Emotional connections at their finest.
What The Walking Dead Episode 2 Got Right
|+ Intense from opening to closing
||+ Moral decisions actually carry over
|+ Emotional characters come to life
||+ Keeps the player constantly one edge
What The Walking Dead Episode 2 Got Wrong
|- Lack of puzzles
||- Animation and audio hiccups at times
|- Lip syncing seems a little off
When Telltale released The Walking Dead: Episode 1 back in April, I was taken aback by the sheer quality on display. The independent studio may have been working hard on quality adventure games, but that first episode felt like their true arrival on the AAA scene. If you thought Days Gone Bye was intense, wait until you get a load of this!
Check out the official trailer!
Things were looking up for Lee and Clementine last time we saw them; the group had discovered a motor inn which offered shelter for the weary survivors, and despite some underlying tensions between certain members of the group, things were certainly better then they had been before.
Episode 2: Starved for Help immediately throws the player in the deep end, adking the tough questions such as who can you trust, would you risk yourself to save another, and if you're willing to accept the consequences for your actions? From those opening moments, Starved for Help will have you limboing with moral ambiguity in order to survive.
While moral choices are often thrust upon gamers these days, very few have the moral weight that The Walking Dead places on the player. Decisions made during the first episode actually mould the relationships and group dynamics this time round, and you could be paying for rash decisions for the entire adventure. Unlike other games where moral choices usually make one or two minor changes to the story, The Walking Dead uses them as a catalyst for friendships, hostility, alliances and betrayal. Companies such as BioWare should take note of just how much importance Telltale has place on these pivotal moments.
It's not so much the decisions themselves that will have you questioning your own moral stances, but rather the effects they will have. Without having too many spoilers in this review, very early on you are given the tough task of dishing out the daily food rations. You have enough rations to feed four of the ten hungry survivors in your camp. Depending on your choices, you will either make friends or enemies. Sure, you could eat yourself and let the children starve, but how will you feel about that later on? How will the other survivors feel about your selfishness? How will it effect the group dynamic when push comes to shove?
I was not the man I thought I was, and it really felt like I had made that decision. Lee was simply an extension of me, my personality and morals. That is a truly a remarkable experience.
As the episode progresses you will witness a constant power struggle between certain group members who clash constantly, arguing about what the next move is. The storyline places a large emphasis on togetherness, paranoia, power and destruction. Forget shooting countless numbers of brain-dead zombies, this episode is all about the human condition, and god damn is that a powerful statement to hold.
None of this would be possible without rich characters, and that's where Starved for Help truly shines. While most of the cast from the first episode is back, we're also introduced to a number of new characters who each have an interesting story to be told. Taking your time throughout the adventure, you'll learn a lot about the state of the world, the background of group members, and you'll start to see the bigger picture.
It's all fun and games until someone finds the zombie cows!
It's quite hard not to talk about the story considering it is so good, but rest assured that if you loved the first episode you're in for one hell of a ride. The story progresses to show a chance at happiness that is surrounded by darkness, which is quite unnerving. By the end you'll realise that you have been sitting on the edge of your seat, and when the chilling revelation finally hits you, chances are you will start to panic for Lee, Clementine and co.
When it comes to gameplay, it's very much the same blend of action and adventure that was on display during the first episode. While the first episode had a good number of puzzles on offer, albeit a tad on the easy side, Starved for Help seems to focus on the story and action a little more than you would expect. It's not a bad thing by any means, the game is certainly exciting, but don't expect any truly gripping puzzles in the process.
Another thing worth noting is that the game seems to have minor animation and audio hiccups at certain points. The background music will randomly cut out along the way, which is not a big deal but could be a little annoying to some gamers. Animations are a little jerky, particularly when moving into a new area or just before loading a new scene. Once again these do not break the experience, but they are worth noting.
The lip-syncing seems to have lapsed this time, and while it hasn't hit a hugely noticeable point just yet, we hope Telltale bring it back during the next episode.
The one point that ultimately stands out is the emotional connection formed between player and their characters. While the first episode did a great job of showing an emotional vision of the zombie apocalypse, episode 2 will engross you to the point that you'll almost feel the terror, pain and suffering of our beloved heroes. There are moments during the episode that I answered instinctively, and immediately regretted my decisions. I was not the man I thought I was, and it really felt like I had made that decision. Lee was simply an extension of me, my personality and morals. That is a truly a remarkable experience.
The Final Verdict
It may be light on puzzles, but The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved for Help makes up for it with fantastic storytelling and gripping action. From start to finish you'll be on the edge of your seat, dealing with some heavy emotions that will genuinely get you involved in the game. You'll create a connection stronger than most characters in video-gaming, almost to the point that you'll feel horrible for the situations they find themselves in. That's a true testament to the sheer power of this game.
By Stephen Heller - Bio