|System: PC*, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Telltale Games|
|Pub: Telltale Games|
|Release: June 29, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
In my review of The Walking Dead: Episode 1, I called the game a magnificent work of art with some unfortunate flaws. The Walking Dead: Episode 2 has just come out, and it appears as if Telltale Games has taken my criticisms to heart. Not only have they fixed all of the issues I found in the first episode, but they also retooled the game to have even darker themes with even more serious consequences for the choices you make. In my opinion, Episode 2 is better than Episode 1 in every way. If the series continues this trend, we're going to have one incredible masterpiece by the time the ending rolls around.
My biggest gripe about Episode 1 was the way it made it painfully obvious you were playing a point-and-click adventure. At one point, you had to leave your drug store stronghold in order to get an axe from a motel which you then brought back to your drug store stronghold in order to break a lock which let you—wait for it—leave your drug store stronghold. Don't get me wrong, the game was really enjoyable, but it felt like a game. It very much had the issue that old school LucasArts point-and-click adventures had; there would only be one use for every item in the game, and sometimes the only way to move forward was to psychically tap into the intentions of the game designers.
This sort of scenario never comes up in episode 2. All the items you use will make perfect sense in the context they're used in. You never have to go out of your way to obtain specific items for specific tasks. Rather, most of the items you come across are just naturally scavenged. Need a multi-tool? Pick it up from a toolbox. Need some wood? Pick it up from a lumber pile. You never particularly feel trapped in the scenarios you're placed in, and simple common sense is enough to get you through every tough spot.
Episode 1 felt very much like a game, whereas episode 2 feels much more like a cinematic experience. The theme this time around is making difficult decisions. Lee and the rest of the characters from Episode 1 are now camping out at an abandoned motel and are running out of food. It's up to you to somehow find a way to keep everyone alive, even when everyone around you is acting irrational and violent.
Right off the bat, the game hammers the theme home by forcing you to deal with one of the most basic survival problems: food rationing. There is only enough food for four people, but there are ten people staying in your camp. You have to decide who gets the food you have left over, and it's not nearly as simple giving the food to the people you like the most. Certain characters will only accept your generosity if you give food to other characters that you may not like. Other characters will accept your food but will actually be more insulted by the offer. Some characters can easily survive while skipping a meal, while others end up useless and weak if you ignore them. You have to make harsh decisions that only a leader can, and there is no right answer.
Actually, that's a theme that the game tries very hard to hammer home in every scenario you're placed in. Most of the time, one of the decisions you make will anger, injure, or outright kill another survivor. When people start fighting each other, it becomes very hard to play the middle of the road. If you don't take sides, it more often than not ends up with most of the party hating you and hating each other at the same time. You can, through incredibly skillful social prowess, manage to make everyone to get along, but it's hard and you may end up sacrificing yourself to do it. In the end, the game reveals a lot about you, especially about how you would react under pressure. For me, it revealed that I'm a pretty bad leader and mediator, but I'm Hell-on-wheels when it comes to protecting the few people I care about.
This pressure isn't artificial either, as I felt it was in episode 1. Episode 1 had a habit of giving you very short periods of time to make your dialogue decisions, which more often than not caused you to say things you didn't want to say. Episode 2 does away with this, instead giving you plenty of time to make your mind. Though the time limit is still there, it's noticeably longer, allowing you to play the game in a manner befitting your personality.