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.
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.