would not be carried over (the game will randomly make key choices for you when this happens).
For the pièce de résistance, when I got to Chapter 3, the game crashed and I couldn't progress past this point. I eventually managed to get it working (I had to update my sound drivers and run the game in windowed mode), and greatly enjoyed it when I did.
I had similar problems with the first episode and have heard of others having problems as well; which is a pity because, without a doubt, Episode 2 is even better than Episode 1. The story and drama are more exciting, and move in the kind of crazy direction you would expect from a game in The Walking Dead universe.
It's a shame that games otherwise as great as these are damaged by fairly serious technical issues; games simply should not be released in such a buggy state. These sorts of issues are the only reason I'm only tepidly looking forward to Episode 3. While I can’t wait to experience the next part of Lee’s adventure, I am not looking forward to the “adventure” I’ll have to no doubt suffer through in attempting to make it work.