The second season of TellTale’s The Walking Dead series finally seems to be hitting its stride with Episode 3: In Harm’s Way. Not only is the release schedule back to a more tolerable two month interval, but the main character, Clementine’s relationships with her new group finally begin to solidify. With a minimal amount of actual gameplay, TellTale’s interactive story-flavored take on adventure games require a compelling narrative. At least for this reviewer, the second season has largely struggled with that task until this middle episode.
My commentary from Episode 2’s review, bemoaned the fact that by putting players into the role of Clementine, TellTale has removed any emotional investment from the story. The beginning sequence of the first episode separated Clementine from the only characters we really knew. The group she stumbles upon next, aren’t terribly likeable, leaving players wondering if they’re going to turn on our young heroine. A familiar face returns to the story, but he was one of the least likeable characters from the first season. Maintaining a relationship between him and Lee was one of the most difficult tasks throughout the first five games.
What The Walking Dead: Season Two’s narrative has been able to do well is maintain a high level of tension. Though, it’s really only about halfway into In Harm’s Way did I actually care about what happened to any of the characters, besides Clementine. Up until then, I was hoping that Clementine might be able to just make a break for it and find another group to join. So what changed? What ends up happening is that, as unlikely as it may be, Clementine becomes the new Lee. With the events that close out the episode, Clementine appears to be assuming a leadership role.
Most of this review focuses on the plot and narrative, because honestly, that is really what TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead sinks or swims upon. While I’d argue the story hits its stride in In Harms Way, the actual gameplay is actually pretty sparse. That’s not entirely a bad thing though, because the game’s interface is pretty inelegant and cumbersome, regardless of the control method. I choose to use a controller because I’m not comfortable slamming my keyboard during the quick time events. Even as veteran of TellTale’s games, I did find myself itching to do something in the episode beside choose dialogue.
Like the ebb and flow of the tide, The Walking Dead: Season Two’s balance of action and narrative never seem to be in sync. Add that to Season Two’s erratic release schedule, and it’s sometimes difficult to stay current with the series. Light on real action, TellTale’s The Walking Dead isn’t an adventure game for everyone, but those looking for a substantial narrative will probably find something to like here. In Harm’s Way finally made me care about the supporting cast, something I didn’t think was going to happen this season. That alone made this episode better, in my opinion. It’s just too bad it’s taken five months to get there.