Disclaimer: While I’ll do what I can do avoid major spoilers in this newest episode, I will be assuming that readers have at least played through the first season of the game. Continue at your own peril.
|Title||The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 4 – Amid the Ruins|
|Release Date||July 22, 2014|
|Platform||PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Vita, iOS, Ouya|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature – Intense Violence, Blood and Gore,|
Sexual Themes, Strong Language
There’s something very important that I learned while I was playing this most recent episode of The Walking Dead: I’m still playing The Walking Dead. What I mean is that, if you read my review of the previous episode, you’ll know that I found the vast majority of the moral choices in that episode incredibly easy and obvious. With a clear goal–to escape Carver–and a united front among your group, all one had to do was make the choices that progressed towards that goal. However, I already had a feeling things would get more complicated once that was done. The season may have thrown me a bone then, but no more. Amid the Ruins was certainly a return to form when it came to making hard decisions with which not everyone would agree. It’s the beginning of the end, and Telltale Games certainly drives that point home in this penultimate episode.
After the… executive decision I made at the end of In Harm’s Way, it became clear very quickly that sometimes the correct decision is not the best one, and good intentions don’t often count for much when people’s lives are on the line. In terms of forward momentum, very little progress is made in Amid the Ruins. After getting clear of the herd of Walkers, Clementine and the surviving members of the group are fairly scattered, so, before any plans can be made, it falls to you to find your stray friends.
On top of this, the inevitable occurs, and Rebecca’s pregnancy finally becomes a real issue in Episode 4, so much of your time is also spent preparing for the imminent birth. In between dealing with this, Clementine spends most of her time with the previously unnamed woman introduced in Episode 3, now called Jane. While she was pretty distant when she was introduced, Jane now shows much more concern for Clem, believing she has the means to strike out on her own, and doesn’t need to tie herself to a group. This is something she tries to relate to Clementine often. It may seem cold, but Jane is really a pragmatist more than anything, believing that if a group is going to do more harm than good, it’s better to distance oneself before you go down with it. However, this gets difficult even for Jane to say as Rebecca’s needs grow in this increasingly vulnerable time, putting her well-being more and more in the hands of the group. It’s a lot to squeeze into the two to three hours it takes to complete, but they managed.
While the gameplay is still practically unchanged from how it’s always been, Episode 4 did include an interesting new addition to Walker combat. Before now, Clementine would always have to aim for a Walker’s head regardless of its size, but Jane teaches her another way to fight that allows her take advantage of her speed and reduced stature. It’s a feature that would have been fun to include earlier on, and I can only hope we’ll see it again as we move on. Puzzles become a bit more prominent in Episode 4 than they have been earlier in the season. These still don’t amount to much more than “find something to hold off/get around the Walkers,” and even then, they aren’t particularly difficult. As usual, checking everything will easily yield the answer to your current predicament. Granted, The Walking Dead games have always favored story over the puzzle side of things, but it’s nice to have something to break up the action between conversations and combat.
One of the more interesting (and sometimes tragic) developments in regards to Clementine’s story is that the characters begin treating her less and less like a child in this episode. In some ways this is good, with characters like Luke and Jane treating Clem with more respect, and trusting her to be able to shoulder more burdens to help the group as they come up. Jane, in particular, is most concerned with making sure Clem has the tools necessary to survive–always make sure a Walker is dead, know where to look for supplies, use a suitable weapon. However, others, Kenny specifically, refuse to cut her any slack just because she is young. In a way, I guess it’s what Clem always wanted, but it’s important for her to realize that, if she wants to be taken seriously, there are consequences, and falling back to “I’m just a kid” is no longer an option, if it ever was to begin with.
I’ve been talking about Rule #1 of The Walking Dead a lot over the course of this season, and I now feel justified in that regard. It was obvious simply by the nature of the subject matter that the group would be heading for disaster, and things finally come to a head in this episode. Whether it’s the deaths that the group suffers or the power struggle between Luke and Kenny, there isn’t much hope that things will ever be able to go back to the way they were. Even so, for as long as the game will allow, I’ll stay with the group. And, if I’m going to be completely honest, I’m sticking with Kenny.
As always, both the game’s art direction and voice acting are top notch. Other than that, what else can I say that I haven’t said already? The character models still look fantastic, and the music is still nicely atmospheric; creating a quiet, solemn feeling while you walk around talking to your group, while staying punchy and fast-paced during combat sections. If nothing else, it was also nice to see Christine Lakin show off her voicing talents as Jane, as she had much more screen time than the previous episode. Aside from that, the presentation was the same as always: nothing short of amazing.
Leading into the season finale, there are many questions players need to ask themselves. Key among these being, “What is best for Clementine?” With things clearly falling apart with her group, would it be better for her to simply strike out on her own like Jane, or is there still enough feeling towards Luke, Kenny and the others to stick around and try to make things work? Given the way the episode ended, that may not even be possible, but these are revelations we’ll have to wait until the season finale to explore. And, of course, with no preview for the final episode, suspense is at its peak. Things look incredibly bad right now, but there’s no point in giving up until it’s all over.
Review copy was provided by the publisher, and is based on the PC version.
The Walking Dead: Season 2 is available on Amazon: