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The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 3 - In Harm's Way Review

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Posted by Graham Banas

Deeper down the rabbit hole

When writing reviews, it’s always important to avoid spoilers, that way you don’t ruin the experience for future players. This is a particular conundrum that we face each time that Telltale Games releases new episodic content, as each instalment builds upon the last, making our lives a misery as we attempt to dance around specifics while still trying to provide some kind of meaningful dialogue about the game. The fact that this particular write-up pertains to the middle episode in The Walking Dead’s second season compounds the problem further, but we digress…

Fortunately for us, there’s not a lot to say from a gameplay or presentation perspective. Those familiar with the abovementioned developer’s award winning format will find all of the appropriate pieces in place here, as you go about solving problems to the sound of another excellent Jared Emerson Johnson score. Expect plenty of tough conversations and decision making as you go about your business in this dark – but vibrant – comic book world.

Alas, while the game continues to look great, technical issues remain a problem. In fact, the load times between segments seem worse than ever in this episode, with the entire console creaking under the strain of Trophy pops and layered decisions. The title’s trademark inconsistent frame rate also makes an unfortunate return, with the game’s ageing engine clearly at breaking point. For as wonderful as the story telling is here, the developer badly needs to invest in new technology soon.

Fortunately, these hiccups don’t deter from the heart of the experience, and ‘In Harm’s Way’ sets a new benchmark by which to compare future episodes to – in particular, the writing is sharp and the pacing is excellent. It could be argued that this is the greatest example of character building in a Telltale Games title yet, as much of the episode deals with person-to-person relations to a greater extent than any previous releases. Indeed, the shuffling zombie hordes that infect this post-apocalyptic world represent more of a looming threat than a present danger, and that change in tempo is appreciated.

With this newfound freedom, the episode does a great job of humanizing characters that are seemingly monsters, while also reversing roles, culminating in an outstanding antithesis between the actions and emotions on display. It’s not just one personality on each side either, as you’ll wind up witnessing multiple examples of the aforesaid before the chapter concludes. In particular, the season’s antagonist Carver is given tons of attention this time around.

And it runs for some time. This is probably the longest episode in any Telltale Games series to date, easily surpassing a couple of hours, and it doesn’t trip up at any point, delivering the emotional blows hard and fast.

Conclusion

In spite of the usual technical troubles, the quality of the writing in The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 3 – In Harm’s Way is too good to ignore. Indeed, incredible storytelling and character development leads to one of the best chapters in Telltale Games’ library, and after a slightly slow start, this season is now moving at full force.

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User Comments (11)

RawShark

#2

RawShark said:

I wonder if it's still worth pointing out the engine's issues - it's obvious it's not going to change for the duration of the season.

I'm in two minds about this episode. In terms of storytelling and drama, it was excellent. But looking back, I struggle to think of when it actually felt like I was playing a game, rather than making a series of choices. To put it another way, it felt a long ways from Monkey Island and closer to Phoenix Wright. But with an occasional QTE.

get2sammybAdmin

#3

get2sammyb said:

@RawShark On one hand, I agree with you on the engine stuff. On the other, I think we should be bringing it up everytime because Telltale needs to realise that this is not acceptable - no matter how good its storytelling is.

gbanas92Staff

#4

gbanas92 said:

@RawShark @get2sammyb I agree that we shouldn't expect it to change at least for this season, but they've been working with this engine for a while now. (I think they call it the Telltale Tool? Or something like that. It's definitely Telltale and then another word.) And it's been straining itself for almost that whole time. The more vocalized the problems, the more effort to change they'd put in I'd like to think.

I do also agree that gameplay is progressively taking more of a back seat to the story, but I don't really mind that either. The positions that Telltale likes to put it's players in and the things they make you deliberate between give me far more emotional grief than I'd get from challenging gameplay.

Splat

#5

Splat said:

I thought it was easily the best episode of season 2.

The fact that gameplay took a back seat in this episode made perfect sense. Your group are prisoners so you really can't expect to be doing much.

Sanquine

#6

Sanquine said:

Wait 9/10? Sorry, i know the story is great but ... My PS3 crashed many times because of this game. It's choppy and don't let me get started about the vita version which lags with every decision point... Deserves a 7/10 for amazing story... But it's a trainwreck.

RawShark

#8

RawShark said:

@get2sammyb I guess it's one of the challenges of reviewing episodic games as they're released. Some things can be taken as unique to each episode, and others can be rubber stamped on each episode. Personally speaking, next time I'll be waiting for all episodes to be released and then picking them up together - for no other reason than it will help me retain continuity with my decisions in the previous episodes.

I do hope the engine is being revamped, I really do. The problem is that Telltale seem to be trying to put out as much content as possible in a relatively short time frame. Can't blame them really - it's a precarious job that can see studios close in a blink of an eye. It makes me wonder how many resources they have left to put towards building a new engine though.

This time out, playing on an Xbox, I didn't have any real issues with the engine or encounter any glitches. There was a weird occurence with the last episode of the Wolf Among Us though which involved Bigby fighting an invisible Tweedle Dee. That really took the wind out of the series most dramatic moment.

@sanquine - why would they factor in the vita port of Season 1 when reviewing of a season 2 episode? It's not even out for vita yet. Have you even played this episode?

NicolaHaydenStaff

#9

NicolaHayden said:

@ErnisDy You can buy a season pass to get them all -which most do- or you can buy each episode seperatly.

As for the game's lag issue, I find it a lot less noticeable in The Walking Dead than in The Wolf Among Us. I can agree on this episodes' high rating though because previous episodes have been pretty slow and now it's suddenly kicked into top gear.

RawShark

#11

RawShark said:

@Sanquine Just a bit weird you should comment on a game rating being too high when you haven't even played it yet. I can assure you that while the engine hasn't changed it's far from the "train wreck" that you suggest it is. And as @NicolaHayden says - the story really gets going in this episode.

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