Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: When old enemy, Carver, catches up with them, the new group is forced on the run, heading North, painfully aware they are being followed.
Choices can be deadly creatures. Small decisions that seem insignificant at the time, but in reality, they are there in the background, working towards your potential doom and the certain doom of your close ones. It could be someone’s side you choose in an argument. It could be something small like taking liberties, when comforting a friend. These choices feel meaningless, but they build up to something much greater. These are the choices Telltale Games take and use against you repeatedly and with brute force. A little like smashing a zombie’s skull in.
In this episode, a passing reference is made to politics. One of your group suggests that the one upside to the apocalypse is that there is no more politics, but another sadly theorises that politics always remains. This episode certainly makes you feel like you are treading around thin ice. When we left off, Clementine had few firm friends in this new group and while last season, Lee had to deal with his fair share of taking sides, Clementine truly feels like she is swimming amongst sharks. There is the kid, Nick, who despite meaning well, isn’t entirely in control of his own emotions. There is the pregnant woman, prone to snapping and easily able to sway the rest of the group into turning on you. Most of all, there is the guarded Carlos, who keeps his cards close to his chest and is already assuming you are a threat to the safety of his daughter. Another reference the game makes is a comparison to high school. There is a moment when you have to decide who to sit with and that choice could close a few doors you desperately need to keep open. While you would ideally like to take a step back and review your options with all of the new faces the game throws at you, Telltale Games have never been known to be that kind.
And then, of course, we have a villain. It was something the Walking Dead Game had been missing for some time now, ever since the TV show introduced to the general public how big an impact a character like the Governor could have on the show. Enter Carver, voiced terrifically by Michael Madsen (yes, big actors finally hitting this series!). Of course, there will never be something as cut and dry as a bad guy, with writers as crafty as Telltale in the driving seat. Different perspectives are offered and it is even suggested that you are amongst the true antagonists. However, for the time being, Carver is firmly in the role of bad guy, in charge of his own group and with a specific way of surviving the apocalypse. You, and the group, are in his sights and it becomes horrifically clear at how far he is willing to go to make sure that you do not escape him. Like the Governor, he is single-minded, brutally persistent and despicable from the first time you see him. I think he could be the factor that improves an already perfect game.
This episode is actually a slower creature than we are used to. While Lee’s episodes were relatively fast-paced, Clementine’s are more about choices, which are Telltale’s strong point. This episode at first feels like a bridging episode (fine, in itself), taking a break and letting you get to know the characters better and taking part in that aforementioned politics. Character arcs are revealed and we get a good idea of who everyone is. Becca, in particular, becomes a much deeper character than before. Even when the episode settles into a new location (the less said the better, as it is the secrets hidden in this episode that makes it so appealing to play), we end up exploring the new surroundings, rather than leaping into any Walker-killing. That isn’t to say we don’t get action. There is a fight on the bridge that requires quick reflexes and decisive choices. And then there is the finale, which is the key element that makes A House Divided such a definitive episode of the Walking Dead Game.
When handling a game like the Walking Dead, it becomes very tricky to actually make every shock connect with the viewer. After the painfully emotional third episode of the first season, we have approached every scene tensed up and waiting for the next axe to fall. It actually is difficult for a writer to be able to emotionally shock a person in that state. However, as the ending of ‘A House Divided’ proves, the writers are perfectly able to get under your skin. They find an exposed nerve and exploit it with disastrous results. The finale to the second episode is almost unbearable, not prepared to give you a moment’s rest from the horror. All of those little choices mentioned earlier are reflected here, but one after the other. The stakes are raised high and every decision you make results in a story-changing way. By the time the episode closes, you will be begging, pleading for Telltale Games to stop.
Final Verdict: Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Telltale Games find horrible new ways of shocking you. One of the best finales yet.