The Walking Dead is an undisputed television hit. The fourth season is currently building towards its conclusion and the series has already been green lit for a fifth season on AMC. Having achieved unprecedented success, it’s no wonder there has been no shortage of media tie-ins. Of course, none of those have achieved the level of success of adventure game maker, TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead series, which is now in its own second season. Surprisingly, both the television and video game series play fast and loose with the comic book source material, though Telltale’s effort does attempt to mimic the original art style.
Comparing the first and second season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead is somewhat complicated by the change in protagonists. The first season put the player in the role of Lee, while he was convict, it was easy for most gamers to assume the role fairly easily. This second season, tries to shoehorn players into the eleven year-old Clementine. While this isn’t terrible on its own, considering that an overwhelming number of gamers are adults, it does rob them of a certain level of emotional investment. Personally, I found it made me choose more selfish options when tough choices needed to be made.
Because Lee was Clementine’s caretaker, there was always the sense that above all else, Clementine needed to be kept safe. In Season Two, Clementine is really on her own. Though there are almost always others around, it is really all about taking care of yourself. This puts more pressure on the scripted narrative to create some sort of investment. As of yet, this season has failed to capture that level of engagement. By the end of the first episode, Season One holdover Christa is just a memory and the new characters inspire little more than a general uneasiness. Two episodes in, you can’t help but wonder how safe Clementine really is with this new group.
I can’t help but feel like this second season is a bit of a stumble for Telltale Games. Though we’re only two episodes in, Season Two lacks much of the punch the first season had. Their other new series with a rough start and two episodes in, The Wolf Among Us is already a more compelling story. Clementine has seen her fair share of death, but aside from the first one, in the opening of All That Remains, it’s tough to really care about any of them. It makes me wonder how many players will really purchase each episode in hopes that will grab them in the same the series did in the beginning.
The title of A House Divided is a nod to the amount of conflict involved in the episode. Clementine’s new group can barely stand each other and once you introduce a few new characters, including a long lost companion from the first season, there is plenty of tension. Clementine must of course try to navigate these issues. The problem is, that even the returning cast member is hardly a sympathetic character. They’re all seriously flawed individuals and it’s not difficult to imagine dying at any of their hands, even the emotionally challenged girl, Clementine attempts to befriend.
Discounting the difficulty with which The Walking Dead Series tackles action, there are still serious problems with Season Two and more specifically A House Divided. It is hard for me to recommend this season to anyone but those that truly loved the first five and want to know what happens with Clementine. As of yet, the rest of the characters aren’t really memorable and the big ending to Episode 2 lacks any real emotional punch. For better or worse, the packaging and mechanics are the same as they’ve always been in The Walking Dead, but unless Telltale can accelerate the release schedule, I can see many of their fans moving on to other ventures.