Telltale has established a system of releasing their video games in episodes over a long period of time, much like how TV shows work, and for better or worse they are stuck with it. Overall I would say that I like this format of releasing content, but it does come with one fatal flaw, poor time management. Recently Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us came to a close, and while I enjoyed it, it had a big problem of some episodes not really having happen, resulting in episode 4 being nothing more then a run up to the finale, rather then being its own episode. Thankfully, I am here today to say the exact opposite has happened with this penultimate episode of the Walking Dead Season Two.
Amid the Ruins takes place directly after the last episode, with Clementine and her crew escaping from a mall during a zombie attack. Newcomer Jane had the bright idea to cover the group in zombie guts in order to escape under the cover of the hoard, so this episode begins right after last episode’s cliffhanger, pushing you right in the heat of things. Right off the bat you are forced to take responsibility of what you did in the last episode, all the while trying to survive in a zombie hoard. Clem makes it out of the hoard with some survivors after things go south, with the rest of the episode spent looking for the other group members and looking for shelter. After the last two action packed episodes, this one felt a little bit slower, which is a welcome change of pace, allowing more somber conversations with the group we have come to know, sometimes making us question our alliances to them.
In terms of the character department, Telltale has gone down a road I did not see coming. Around the fourth episode of season one the group was more or less stable and had a common goal, protecting Clementine. This time around the group is just trying to survive, which changes the dynamic massively. Its cold, people are dying and there’s a baby on the way, so needless to say, people are on edge. Newcomer Jane becomes a pivotal character in this time around, and while she made her mark as a bad ass killer in the last episode, here she becomes much more of a fully fleshed out character with her own sad back story and everything, which works into this episodes theme very nicely, making some choices feel a lot more human and relate-able. Sadly some characters are left with very little to do this time around, such as newcomer Mike.
While he cracks a few good lines here and there, he just kind of feels like dead weight compared to the other members of the cast. However this episode did raise an interesting question not really presented in the series so far; should everyone make it? Amid The Ruins spends less time making you care about the characters, but instead showing their flaws and their struggles with living through the zombie apocalypse. Some characters are dependable through thick and thin while others might just be better off being left behind. While its a dark message to be include, its still an intriguing question rarely brought up in the game series, and whether its right or wrong is all up to you.
I mentioned earlier that the addition of Janes past sways how you proceed with some choices in the episode, which believe me, is needed as for the most part, this episode’s choices were some of the strongest and impactful of the season. While the episode is slow in terms of pacing, when things get stressful they get stressful fast, and you the player are responsible for making split second decisions as this episode utilizes timed choices perfectly. One example that stood out to me was how Telltale deals with morality. In season one there was a choice which gave you the the option to either rob an abandoned car full of supplies or to leave it alone, with each choice basically resulting in the group taking the supplies anyway. This time around the situation makes a lot more sense, as you actually rob someone, not an abandoned car. Your group is beat up, you have a pregnant woman and the baby’s coming soon, what would you do? Steal much needed supplies or let the person go? The choice is a lot more poignant this time around, as rather then taking supplies from a car with nobody around to stop you, now you have to really ask the question of what would you do to survive in the zombie apocalypse?
The second last episode of any series is hard to pull off successfully, as you need to strike a balance between setting up the finale whilst being its own episode. Luckily Telltale hit the ball right out of the park this time around, thanks to some memorable set pieces, impactful choices and interesting character development. With the episodes mere two hour run time, not a second is wasted and you feel entirely justified when that fantastic cliffhanger leaves you crying in the corner of a room asking was there anything else you could have differently. With only one episode left this season and another one on the way, I hope things can go smoothly for Clementine just once, but lets face it, that’s not going to happen.
The Walking Dead Season 2 can be purchased on PS3, Xbox 360, PC and iOS