The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
A zombie apocalypse has bleakness and desperation -
something that The Walking Dead has always embraced. Can you remain sane in
such a hopeless situation? When do you finally just give up and realize that
surviving is more trouble than it's worth? Telltale has done a wonderful job
exploring the will to live and still finding hope amidst such a harrowing
situation. Episode 4, Amid the Ruins, reminds me why that's important.
Amid the Ruins is slower paced, but the plot still advances
and takes intriguing turns. The last two episodes were high on adrenaline,
bombarding you with shocking reveals. This episode still has its surprises, but
they creep on you instead of punch you in the gut. What I liked most is that it
got me contemplating what's best for Clementine and challenged me to see her
alliances in a different light.
The episode begins right where the previous one left off:
You're trying to get through a large zombie horde without being noticed, but
things turn chaotic when one of your group members gets attacked. You witness
the aftermath of this event while still figuring out a way through the massive
deadly wave. This is where you start to see your alliance start to crack;
nothing is going smoothly and you've lost track of about half of the people. A
common struggle of this episode is fighting between emotion and logic, forcing
you to assess who is an asset and who is a liability to your survival.
The storyline does a lot right. It takes characters in
interesting directions, like newcomer Jane. Telltale has a habit of introducing
characters and not always giving them a place in the story, so I was glad to
finally get some insight into Jane. She is tough, and has learned to survive on
her own after losing her sister. She takes Clementine under her wing and
teaches plenty of survival skills, like a new way to kill zombies by tripping
them and then stabbing them in the back of the head. Jane also has some
emotional baggage she's trying to hide, and you never really know when it's
going to surface. She's unpredictable - a ticking time bomb - but the front she
puts up makes her realistic.
Despite fleshing out Jane, other characters are beginning to
lose their places in the group. Telltale also introduced Mike last episode, but
outside of a few humorous lines, he's merely been an extra body. I can't tell
you much about him. Luke has also lost his place in his plot, even though it originally
looked like he was going to be a big influence on Clementine. Now his role has been diminished to getting
into arguments with another character. Telltale tries to inject him in the plot
this episode, and he always feels out of place when they do.
Part of my concern with the zombie apocalypse setting is
that the environments you see start to get old fast. Camps, roads, and forests
all start to look the same after a while, but Telltale got a bit more creative
this episode. You visit a museum, break into a gift shop, and then the weather
changes into a snowy blizzard. The gameplay is tenser than in previous
episodes, thanks to certain sequences where you have a limited time to find the
right solution in the environment. I like these moments, since the diminishing
time adds the stress you should feel during these situations.
Unfortunately, Telltale also goes back to some slower
sequences, which have you searching environments for specific objects. These
aren't as fun, especially since Clementine's walking animation is so slow. The
environments aren't even large, but it still takes her too long to get from one
end of the screen to the other. At the very least, Telltale doesn't make
Clementine shoulder the burden of every problem this time around. In fact, in
the one instance you can use her, it backfires. I was happy to see the group
not turn to an 11-year-old to solve every dilemma.
Amid the Ruins shines most when Telltale slyly turns the
tables on you. Is being nice to people always the best option? For instance,
you are a given a choice when you find a lot of painkillers. A few group
members are injured and Rebecca is about to have a baby. The decision seems
easy - but you must steal the medicine from someone with a sick sister. This
was one of the more effective direct decisions, but I also appreciate how the
episode starts building to bigger dilemmas. How can you trust anyone during the
apocalypse? What makes someone else's needs more important than your own?
These issues constantly put my emotions to the test. For
instance, I may like Jane, but her reckless behavior may one day be costly.
Playing as Clementine also helps, since you always want to give her the best
odds by making the best decisions for her. For the first time, I looked at the
group that took her in as potential liabilities. Members of your alliance are
starting to either become dead weight or emotionally unstable, and it might not
be best for Clem to stick with them.
From somber deaths to one satisfying slap, Amid the Ruins
has a lot of memorable moments. As you approach the end, you're left in an
unexpected place that keeps your head spinning. Telltale was smart to involve players
in this final moment, forcing them to make a knee-jerk reaction to a complex
situation. Season two has been fantastic so far, but this episode makes me even
more curious and anxious for the finale. It resurfaces the question: Can
Clementine ever be happy living in this awful world?
Note: This review is based on the PC version. The Walking Dead is also available on PS3, Xbox 360, and iOS.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.