- Format: PC (version reviewed), Mac, Vita, iOS, 360, PS3
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.telltalegames.com/walkingdead/
This instalment of The Walking Dead marks the last cliffhanger before the season ends – which will also likely result in a cliffhanger. It marks many other points in what makes The Walking Dead a success – and it also marks a collection of its flaws. That’s not to say that it’s a bad episode, as it is one of the strongest in some ways; but unfortunately it’s burdened by the baggage of how little your choices affect the story in previous episodes, and a little of “we’re going to teach you an important life lesson”.
It’s getting to the point where some choices are almost like Mass Effect 3’s colour coded endings. Anything that felt like a substantial choice was being made ultimately ends with you getting disappointed by its lack of mutability over the course of a few episodes. Major characters who get less lines than some of the extras is particularly frustrating, as someone who you might consider to be important narratively is practically written out by having no dialogue of any worth.
It felt especially bad when we tried the second playthrough of the episode, as one crucial choice from episode 3 has repercussions throughout, though with almost exactly the same dialogue as the other choice (which makes very little sense, and has a character essentially ramble utter nonsensical rubbish at you). It works fine for one set of consequences, but for the other it feels so out of place.
It’s a real shame that it gets dragged down by the previous episodes in this way. This has some of the most interesting things going on over the course of an episode. It has a fair amount of dialogue to get through, and there’s a decent amount of action. It’s varied, and “fun” in that way that a zombie apocalypse generally is but again; if you haven’t made the choices it wants you to, then the cracks begin to more than just show. The illusion that they’ve created is close to full on shattering at times.
This episode also feels like it’s out to teach you a lesson; showing us that life in the zombie apocalypse is hard. But when it tries to slap you across the face with that message, which it already has been for most of both seasons, it just gets tiresome. We’ve learnt the lesson already; going “ha, we got you” didn’t work for Kojima, and it won’t work for you.
It doesn’t have that same feeling as the first season; that feeling that you could make different choices and even if the story ended in the same place you still had things pan out differently enough – even if it was only a small section of dialogue.
Maybe second playthroughs are a bad thing, revealing problems like this. But if our second playthrough had been our only save, them there ridiculous rants at Clem that are in no way relevant would break the illusion that anything you do matters anyway.
As an episode on its own it is quite good, but under the weight of previous decisions and taking choices that it didn’t want you taking, it’s hard to say it’s much more than ‘good’. The episodes are getting similar enough in structure that the illusion is beginning to break. If Telltale don’t iterate on the formula next season, things could become stale fast. In a similar vein to the “Dark Souls 2 is an exceptional game but a bad Dark Souls game” argument, this episode is a good adventure game episode but a poor Walking Dead episode.