Clementine's ultra happy magical journey continues, where she witnesses no major characters dying whatsoever, honest!
It’s easy to overlook the bravery of Telltale Games, putting the sequel to their most popular series in the hands of an eleven-year-old girl. In a day and age where it’s hard enough to find a female protagonist Telltale bucks every trend by making the player character a female African-American kid. More importantly, after the fate of Lee Everett in Season One Clementine is one character we cannot lose. It would kill us inside. Don’t even make me think about it (sniff). Anyway, the next episode of The Walking Dead is here, bringing us one step closer to Telltale inevitably stabbing us in the heart (oh god no). And things get pretty, well... pretty Walking Dead.
After the choice at the end of Episode 1 is resolved (so, who did you go to?), Clementine makes her way back to the house... and already things get hard to talk about. If I avoid spoilers for this episode and assume that events go really differently depending on whether you chose to go with Nick or Pete, I can't really talk about the opening scenes either, then story-wise I have absolutely nothing to say. Which is awesome for gamers, but a pain in the ass for me, the lowly reviewer. In short, something happens, Clem's new group leave their cozy house, and they set off for new surprises. And the surprises come thick and fast.
This is how things begin in Episode 2. And it only gets worse from there
First let me say to Telltale: that's much more like it. All That Remains was a good episode of Walking Dead but it felt a bit empty of choice and more like the setup for a bigger story. Well, the bigger story has now arrived and it's goddamned awesome. Plenty of new interesting people that you'll almost certainly have to watch die, at least one familiar face, and a major new character voiced by the inimitable Michael Madsen whose entire presence I won't spoil other than to say he's superb. The stakes get upped considerably that's for sure, and I feel that Telltale couldn't have made this episode any better. True story (and minor spoiler): when I reached the cliffhanger and "next time" teaser I said to myself "that was amazing, if only it could've ended on a bittersweet, sad song like the TV show occasionally does". And then a bittersweet, sad song started playing over the end credits. When did you start employing psychics, Telltale?
Most importantly from a gameplay perspective, the stakes are raised a lot higher with the choices too. While the choices felt slight and mostly unimportant in the grand season plot in the first episode here they definitely at least feel like they have a lot more weight attached. They could all amount to nothing but the main thing is that they should convince the player that they're calling the shots and that the consequences will be major, and A House Divided does this in spades. Oh boy, does it. Even better, it actually is impossible to guess how things are going to turn out - the mean option seems the smartest for survival, but then maybe a bit of niceness will save lives later? Or vice versa? For example, did you steal that watch in episode 1? I didn't, as it felt like the most obvious trap to kick me in the buttocks, but now I wish I had.
Telltale also do a particularly excellent job in reminding you that you're not some athletic zombie-murderer, you've got skill but you're just a small girl. In one particularly brilliant example doing nothing is the best choice but also the hardest and most terrifying one - what if this person turns nasty? Should I have grabbed that knife? What if my friends see what's going on and it all goes to hell? It's one short but incredibly tense sequence, and things only get more tense from there. It'll be up to you and Clementine to stop everything falling apart... but then it probably will do anyway. Finally, the QTE moments are kept to a minimum and only used for maximum shock value, which is exactly right.
Michael Madsen plays this character. Other than that, no spoilers. Find out for yourself
Before I conclude this review with a big fat thumbs-up, I don't know if I'm going mad but graphically Episode 2 seems to look a great deal nicer than Episode 1. The faces look even more expressive, the areas seem bigger and more detailed, and I'm pretty sure Telltale have thrown in some nicer effects too. It impresses me every time how much excellence Telltale can wring out of their creaky old Telltale Tool engine, and it seems to get better every single time when all laws of game engines says it should be getting worse. They'll have to think about a major upgrade at some point, probably for Game of Thrones where they can't get away with cel-shading, but for now Telltale are still providing good looks for a bargain budget.
THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 2: EPISODE 2 – A HOUSE DIVIDED VERDICT
The first episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2 was good but was ultimately disappointing, especially compared to The Wolf Among Us, so Telltale really needed to knock the second episode out of the park. Fortunately, a Home Run it is. The story kicks into high gear with some tense and amazing scenes, the choices become tougher and more oblique and the consequences hit hard. I’ll talk about Michael Madsen’s excellent new character in the next episode review because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s so much greatness here from all the characters it makes me very happy. Last but not least, let’s not forget how great Clementine is. If Telltale can keep pushing the boundaries like this for the rest of the season then it’ll be at the very least as good as the superb first season. Until next time…
TOP GAME MOMENT
Michael Madsen’s character’s introduction, for sure. Passive aggressive works so well to create unbelievable tension.