Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Plot: With the group imprisoned by the destructive Carver, Clementine needs to find a way to break out of their prison. Especially with an incoming Walker herd…
It is almost becoming boring talking about how amazing the Walking Dead Game is. Almost…
So let me switch things up and start with the bad things. This episode of the Walking Dead Game didn’t have as much as an impact on me as the other episodes. For starters, I never really felt in control of the game this time around. While setting the episode in a prison was a different and interesting concept, it does keep the gameplay very rigid. This story needs to go from A to B, meaning that there is very little choice this time around. While we could argue that the other episodes featured this same structure, it was less obvious. Here, the episode was varied through previous choices from earlier episodes, rather than choices made here and then. It became clear that certain characters were definitely going to die at certain points, decisions would be made here and then and, most disappointingly, it didn’t matter how crafty your escape plan was, it was always going to unfold in the same way. There is also a lot of exposition to get through. You arrive at the yard and meet up with Reggie, someone who tried to run away with Luke and the others, but slipped during the escape and was recaptured. He reels off all of the details that need to be covered and it does get a little heavy. It takes ages before you actually start ‘doing’ things.
‘In Harm’s Way’ also suffered from a lack of playable moments. Most of the gameplay involves interaction through dialogue, which as I said before, only hits home so much, as this certain episode is very linear. There aren’t really enough Walkers, as the real threat here is Carver and his unpredictable temper. However, this means there is only really one proper fight scene with the Walkers, and even that feels like a token effort. Maybe Telltale Games is struggling to figure out how to keep zombies scary and exciting (something most zombie movies or shows suffer with), so they are cutting back on these moments. However, seeing as the message of the prison is that the group suffer through inaction, the writers cannot really allow too many interactive moments, as that would ruin the atmosphere they are trying to create. Playable moments come thick and fast nearer the end, but they feel like the writers are holding your hand through them; there is only ever a handful of conceivable outcomes and they aren’t too varied. There is a final Walker fight at the very end, but you feel like you are watching it, rather than playing it. This is a frustrating argument, because I found myself on the other side of it, when I was trying to promote this game, back in Season One. However, here there is too little to do and I cannot really defend Telltale for the lack of ‘gaming’.
‘In Harm’s Way’ does other things very well though. Take the choices from the other game: ‘A House Divided’. Several characters could die in that episode, but a few players might have been able to save them. Nick is one of those characters and he kind of suffers from the difficult writing challenge that possesses. He is always seen hanging to the side of the group and only has dialogue that can be said by other characters, fairly easily. He brings nothing to the plot. Alvin, on the other hand, offers a nice little treat to anyone that bit down on the impulse of shooting at Carver. His character is fairly significant in this episode and anyone that has him still alive in their saving, will get added drama and tension throughout the game. It adds a bit of variety that is lacking in this episode, proving that Telltale Games still have some tricks up their sleeve. Of course, the big effect your choices have are with the 400 Days crew. We have already met Bonnie, who was written to definitely go along with Tavia, at the end of the DLC, but this episode we meet the others. The ones that your saving made go along with Tavia’s group will crop up, which is a nice little reference to the overall game. 400 Days may have been lacking as an episode, but it made the Walking Dead universe a lot more connected. It doesn’t quite have the promised effect, as they are cameos other than characters in their own right, but they could feature more at a later time, although it will be difficult to see how their story will continue at all.
So maybe gameplay wise, the Walking Dead Game’s latest episode drops the ball slightly, but the story is as immersive as ever. The idea of ‘being on a knife’s edge’ is put across very well, with Carver’s punishments getting more and more threatening. You need to embrace the option of trusting people outside of the group, people who aren’t in Carver’s bad books. Do you trust Bonnie, who has deceived you before, but looks genuinely cut up about Carver’s murders? Or what about Carver himself, who takes a small shine to your stubborn ruthlessness? However, working your way to Carver’s good side might put the other at risk, and is the long game really the best way to get out of this situation? Meanwhile, the supporting characters get some great development. New, interesting faces join the group and the comeback kid, Kenny from Season One, heads down a dangerous road. He steals the best lines, best scenes and by the end of the episode, you will be left scratching your head at where the writers are going with this character?
Final Verdict: It’s not as good as the other episodes, but is there such a thing as a truly bad Walking Dead episode?