The last episode of The Walking Dead was probably my favorite one yet -- and that's including all of Lee's tale from the first season. Clem has made the switch from tough to full-on badass depending on your choices, and it's clear that she is fully a part of some of the horrific life-or-death choices in the world.
Clem can no longer hold onto her innocence and fall back on her young appearance -- at this point, many decisions have been made that cannot be taken back, and the rest of the group is starting to notice it. That hook right there is what makes Amid the Ruins such a great tale, even if it doesn't have the same wow factor as its predecessor.
The Walking Dead Season Two: Amid the Ruins (iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release: July 22, 2014 (PC, Mac, PS3, PS Vita) / July 23 (Xbox 360) / July 24 (iOS)
MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode)
Rig: Origin Millennium: Overclocked Intel Core i7 4770K Quad-Core (4.0GHz-4.7GHz), Dual 3GB NVIDIA GTX 780 Ti
[Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.]
One of the most intriguing aspects of Amid the Ruins is the fact that you start off right in the thick of it. You're still not out of the herd that gathered in the last episode, and you have to make a series of quick choices immediately. It's probably the most stressful portion of the entire episode, and a really interesting way to kick things off before things cool down a bit.
Part of the reason this tale is so interesting is the true incorporation of Jane into the mix -- a character who has given off a real wildcard vibe since the last episode. I really enjoyed learning more about her slowly over the course of this tale, as she opened up about her past, present, and future. I never saw it coming, but she's probably one of my favorite characters yet, and adds to the big picture "duality of humanity" narrative without rubbing it in your face.
Rebecca's pregnancy has also reached a critical point, where she is consistently having trouble keeping up with the rest of the group. It recalls moments from The Walking Dead's Lori Grimes, and once again throws a nuanced spin on the "for the good of the group" mentality. Even the most menial of conversations are worth listening in on, and I genuinely liked hearing what these characters have to say to each other.
Kenny is a focal point as well, and I've really been enjoying his arc this season. Some of his tendencies from season one return, and have caused some tense moments that are a stark contrast to the warm and loving welcome you received in the second episode. Many people are quick to dismiss Kenny, but I'm glad Telltale brought him back -- especially since he is a "witness" so to speak of Clem's new metamorphosis.
Another concept that comes up constantly in Amid the Ruins is the "others" phenomenon and the pack mentality -- not just by way of new characters, but within the group itself. Everyone is incredibly tense due to recent events, and because the group dynamics are always shifting, there's no real leader -- no Rick Grimes to keep things in line.
As a result, all of Clem's impactful choices from prior tales (mostly in episode two) really feel like they carry weight at this point in the story. There's so much variety in season two it's insane, and based on some of the events so far, it's clearly Telltale's most replayable series yet.
This season has been extremely consistent, and did a great job of hooking you in from the get-go. Clem has taken everything she's learned from Lee and applied it tenfold, to the point where these new connections she's made this year trump anything she's experienced personally with her former father-figure. Although Amid the Ruins doesn't really go for many jump scares and is clearly a table-setting episode for the explosive finale, it's very much worth playing through multiple times over.