Developers: Telltale Games
Publishers: Telltale Games
Plot: Taking shelter at an abandoned memorial, Clementine and the group try to manage the breakdowns of Kenny and Sarah, while hiding from a Walker horde. Then Rebecca’s waters break…
My favourite thing about Amid the Ruins is that you find yourself slowly turning into the bad guy. The Walking Dead – whether it is the comics, show or game – has always whispered the mantra that the living are even worse than the dead. We are constantly having bandits stealing from the helpless, cannibals turning to a new food source or simply people who want to viciously control those around them (The Governor and Carver), thrown into our faces. We see humanity crumbling around us, but never did I imagine that I would become one of the bad guys in this equation. Sure, our morality has been pushed before with the stealing from the RV in Season One, but this episodes sees the player have to truly grasp the concept of morality. Does a clear consciousness necessarily help keep you alive when the going gets tough? There are two moments in Amid the Ruins where you honestly need to pause the game, step back and spend time weighing up options. Even if you do go for the ‘good’ option, you will be amazed at how long the game had you thinking about doing something that last season would have been out of the question. Like last episode’s Carver, you are taking control of those around you, making decisions for them and leaving people behind for the good of the group.
This does mean that there are problems with the supporting cast. In my opinion, they only do things to benefit Clementine’s character arc. She is the only character that truly matters here, maybe with the exception of Kenny and perhaps, Luke. For example, Sarah and Rebecca are mildly interesting, but it becomes clear that whatever happens to them, happens so we can explore how Clementine will react in that situation. How far is the player going to tolerate Sarah’s crumbling psychology? It was leaked online by Telltale that she suffers from autism, so we come to this game, understanding and sympathising with her more. However, then Rebecca’s pregnancy becomes an immediate problem, meaning that it becomes harder to carry Sarah. Again, it means that there is never a dull moment, but none of these characters truly come into their own, like Season One’s supporting cast. Ben had his own separate arc and Christa rarely felt like she was just there to improve Lee’s arc. It doesn’t help that Telltale Games have a nasty habit of killing off their characters left, right and centre. Depending on your choices, four characters die this episode, which is a little too much, when we are trying to connect with everyone around us. Two out of four of those characters were red shirts; we knew it was only a matter of time before they were written off, so we never bothered emotionally investing in them. There isn’t anything as dramatic as Larry or Carley’s death here.
Season Two also suffers from a lack of focus. At this point last year, we were juggling a horde, fraying relationships and a mysterious villain figure. Season Two shot themselves in the foot by getting rid of their bad guy, Carver, last time around, meaning that, with this episode, the story feels partially adrift. The characters are merely trying to survive, going from set-piece to set-piece, rather than tackling much of a story. Again, killing off too many characters does make for some good moments and shocking twists, but it also means that the character development, which could have made the lack of direction easier to settle into, isn’t as strong as it could have been. Some semblance of bad guys are thrown into the mix, but they feel like an afterthought rather than a true threat. This is where a good twist would have come in handy to tie up the chapter (I have two twists in mind that I hope are used in the next one). Don’t get me wrong, I love this game to pieces. Sometimes it screams brilliance. Jane is a great addition to the group and one moment where Luke slips out of guard duty is the highlight of the episode for pure comedic reasons. However, I have been looking back at Season One and there are far more moments there where you stand back and just admire how amazing Telltale Game’s Walking Dead is. Season Two just isn’t as powerful. A good game, but we had it a lot better last year.
Final Verdict: Amid the Ruins promises some interesting developments, but lacks the focus and central bad guy that made Season One’s penultimate episode so thrilling.