In an apocalypse, ideals can be a luxury that are ill afforded. Faced with situations beyond reason, sticking to what you used to know as “right” or “wrong” could possibly be the thing the gets you killed. For some, they may consider that a blessing, feeling that they’ve stayed true to their morals. For others, it’s simply the end, and that end is often brutal, terrifying, and painful. Most want to avoid the end. The question is how to do it. Do you try to stick to your ideals, in the hopes you can convince others to do so as well and restore what was known as civilized society? Or do you take a more practical approach, leaving philosophical and ethical dilemmas in the dust as you do whatever you can to survive another day? Those are the questions players have been faced with in Telltale Games The Walking Dead. Season 2 has been powerful thus far, with the end of Episode 2: “A House Divided” ending with everyone in the clutches of madman William Carver (voiced fantastically by Michael Madsen). Episode 3: “In Harm’s Way” deals with what comes next- and it ain’t pretty.
You tell yourself you need to bide your time. Mistakes with Carver end unpleasantly- you could count yourself lucky if you just get your lip bloodied. The scary thing about Carver is that he presents himself to be a man of reason. His stronghold seems relatively secure, there’s electrical power, and plenty of food. All Carver asks is that you just toe the line, and that under his guidance civilization will rise again. But you know that under that veneer of rational thought lies a dangerous sociopath. You know, because you’ve stared him in the eyes and seen the lunatic residing there. So you make your choices, and hope for the best.
And at times you wished you had chosen differently.
But that’s the beauty of what Telltale Games presents us in this series, and this episode is no exception. The feelings of hopelessness just pervade throughout, and it seems that no matter what Clementine and the others do that things will just proceed from bad to worse. But you know they have to try. And you try to come up with a good plan, and then convince others to follow that plan. But in the apocalypse, plans don’t always run smoothly. As soon as you think you’re on a roll, something is going to rear up and bring you to a painful stop. Again the choices you are faced with can take you down uncertain paths, and at times have unintended consequences. But, if you’ve been playing this series, you know that already. And you still choose, hoping for a positive outcome.
And then you get slammed in the gut by the impact of your choice.
This is something Telltale Games has gotten down to a science. The episode again carries an emotional weight, and the strong voice acting just adds to that. This episode is a little less action heavy than others, though what action there is tends to be quite tense. But what really helps the episode succeed is the feeling it imparts- that of hopelessness, of feeling trapped in a situation that looks to have no good way out. And the ending just carries that through into the credits, with the song “Remember Me” playing out your time with the game. If there is one negative I’d have to give to the episode it’s the same one that has plagued Telltale Games throughout its titles on consoles, and that would be those technical bugaboos that cause a stuttering frame rate and long load times between scenes. I didn’t experience any game freezes, so at least there’s that. But I do wish Telltale Games would get a handle on that issue.
Thankfully, the episode is strong enough to overcome that technical fault. It succeeds on every level, with terrific character moments, tough decisions, and some tense action. And it just makes the wait for Episode 4 that much harder. I did what was needed to survive, but it’s going to be hard to wait and see if I made the right choice. Another great episode, and another winner for Telltale Games.
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