Nothing is ever safe
Telltale Games’ efforts on The Walking Dead have been praised time and again since the developers initially released the game’s first episode back in April 2012. The studio’s consistently dramatic pacing, near-perfect writing, and emotional story have continually kept players eager for more. With the release of the second episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2, ‘A House Divided’, Telltale has once more proven that when it comes to keeping players on their toes; there is no one else in the industry that can do a better job.
‘A House Divided’ picks up after the thrilling end to season 2’s first episode. Stuck between a horde of zombies and a hard place, Clementine must once again use her wits and courage to survive in the world. ‘A House Divided’ opens up with tough, intense choices and immediately sets the tone for the rest of the episode. From its outset, players should expect to face difficult decisions.
As the episode moves forward, Clementine and her new found companions find themselves forced to leave the relative comfort of their cabin home. Discovered by an intimidating man with a gravelly voice, Carlos, Luke and the others leave immediately in hopes of outrunning their pursuer.
Clementine’s decision to follow the group shows that while she certainly can hold her own, she is still a young girl. No matter how well Lee taught her to survive in the past, Clementine needs others to make it in this world. Luke seems to understand this best, and much of his interaction with Clementine shows a strong bond between the two developing.
The group’s march towards the mountains carries on for five days until they are face with a bridge that they must cross in order to continue. Fearing the natural choke point, Clementine and Luke investigate further, hoping to find a way to safely cross.
From this moment on, the episode picks up in tempo.
After fighting their way to safety, Clementine and Luke find themselves cornered by a stranger, forcing the rest of the group to make a tough decision. This decision, no matter how the player chooses to deal with it, has ramifications that resonate throughout the rest of ‘A House Divided’.
Continuing on from the bridge, Clementine and company find themselves at a massive ski lodge. Perched high upon a mountain, the ski lodge is a beacon of safety that the group is eager to utilize for the night. The residents of the lodge, however, have a different idea, and it is only when Clementine recognizes a familiar face in the lodge livers does a potentially bad situation get resolved.
Without spoiling much more, a man from Clementine’s past has taken up with the group, allowing the young girl and her companions safe lodging and a meal for the night. The interaction between the two groups indicates that something is still amiss and tensions begin to arise as the truth is uncovered.
‘A House Divided’ comes towards a close with Clementine’s group once more challenged by their initial pursuer. Facing potential harm to those that she cares most about, Clementine and her old ally must choose between solving the crisis or escalating it to the point where everyone may get killed.
The future for the group looks daunting as ‘A House Divided’ ends, Clementine and her group in custody, marching towards an unknown fate.
‘A House Divided’, in terms of dramatic tension within Telltale’s The Walking Dead in without a doubt one of the best episodes yet. Almost every conversation within the episode echoes with potential outcomes, forcing the player to struggle as they think quickly of how to react. This air of urgency is the driving force within The Walking Dead and ‘A House Divided’ seems to fully understand this. Each decision, no matter how small it may seem, is truly important.
Clementine, as expected, takes the center stage once more in this episode. The eleven year old has had anything but an easy life and this is apparent throughout ‘A House Divided’. Her ability to put her life at risk in order to survive is admirable and helps establish a connection between her actions and the player. Despite her tough exterior, there are moments in ‘A House Divided’ where she shows her childlike qualities – particularly when talking with Luke. These touches, no matter how small, make Clementine believable in a way that feels natural. Despite the hell she has grown up in, Clementine still has moments where she can be a smart-ass, funny young girl.
The inclusion of a character from Clementine’s past in ‘A House Divided’ is also an important role in characterizing this season’s tougher Clementine. Not only is she forced to see the changes in this man, but she is also forced to see the changes in herself. When questioned by Carlos and the rest of her new group about the man’s past, the pain on Clementine’s face as she recalls what things were like in the first season is an emotional moment for the player.
‘A House Divided’ does a brilliant job in creating a thrilling experience throughout the entire episode. Split between intense action and gripping dialogue, there truly is never a moment within the episode that dips into monotony. Telltale has proven once more that they are the veritable masters of storytelling within games, making the player hang on every word within ‘A House Divided’.
The episode too, is noteworthy for keeping the player on the tip of their toes as it comes to a conclusion. As Clementine does her best to protect both groups she has encountered, the stakes have never felt higher within The Walking Dead. Pinned down and with guns at their backs, Clementine and her old friend are the only ones who can save the group, but how they must do so and in what manner is truly a tough call to make. Few games on the market can actually make the player question if they did the right thing, but The Walking Dead, specifically ‘A House Divided’ is riddled with these moments throughout.
The PC version of ‘A House Divided’ does suffer from some minor issues. Upon the first moments of release, players with a gamepad enabled would find the game failing to load unless the controller was unplugged. While this issue is destined to be patched out, it can lead to a frustrating moment. Additionally, the PC release suffered from an occasional crash if they player were to die or fail a section. Again, this is essentially a non-issue now, as Telltale will easily be able to fix these problems.
As a whole, ‘A House Divided’ is an impressive episode. Telltale deserves much respect for their ability to continually create a story that allows the player to genuinely invest themselves within in. This ability to emotionally rope the player in is The Walking Dead’s greatest strength, and something that the writers of the television show could stand to learn from Telltale.
After playing ‘A House Divided’ the inevitable waiting time for episode three almost seems cruel. Like the zombies players so desperately try to escape in The Walking Dead, we must shuffle our feet and groan as we wait for the next episode to devour.
*Reviewer’s Statement: The Author received a code for The Walking Dead on the PC for the purpose of reviewing the product
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